Baby vaccination crisis due to staff shortages in Walthamstow

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Eleanor Burnside, a mother of five-month-old twin boys from Sylvan Road in Walthamstow, has been trying to get her sons vaccinated since August Buy this photo Eleanor Burnside, a mother of five-month-old twin boys from Sylvan Road in Walthamstow, has been trying to get her sons vaccinated since August

HUNDREDS of babies have been unable to have a potentially life-saving vaccination due to a shortage of trained medical staff in Waltham Forest, it has emerged.

The vital Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) injection is normally provided to every newborn in the borough due to the area's high rates of tuberculosis (TB).

But many families have been unable to get access to the jab after a nurse who carried out the role retired several months ago - and a trained replacement has still not been put in place, it is claimed.

Eleanor Burnside, a mother of five-month-old twin boys from Sylvan Road in Walthamstow, has been trying to get her sons vaccinated since August.

She said health staff told her there was a waiting list of more than 200 babies who needed the injection.

"It is putting children at risk" she said.

"We moved to Walthamstow in August and were told we needed the vaccine urgently because of the high risk of TB in the area.

"We asked at several places and went to see our GP who looked a bit startled when we explained the difficulties we'd been having.

"Our health visitor also said she'd follow it up and then we discovered there was actually no-one available to give the injection."

Ms Burnside, 32, said she was seriously concerned for the health of her babies.

She added: "They haven't been able to give us any indication when we can get this vaccination.

"We've just got hope it will be soon."

According to a report by Waltham Forest Council's Shadow Health and Wellbeing Board, published in September, the number of TB cases in the borough far exceeds the national threshold of 40 cases per 100,000 people.

It said babies should usually be vaccinated "within the first few weeks of life".

The NHS describes TB as a potentially "very serious disease" which can cause multiple health problems and also lead to meningitis.

Ms Burnside moved to Walthamstow from Norfolk, where the BCG vaccine is not given as standard at birth due to the county's low rates of TB.

A spokeswoman from NELFT (North East London Foundation Trust), which oversees vaccinations in Waltham Forest, said it had begun operating extra vaccination clinics in the borough.

She said: “These additional BCG clinics started last Monday November 12 and will run in Waltham Forest twice a day over the next four weeks."

She said parents should get in touch with health visitors to find out where they are being held.

The Guardian is awaiting a further comment and information from NELFT.

Ms Burnside's local GP surgery is the Queens Road Medical Centre and it is not known if the staff shortages affect just Walthamstow or an even wider area.

Comments (1)

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9:45am Tue 20 Nov 12

Harry J says...

Baby vaccination crisis sounds a bit dramatic. If the NHS has started special clinics to clear the backlog - and not sure why there was a backlog in first place - then mums and dads in Walthamstow shouldn't panic about this. Ms Burnside doesn't look like she is from a commubnity group where TB is more common either. Good luck to her and the little ones.
Baby vaccination crisis sounds a bit dramatic. If the NHS has started special clinics to clear the backlog - and not sure why there was a backlog in first place - then mums and dads in Walthamstow shouldn't panic about this. Ms Burnside doesn't look like she is from a commubnity group where TB is more common either. Good luck to her and the little ones. Harry J
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