May 30, 2024

The number of young people who MMR Jab is almost a quarter higher than last year, official figures show.

A national campaign to boost uptake was launched in January amid concerns about measles rates in England, when the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) declared a national incident following a major outbreak in the West Midlands. The growth in infections shows no sign of abating, with a 40% increase in reported cases in England since March.

The latest NHS England data shows that more than 360,000 MMR shots were administered in the 12 weeks to 24 March 2024, a rise of 23%.

The biggest increases in vaccination numbers were in the north west, London and the West Midlands.

The first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is typically given to one-year-olds, with the second dose between the ages of three and a half and five. Measles is highly contagious and can lead to serious illness, lifelong disability or even death. In pregnant women, it can cause stillbirth, miscarriage and low birth weight.

The new campaign encourages parents and carers of children aged six to 11 to make an appointment with their child’s GP practice so they can receive missed MMR vaccinations, and just over a million people aged 11 to 25 in London and the West Midlands is also encouraged to catch up on missed shots.

To keep measles away, more than 95% of children should be vaccinatedbut NHS figures from December suggest that England is only at around 85%.

With an estimated 3.4 million under-16s at risk of contracting the virus, the campaign has sent more than a million parents letters and emails inviting them to get their child vaccinated. Pop-up MMR clinics were held in wellness buses, libraries and schools, pharmacies and outside supermarkets.

But measles cases continue to rise. According to UKHSA figures released last week, there were 103 new cases in the past week. The number of laboratory-confirmed cases since 1 October 2023 has risen to 1,212, an increase of 40% on March’s figures. In October 2023 there were only 17.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of cases were in children under 10. Although UKHSA said measles was present in all regions, 46% of cases were in the West Midlands and 26% in London.

Steve Russell, the NHS national director for vaccinations and screening, welcomed the encouraging vaccination figures but urged those who had yet to have their MMR jab to come forward.

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He said: “Measles is a very serious disease and with data showing that cases are still being reported across the country, it is vital that everyone who is still unprotected comes forward to get their two doses as soon as possible through their GP surgery or visit one of the pop-up vaccination clinics operating in some of the most at-risk areas.”

In response to the findings, Prof Helen Bedford, an immunization expert at the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child. Healthsaid it was good news to see so many people vaccinated in such a short time – and that pop-up clinics and other initiatives had removed some of the practical barriers to accessing vaccines and provided flexible clinic appointments and information.

She said: “While vaccine reluctance is also a factor for some, there are real problems with accessibility across the UK. Measures to help families access appointments and vaccinations are essential.

“However, we are still far away from the 95% uptake target set by the World Health Organization. More work is needed to prevent further measles outbreaks.”

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