Measles nearly endemic as parents refuse MMR jabs

Measles is on the verge of becoming endemic in Britain because of the reluctance of some parents to inoculate their children with the three-in-one MMR vaccine, researchers say.

Scientists have predicted that outbreaks of the viral disease will get worse as the proportion of unvaccinated children in the population increases. And the new research warns that if the number of unprotected children continues to grow at the present rate, a national epidemic is inevitable.

The study by the University of London and the Government's Health Protection Agency found that the spreading ability of measles had significantly increasedin the past five years, a period in which the MMR vaccine was said to be linked to autism. It estimates that the reproductive number ­ a statistical term to describe how many people on average become infected from a single measles case ­almost doubled between 1995 and 2002.

Vincent Jansen from Royal Holloway College, lead author of the study published in the journal Science, said: "We are now close to the point where new infections will no longer fizzle out on their own. We are approaching the danger zone where measles could once again become an endemic disease in the UK. We are not there yet, but it may be going that way.

"We are reporting a correlation between the drop in vaccinations and the increasing size of measles outbreaks. The coincidence is suggestive of a causative connection, but we cannot draw this conclusion from our data. My hope is that this is a warning signal."

The research team investigated measles outbreaks involving more than one child going back to 1995 and found that they increased in frequency and size in late 1998, soon after the supposed link with autism and the three-in-one measles, mumps and rubella vaccine received publicity.

They estimated the reproductive number and found that it increased from 0.47 in the period from 1995 to 1998 to 0.82 in 1999-2002. When the reproductive number is smaller than one, an outbreak will fizzle out, but if it becomes greater than one then the infection spreads because, on average, each individual with measles passes it on to more than one other person.

"The increase in the reproductive number occurred almost immediately after the decrease in the MMR vaccine uptake," the researchers report.

"If the current low level of MMR vaccine uptake persists in the UK population, the increasing number of unvaccinated individuals will lead to an increase in the reproductive number and possibly the re-establishment of endemic measles and accompanying mortality," they say.

Mary Ramsay, a researcher at the Health Protection Agency, said that in some parts of the UK ­ notably the South-east ­ uptake of the MMR vaccine was about 70 per cent. If this was to occur nationwide, endemic measles could occur.

"There's no doubt there's a possibility if vaccine cover does not improve. I don't think we'll see a national epidemic this winter but we are likely to see bigger and bigger outbreaks in different parts of the country," Dr Ramsay said.

"I don't want to scaremonger. Parents should look at the evidence and the evidence is pretty clear that the MMR vaccine is not linked with autism," she added.

Although vaccine uptake is low among children less than two years old, it is higher among school-age children. "For this reason I feel confident that we're not going to see large epidemics sweeping through schools as they used to," Dr Ramsay said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

    £30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

    Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

    £34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

    Developer - WinForms, C#

    £280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform