Local MMR vaccination plansA national catch-up programme to increase MMR vaccination uptake in children and teenagers is announced today (Thursday) 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.
New figures published today 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.
There were three cases during the first three months of 2013 in Bradford although the longer term trend is one of increasing cases. In 2012, there were six over the whole year.
Experts believe the rise in measles cases can be mostly attributed to the proportion of unprotected 10-16 year olds, who missed out on vaccination in the late 1990s and early 2000s when concern around the discredited link between autism and the vaccine was widespread. After many years of low vaccination uptake, measles became re-established in 2007.
The catch-up programme announced today sets out a national framework within which local teams in Yorkshire and the Humber, (made up of NHS North Yorkshire and the Humber, NHS West Yorkshire and NHS South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw working alongside Directors of Public Health in Local Government and supported by Yorkshire and the Humber PHE Centre), will produce tailored local plans to identify and give MMR to un-vaccinated and partially vaccinated 10-16 year olds through GPs and/or school programmes.
The Bradford Director of Public Health Anita Parkin said:
“Measles is a potentially fatal but entirely preventable disease and it is very disappointing to see an increase in cases nationally. Although the number of confirmed cases in our area remains low, it is important that we do our utmost to prevent further cases. The catch-up programme set out today recommends an approach to specifically target those young people most at risk. Those who have not been vaccinated should urgently seek at least one dose of MMR vaccination which will give them 95 per cent protection against measles. A second dose is then needed to provide almost complete protection.
“The only way to prevent measles outbreaks is to ensure good uptake of the MMR across all age groups, and that when cases are reported, immediate public health action is taken to protect vulnerable individuals as soon as possible. Measles is not a mild illness – it is very unpleasant and can lead to serious complications as we have seen with more than 100 children in England being hospitalised so far this year.
“It is never too late to get vaccinated against measles. Parents of unvaccinated children, teenagers and young adults who have missed out on MMR should urgently arrange to be vaccinated by their GP. If you are unsure whether you or your child has had two doses of the vaccine, speak to your GP who will have a record.”
Dr Louise Clarke, clinical lead for children across Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven; Bradford City; and Bradford Districts Clinical Commissioning Groups (CGGs), said:
“In Bradford and Airedale, our uptake of MMR is good in young children as parents recognise the importance of this vaccination, but there are still some ‘at risk’ groups with lower rates of MMR uptake, including teenagers and young people.
“It is important that all parents check that their children have had two doses of the MMR vaccination, if they are aged over 3 years and 4 months – one dose doesn’t give full protection. It is particularly important for teenagers to be protected fully.
“GP practices within the CCGs are working closely with public health colleagues to raise awareness of the importance of this safe and effective vaccine in protecting children and young adults against not only measles, but also mumps and rubella.”