Measles: We have forgotten how dangerous it is says expert
Parents have been urged to take their children for MMR jabs – immunising against measles, mumps and rubella – as figures show vaccination rates have plummeted to dangerously low levels in some parts of the country.
In one area of London, just over half of all five-year-olds had received both doses of the vaccine in the first quarter of 2023, raising fears of a potentially dangerous measles outbreak.
During the first six months of the year, there have been 128 cases of measles, compared to 54 cases in the whole of 2022. Two-thirds of these were in the capital, but alarm bells are ringing nationwide.
Across England, only 85 percent of children who turned five between January and March had received their second MMR shot – the lowest uptake level in a decade.
This is significantly below the target threshold of 95 percent that the World Health Organization (WHO) claims is necessary to prevent outbreaks within a population.
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The East London district of Hackney is where the MMR vaccination rate is lowest in England – at just 56 percent. Eight other boroughs in the capital have lower than 70 percent uptake.
Elsewhere there are rates below 80 percent in cities including Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, but also in Kirklees, Peterborough and Nottinghamshire.
Only one local authority out of 317 in England – Bath and North East Somerset – has a vaccination rate above the 95 percent target.
Scotland and Wales, on the other hand, have both managed to stay above the threshold nationally.
Check the MMR vaccination rate in your area by using the interactive map below.
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Modelling by the UK Health Security Agency suggests that, unless MMR vaccination rates improve, London could witness a measles outbreak with cases running up to 160,000.
To reduce this risk, the NHS began a polio and MMR catch-up programme in London in May.
GP and Senior Clinical Adviser to the vaccination programme in London, Dr Oge Ilozue said: “Measles cases are rising in London, there is no cure, and vaccination is the only protection against becoming unwell.
“The NHS wants to keep children safe and protected from serious illness, which is why we are encouraging all parents of children aged one to 11 who are not yet up-to-date with their routine vaccinations for polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) to come forward.
“You can contact your GP practice to check your vaccination record, discuss any questions and make an appointment with the practice nurse to catch up on any missed doses of MMR.”
The NHS describes measles as “an infection that spreads very easily and can cause serious problems in some people” if it spreads to the lungs or brain.
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