Action To Reduce Risk Of Measles Epidemic

The Health Protection Agency welcomes the Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) MMR catch up programme, which urges Primary Care Trusts and GPs to identify individuals not up to date with their MMR and offer catch-up immunisation to reduce the risk of a measles epidemic.

Latest modelling research carried out by the Agency, examining the potential for measles transmission in England, suggests that there is now a real risk of a large measles outbreak of between approximately 30,000 to 100,000 cases – the majority in London.

Professor Elizabeth Miller, Head of Immunisation at the Health Protection Agency, said:

“Public confidence in the MMR vaccine is now high with more than 8 out of 10 children receiving one dose of MMR by their second birthday.

“However, low vaccine uptake over the past decade means there is now a large group of children who either haven’t been vaccinated or who have received just one dose. These children are susceptible to not only measles but to mumps and rubella as well.

“2007 saw the highest number of measles cases recorded in England and Wales since the current method of monitoring the disease was introduced in 1995.

“Measles is a very serious infection as it can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis. It is not possible to tell who will be seriously affected by measles. This is why it’s incredibly important to continue to remind parents about the benefits of having their child vaccinated with two doses of MMR for optimum protection. It is never too late to get vaccinated.”

The Agency has reported year on year increases in cases of measles due to outbreaks in areas of the country where MMR uptake has dipped or been low for longer periods of time with some children becoming seriously ill. In June the Agency reported the second death from measles in the last two years.

Immunisation leads in the Agency’s local Health Protection Units will be working closely with their partners in the NHS to increase the number of children immunised and so head off the dangers of an epidemic.

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