Measles outbreak: race to give a million children MMR jabs

 

One million children who missed out on the MMR vaccine around a decade ago are to be targeted in a national campaign to raise the level of protection against measles.

Alarmed by the Swansea outbreak, where almost 900 people have been diagnosed with the disease, Public Health England is appealing today to parents of children who missed one or both of the MMR jabs before the age of five to send them for vaccination.

Measles was virtually eliminated in the 1990s following the introduction of MMR vaccine after the disease infected over 500,000 children a year in the 1950s and 1960s. But the disease re-established itself in the mid-2000s following an unfounded scare linking MMR to autism which caused many parents to abandon the vaccine.

Immunisation rates fell nationally to less than 80 per cent in 2005. Older children who missed their vaccinations are now the most vulnerable.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said children born in 2001-02, who are now just starting secondary school, had the highest rate of non-vaccination, and this was also the age group in which measles cases were highest. "We have a legacy of older children who were not vaccinated as toddlers. They are now at secondary school where measles can spread very effectively. We estimate a third of a million 10- to 16-years-olds are completely unvaccinated," she said.

London and the South-east are at greatest risk of outbreaks because the region's traditionally more mobile population made families more difficult to track.

Dr Ramsay said: "Measles is a potentially fatal but entirely preventable disease so we are very disappointed that cases have recently increased. The only way to prevent outbreaks, such as the one we are seeing in South Wales, is to ensure good uptake of the MMR vaccine across all age groups. Measles is not a mild illness – it is very unpleasant and can lead to serious complications."

The campaign will also target the third of a million 10- to 16-year-olds who had only one vaccination, as well as children younger than 10 and older than 16 who also missed the jabs, numbering a further third of a million. The aim is to complete the £20m campaign by September.

Unvaccinated children will be identified from GP records, where possible, and their parents will be contacted. But experts urged parents not to wait for a letter but bring their children to vaccination clinics to be provided in GP surgeries, schools and health centres.

Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said it had stockpiled 1.2 million doses of vaccine, enough for every unvaccinated child. "The message is very simple: if you don't believe your children had two doses of MMR make an appointment with your GP," he said. Children are offered an MMR vaccine at 12 to 13 months, giving 95 per cent protection, and a second dose at three-and-a-half, which boosts this to 99 per cent.

The last drive to increase MMR vaccination levels in 2008 had only limited success. But Professor Salisbury said the new campaign would be better co-ordinated, with a higher profile. "This time we have got evidence of risk [from Swansea] that is so clear. We didn't have that last time."

About one in 15 children who catch measles will develop complications like deafness, meningitis or brain damage. One in 5,000 will die. The year before the MMR was introduced, 86,000 children caught measles and 16 died. Because it spreads easily, 95 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated. There have been two deaths in recent years – in 2006 and 2008 – after over a decade of none. Fifty years ago, the illness killed 500 children a year in the UK, but vaccination almost eliminated it.

Vaccination rates vary widely but are at their lowest in London where, in some areas, they dropped as low as 30 per cent in the mid-2000s. Cases of measles so far this year are distributed across England but are highest in the North-west and North-east.

Of the 108 people who have been admitted to hospital with measles this year – 20 per cent of those infected – 15 had complications including pneumonia, meningitis and gastroenteritis.

Dr Paul Cosford, director of health protection at Public Health England, said letters and flyers about the campaign would be distributed to schools and messages would be posted on Facebook and Twitter.

"Nationally the numbers needing catch-up vaccination are quite large but there are relatively few in each local area. We are confident that local teams have the resources to identify and vaccinate those children most at risk, and that the NHS has sufficient vaccine. Our plan aims to target 'hard to reach' populations with known low vaccination rates."

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

News

Florida mother launched a petition to ban the sale of the dolls

Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
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

    Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

    £250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

    Health & Social CareTeacher - Full time and Part time

    £90 - £140 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Sixth for...

    History Teacher

    £95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Plymouth i...

    SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer -...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?