There are no recorded measles cases in Barnet currently, a council meeting has heard, amid a recent surge across the capital.
Dr Janet Djomba, deputy director of public health, told the adults and health overview and scrutiny committee yesterday (Wednesday 24th) there were no recorded cases in the borough so far.
She said: “I follow the numbers weekly, London has seen an increase in measles cases in the last few weeks, so far fortunately none of them are in Barnet.”
She put it down to the “dedicated team” who worked on increasing vaccine uptake. But despite the good news, Dr Djomba said the borough’s general vaccine uptake was not “where we’d like it to be”.
Against London as a whole Barnet wasn’t doing “that bad” and was among the highest out of the boroughs under the NHS North Central London Integrated Care Board (ICB) which covers Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington.
She said the uptake of vaccines needed to be 95% to provide herd immunity, but that this level was not yet being reached with measles in the borough. Dr Djomba said the percentage of five-year-olds who had had both doses of the MMR vaccine, the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, was currently around 73%.
She added that challenges lay in the borough’s diversity. Some population groups were identified during the pandemic as having a “notoriously lower” uptake. She said this trend was seen among the homeless population, asylum seekers, as well as in different ethnic groups and religions.
To tackle this and “build trust” Dr Djomba said work was being done in the voluntary community sector and with community leaders. Community vaccine champions, who worked to “establish better relations” had fed back to her there was a need for healthcare professionals that groups with lower uptakes could “identify with”.
Another issue was “vaccine fatigue”, Dr Djomba said, with people becoming tired of “all the messaging” from the pandemic and were now “switching off”.
But she said that the council was satisfied with the data for childhood immunisation, and its collection process, especially around the cold and flu vaccine. The focus is now on school-aged immunisation, as uptake is not what they wanted, especially with the HPV vaccine, which targets cervical cancer, and data collection was “relatively difficult”.
Advisory member Emma Omijie asked what the team were doing to employ people with backgrounds that matched residents where uptake was lower.
Dr Djomba said their approach was on “building a pool” of existing employees rather than hiring new ones through the council. She said she hoped they could work across the area’s health sector to build a pool of professionals and that this tactic was used during the pandemic – Q&A sessions were held by health professionals from “specific backgrounds” for their respective community.
Labour committee member Rishikesh Chakraborty also asked about the way they were improving data collection. Khalida Aziz, an NHS immunisation commissioning manager, said they were working with the ICB to “rectify coding” so data from central sources could be backed up and used.
She said: “Lots of health care professionals access this data portal and in order to get the data correct it’s going to take a couple of months to rectify and work on.”
Nicholas Sims, a deputy director of vaccination transformation with North Central London ICB, said this was an issue across the healthcare space. They were working with GP practices to make sure there was “consistency” and had put in several tools locally so they could identify “erroneous codes” and have them changed, something central systems wouldn’t do.
Labour committee member Ella Rose asked what would be the council’s response should they see an increase in measles cases. Dr Djomba said there were additional clinics opening at weekends and in evenings, a mobile clinic that could be deployed, and the opportunity for children to receive the MMR vaccine in school if needed.