Measles vaccine

NHS launches vaccine campaign as experts warn of measles outbreak

NHS England (NHSE) has rolled out a new drive for children to get their missed measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

NHSE says its figures show over 3.4 million people under the age of 16 are currently unprotected against MMR and are at risk of catching these “completely preventable” diseases.

Every parent in the country with a child aged six to 11 will be contacted and encouraged to book an appointment with their GP practice to have their missed MMR vaccine.

The health service will target areas of low uptake; over a million people in London and the West Midlands will be invited for an appointment.

Thanks to concerted efforts last winter, MMR vaccine uptake increased by 10% compared to the previous year – two million texts, emails and letters were sent out between September 2022 and February 2023.

Maria Caulfield comment

The vaccine drive comes as experts from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have warned that the UK is at risk of further outbreaks of measles unless “urgent action” is taken to increase uptake of the MMR vaccine.

As of 18 January – in what the UKHSA is calling a national incident – there have been 216 confirmed and 103 probable cases of measles since 1 October 2023 across the West Midlands.

The UKHSA says the majority of cases have been children under the age of 10, with 80% of cases in Birmingham and 10% in Coventry.

Chief executive at the UKHSA, Professor Dame Jenny Harries, said: “Colleagues across the West Midlands have worked tirelessly to try to control the outbreak, but with vaccine uptake in some communities so low, there is now a very real risk of seeing the virus spread in other towns and cities.”

Prof Harries urged for “immediate action” to be taken to boost uptake, and a “long-term concerted effort” to protect people.

Director of vaccinations at NHSE, Steve Russell, explained: “All this builds on the national MMR catch-up campaign the NHS rolled out at the beginning of winter, with text, email and letter reminders sent out to parents and guardians of children up to five who have yet to get full protection.”

NHSE says that, after two doses of the MMR vaccine, approximately 99% of people will be protected against measles and rubella, while around 88% of people will be protected against mumps.

Image credit: iStock

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