The NHS in England is reaching out to millions of parents, urging them to get their children vaccinated against measles due to a rise in cases. Over 3.4 million children under 16 are currently at risk, according to NHS England. Areas with low MMR vaccine uptake, such as the West Midlands and London, are being prioritized. A similar campaign last winter resulted in a 10% increase in vaccinations.
UK health officials warned last week that a measles outbreak in the West Midlands could spread quickly to other areas with low vaccination rates. Dame Jenny Harries has called for nationwide action following a significant increase in child measles cases in Birmingham hospitals.
The MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, is administered in two doses. However, only 85% of UK children starting primary school have received both doses, falling short of the 95% target needed to prevent the disease from spreading.
The current campaign aims to contact over four million parents, carers, and young adults via text, email, or letter to inform them that they or their children have missed one or both doses. This includes over one million children aged six to 11 across England, 330,000 11 to 16-year-olds, and nearly one million 16 to 26-year-olds in London and the West Midlands.
Steve Russell, NHS England’s director of vaccinations and screening, said the NHS is acting swiftly to curb the spread of measles. Catch-up jabs are available at MMR pop-ups in schools and other locations.
One in five children with measles in Birmingham are being hospitalized for treatment. The disease can be severe at any age and poses a particular risk to babies too young for their first dose, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.
The decline in child vaccinations is attributed to various factors, including difficulty in scheduling appointments and fear of catching Covid at health centers during the pandemic. Some parents also lack awareness of the dangers of measles due to its near-elimination in the UK a few years ago.
Despite the debunking of a study falsely linking the MMR vaccine to autism 25 years ago, some communities still believe in these myths, resulting in thousands of unvaccinated young adults today.