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Children’s health professor Helen Bedford said the move would make jabs more accessible to families

Supermarkets should offer a vaccination service for children to help address falling immunisation rates, a health expert has recommended.

Helen Bedford, professor of children’s health at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said the move would make jabs more accessible to families.

“We already have mobile breast screening units parked in supermarket car parks, why not offer a similar service for vaccination?” she told The Grocer. “It is much lower tech than breast screening so requires less equipment.

“We know that for some parents attending appointments in the working week can be difficult. Even for non-working parents, it can be difficult juggling the needs of a number of children, picking a toddler up from nursery, an older child from school and taking the baby for their vaccines. It would be helpful to make vaccination services more accessible and flexible and available at weekends and evenings.”

Bedford suggested the system be NHS-led and said it could work in the same way as mobile breast screening units, whereby people can make an appointment as well as dropping in when passing.

Supermarkets interested in offering the service would need to liaise with the local community to determine whether this is the best approach and whether they have space for a mobile unit, she added.

Her comments were made after health secretary Matt Hancock indicated he was examining the prospect of compulsory child vaccination.

NHS data for 2018/19 showed that vaccination rates for all nine vaccines given to under-fives fell last year, with the uptake of the MMR vaccine in England dropping for the fifth year in a row from 91.2% to 90.3%.