MMR boycott blamed for soaring measles cases

Two million children at risk because they have not been vaccinated, DoH says

Measles is soaring in Britain, putting two million unvaccinated children at risk, public health experts warn.

Cases are running at almost twice last year's record levels. Although the illness is mild in most cases, it can cause serious complications including meningitis, brain damage and death.

The Government is launching a new drive today to increase uptake of the MMR vaccine, which fell following the scare about its supposed link with autism. The link was never proved and the research on which it was based has since been discredited.

The Department of Health said more than two million children were at risk of measles because they had missed either their first or second MMR vaccination. The first is given between 12 and 15 months and the second around age four, before the child starts school.

There were 865 cases of measles in the first five months of the year (January to May), almost twice the 451 in the same period last year, which was itself a record. About 80 per cent of cases occurred in unvaccinated children. Last year's total of 1,370 cases in England, the highest since 1995, looks certain to be exceeded.

Scientists have warned that the rise in cases puts Britain at greater threat of a measles epidemic, with more than 100,000 people infected, than at any time in a generation.

Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health said: "The number of cases of measles is on the increase and we need to warn all parents about the potential dangers of this infection. They need to be aware that if their child is not immunised and comes into contact with a child infected with measles, there is around a 90 per cent chance they will catch measles."

About one in 15 children who catch measles will develop more serious complications like deafness, meningitis or brain damage. One in 5,000 who contracts measles dies. The year before the MMR vaccine was introduced, 86,000 children caught measles and 16 died. Because it spreads so easily, 95 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated to prevent outbreaks.

There have been two deaths from measles in recent years – in 2006 and 2008 – after more than a decade of none. Fifty years ago the illness killed 500 children a year in the UK, but vaccination almost eliminated the disease.

From today, a roadshow will visit 12 measles hotspots across the country where vaccination rates are low, to raise awareness. Liverpool, Warrington, Manchester, Brighton and Guildford are already experiencing measles outbreaks, the Department of Health said. Other at-risk areas being targeted include Leeds, Rotherham, Nottingham, Norwich, Ipswich, Reading and Slough.

Vaccination rates vary widely around the country, but are lowest in London, where in some areas they have dropped below 30 per cent. Last year, ministers launched a "catch-up" campaign aimed at parents who had not vaccinated their children. More than one million doses of vaccine were stockpiled and primary care trusts ordered to identify unvaccinated children and encourage their parents to bring them in for injections.

The Health Protection Agency said cases had risen every month this year, and the 263 cases recorded in May was the largest monthly figure since the current recording method was introduced in 1995. Cases were reported from all regions except Yorkshire and the Humber, with new outbreaks confirmed in the North-east and Wales.

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before