People heading to Glastonbury, Bestival and other major festivals this summer have been warned they may be at risk of contracting measles because of soaring cases globally and a concerning drop in UK vaccination rates.
Public Health England officials said they were engaging with festival organisers about potential risks and urged anyone unsure of their immunisation status to contact their GP.
“Anyone who missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past or are unsure if they had two doses should contact their GP practice to catch up,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at body.
“We would encourage people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccine before heading to large gatherings such as festivals, as well as those travelling to countries with ongoing measles outbreaks or before starting university.”
Missed vaccinations are a particular risk among the generation of 15-to-25-year-olds, who may be attending their first festivals this summer.
This is because they were born around the time vaccination rates in the UK crashed in the wake of a – now discredited and retracted – 1998 study, which claimed the MMR vaccine caused autism.
The latest warning comes as the health secretary Matt Hancock said people who spread myths about the harms of vaccines had “blood on their hands”.
An ongoing measles outbreak in Europe saw cases hit a decade high last year and have risen even further in the first three months of 2019.
The virus is highly infectious and can lead to life-threatening complications, including pneumonia and swelling of the brain that can cause deafness or neurological damage.
International gatherings of young people are a prime opportunity for the virus to spread to those who are unprotected, some of who may have been ineligible for the vaccine due to a medical condition.
Mr Hancock said that the government “would not rule out” compulsory vaccination to address the measles outbreak.
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