Hundreds of new parents have been facing a six-hour long vaccine queue after the World Health Organization confirmed that over 100 countries will now vaccinate all adults as part of its routine immunisation programme.
The proposal came under scrutiny in 2008 when World Health Organisation (WHO) researchers warned that uptake of the vaccine could be high due to the history of social inequalities on vaccination in the UK.
Under the plans, which were first mooted in 2013 and have since been voted into law in 17 countries including Australia, Italy, France, the Netherlands and the UK, none of the adult vaccines will be available through the NHS.
The officials insist that adults are now more likely to receive immunisation due to rigorous adverts about the benefits of the vaccine and in-depth public health campaigns.
WHO said the vaccine will now be free in almost 100 countries from January 2017, making it available to nearly 10 million adults.
The change will see vaccinating adults under the age of 65 years combined with routine immunisation programmes.
The scheme has been hailed as a major victory by the Medical Research Council (MRC) who said it would extend benefits of vaccination to millions of adults who previously missed out.
The new roll-out, developed in partnership with WHO, provides enormous potential to expand vaccination coverage in vulnerable people who previously missed out, according to the charity.
So far, the scheme has been rolled out in 14 countries – Australia, Belize, Brazil, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Panama, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay and Zambia.
Dan Jones, chief executive of MRC, said: “There is evidence to show that the rollout will be challenging.
“The WHO has estimated that the transition will be difficult in the early years, so important extra resources are being committed to plan for this.”
The introduction of the adult vaccine comes after research showed that the adolescent jab is being ditched in some regions of the UK due to low uptake rates.
Una Rule, of the department of global health at the MRC, said: “The UK is leading the world in enhancing adult immunisation and there will now be a focus on encouraging uptake in the 15-49 year-old age group.
“This is important as many diseases that often affect childhood immunisation can also affect older age groups.”
The senior lecturer added: “However, there remains much work to be done to increase uptake amongst all age groups.
“Immunisation is much less accessible today than it was in 1970 and this needs to be addressed if we are to maintain the universal immunisation status that we have become accustomed to in the last 40 years.”
Despite the changes in rules, adult vaccinations are still only available on a voluntary basis to those who meet certain criteria including being a pensioner, a child who is on the healthcare system and members of certain ethnic groups.
An MRC spokesperson said: “There are always good reasons for parents to delay taking up vaccination, but in 2018 we want parents to make sure that the lessons of childhood immunisation are passed to their children.”