Published by BBC NEWS - 12th March 2024
Teenager having  a jabImage source, PA Media
  • Published

Young people across the UK are being urged to have their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine following a rise in measles cases.

At the start of the year, the West Midlands saw the highest number of people with measles since the 1990s, health officials said.

There have been 733 cases of measles in England since October last year, two months ago this figure was 133.

The NHS is now urging more than 900,000 adults aged 19-25 who have not yet had the jab to take part in a catch-up campaign.

These youngsters would have been eligible for a jab when the vaccination rates began to fall in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Take up of the MMR jab started to drop following a 1998 report by Andrew Wakefield which falsely linked the jab with autism, according to a UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) 2023 measles briefing document.

Now vaccine coverage is the lowest it has been for more than a decade, with just 85% of youngsters having both doses of the jab before they start school aged five.

The West Midlands initially reported the largest measles outbreak outside of London, however cases have now been identified in the North West, London, East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Appointment invitation letters are being sent to those living in the West Midlands, London and Greater Manchester.

‘One of the most infectious diseases’

A number of pop up vaccination clinics have been launched and the jab is also available at GP surgeries.

“Measles is one of the most infectious diseases in the world and can cause serious harm to adults and children of all ages,” said Steve Russell, NHS England’s director of vaccinations and screening.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant medical epidemiologist for immunisation at UKHSA, added: “Being unvaccinated also means you risk spreading the disease to others, including those at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill – like infants, who aren’t able to receive their MMR vaccine until their first birthday, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system.

“The MMR jab also protects against complications from mumps in young adults. I strongly urge anyone who’s not vaccinated to protect both themselves and those more vulnerable around them.”

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