Make sure your child is vaccinated against measles

29 April 2013

Cases of measles are at their highest level for the past 18 years.

A national catch-up programme to increase MMR vaccination uptake in children and teenagers has been announced by Public Health England, NHS England and the Department of Health. The aim of the programme is to prevent measles outbreaks by vaccinating as many unvaccinated and partially vaccinated 10-16 year olds as possible in time for the next school year.

Experts believe the current rise in measles cases is due to the high proportion of 10-16-year-olds who are unprotected because they missed out on vaccination in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This is because there was concern around a now disproved link between autism and the MMR vaccine was widespread.

New figures published by Public Health England (PHE) show high numbers of confirmed measles cases in England in the first three months of 2013, reaching 587 by end of March, following a record annual high of almost 2,000 cases in 2012. Cases are distributed across England, with the highest totals in the North West and North East where there have been outbreaks of the disease.

In line with trends across the country, the number of cases of measles has continued to rise in London. During the first three months of 2013, 68 cases were confirmed following a total of 137 cases in 2012.

Whilst the percentage of children vaccinated has been steadily rising over the last few years, levels of take up for vaccination in Kensington & Chelsea, and Westminster are still below the London and national averages, so it is important that parents listen to the advice of health professionals and get their children vaccinated, or check if you are unsure if your children have had their jabs.

In addition, NHS West London Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Central London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are also preparing borough-wide campaigns to encourage parents of younger children to protect their kids with the MMR vaccination.

Dr Mark Sweeney, Chair of West London CCG and a local GP, said: “Measles can be very serious for some people so it’s important that your child gets the MMR jab. As well as the national catch-up campaign, we will be taking steps locally to increase the number of younger children who are vaccinated.

“The message for parents is simple - If your child has not been immunised with MMR you are putting their health at risk.  Parents of unvaccinated children, teenagers and young adults who have missed out on MMR should arrange for them to be vaccinated by their GP. If you are unsure whether your child has had two doses of the vaccine, speak to your GP practice, who will have a record.”

Measles is an unpleasant illness which starts with a few days of cold-like symptoms and is then followed by a rash accompanied by high fever, red eyes and a cough. It can be particularly severe in babies under the age of one year, teenagers and older people, especially those who have a weakened immune system. In these groups, measles can cause complications including pneumonia, ear infections, diarrhoea and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

Measles is often associated with being a disease of the past and as a result people may be unaware that it is dangerous and can lead to complications.  Around one in every 10 children who get measles is admitted to hospital. In rare cases, people can die from measles.  Measles in pregnant women can also be very serious and threaten the pregnancy.

More information for parents is available through the NHS Choices website: http://www.nhs.uk/Pages/HomePage.aspx

To support the national programme, a new Facebook page has been launched:
www.facebook.com/getvaccinatedEngland in conjunction with NHS Choices.

More information will be available through this website and the local media over the coming weeks.

CCG Press Office

media@nw.london.nhs.uk

T: 020 3350 4224