St Albans pupils ‘cannot be refused’ school places if they are unvaccinated

Hertfordshire county council does not have the authority to deny St Albans pupils a school place if

Hertfordshire county council does not have the authority to deny St Albans pupils a school place if they have not been vaccinated. Picture: Vaccination UK Ltd. - Credit: Archant

Children in Hertfordshire cannot be refused school places if they have not had their vaccinations, councillors in St Albans have been told.

Last month members of St Albans district council backed calls for all children who had not been vaccinated against measles to be refused a place at a Hertfordshire primary school.

Council leader Cllr Chris White wrote to Jim McManus, the county council's director of public health, to ask what steps could be taken.

Mr McManus told councillors that the county council does not have the authority to make vaccinations compulsory for schoolchildren, however he suggested a number of measures - with the support of other agencies - which are designed to boost the take-up of vaccinations in the county.

He also said he was in "two minds" about compulsory vaccination for schoolchildren, highlighting Italy, where younger children are now turned away from school or nursery if they are not up to date with their vaccinations and parents of older children are fined.

Mr McManus said this move does not seem to have led to higher school drop-out rates, but he remains concerned that part of the population of Herts would still not take up the vaccine, even if a school place depended on it.

Immunisation rates in Hertfordshire are higher than the average in England and the east of England but, with the World Health Organisation suggesting rates need to be at least 95 per cent, Mr McManus would like them to be higher.

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He also identified gaps in coverage within the county in groups where parents are opposed to the vaccine, in traveller populations and in some deprived areas.

In the letter to Cllr White, Mr McManus said the government is already working on a "much-needed" new vaccination and immunisation strategy for England, and committed to setting up a group to boost vaccination coverage in Herts.

Measures could include developing a campaign for target populations, continuing to make the vaccine available through schools, promoting vaccinations through family centres and public health nurses and targeting GP practices with the lowest uptake.

The vaccination rate in St Albans is 87.5 per cent, below the national target.