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Rise in measles follows reduced uptake of MMR vaccine

by Lisa Bennett

Parents are being asked to check their children are fully up to date with their MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccinations as data published today (4 May) by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows there has been a rise in measles cases.

Two doses are really important for full protection.

In just four months, between 1 January and 20 April this year, there have been 49 cases of measles compared to 54 cases in the whole of 2022. Most of the cases have been in London although there have been cases picked up across the country and some are linked to travel abroad.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly infectious disease that can lead to serious problems such as pneumonia, meningitis, and on rare occasions, long-term disability.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include a high fever, sore, red watery eyes and a blotchy red-brown rash, and it is particularly easy to catch in environments when in close contact with others.

How is it spread?

Measles is spread through coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, or direct contact. It is one of the most highly infectious diseases.

Vaccination offers the best protection

In recent years the number of children vaccinated against measles has fallen.

Uptake for the first dose of the MMR vaccine in 2 year olds in Knowsley is 83% and uptake of two MMR doses at age 5 years old is just 78%. This is lower than the national uptake of 89% of children having one dose at 2 years old and 85% of children having two doses at 5 years old.  This is well below the 95% target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) which is necessary to achieve and maintain elimination.

During the coronavirus pandemic, uptake for routine childhood immunisations has fallen globally, leaving many children unprotected from serious infections and countries at increased risk of outbreaks.

Measles is now circulating in many countries around the world and WHO has warned that Europe is likely to see a resurgence unless countries catch-up children who missed out.

The MMR vaccine can prevent measles, and also protects against mumps and rubella.

The more of our community who are vaccinated, the less chance there is of an outbreak.

The first MMR vaccine is given when your child is aged one year and the second dose at aged 3 years and 4 months, but if your child misses either of these doses there are plenty of opportunities to catch up.

Please check your child’s red book to see if they are up-to-date with their vaccination or contact your GP. Practices across Knowsley are offering a range of flexible times to book your child in for their vaccinations.