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Measles outbreak possible, advises UKHSA
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned that further outbreaks of measles could spread to other towns and cities unless uptake in the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination is increased in at-risk areas.
The UK has seen a rapid rise in cases in parts of the country since October 2023, with 216 confirmed cases and 103 probable cases in the West Midlands between 1 October 2023 and 18 January 2024. Approximately 80% of these cases have been in Birmingham and 10% in Coventry. The majority of cases have been in children under the age of ten. The UKHSA intends to assess the success of measures used in the West Midlands to help other areas prepare for potential outbreaks, including pop-up vaccination clinics in schools, street-level community engagement to encourage vaccination, additional training and raising awareness for frontline professionals in schools and healthcare settings.
According to the UKHSA’s press release, ‘MMR is part of the NHS Routine Childhood Immunisation Programme – with one dose offered at one year and another second dose at 3 years 4 months. Parents whose infants missed out, or anyone of any age who has not yet had a vaccine, are urged to come forward. The free MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting against measles, as well as mumps and rubella’.
Professor Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of UKHSA, commented: “Colleagues across the West Midlands have worked tirelessly to try to control the outbreak, but with vaccine uptake in some communities so low, there is now a very real risk of seeing the virus spread in other towns and cities. Children who get measles can be very poorly and some will suffer life-changing complications. The best way for parents to protect their children from measles is the MMR vaccine. Two doses of the MMR vaccine give lifelong protection and it’s never too late to catch up. Immediate action is needed to boost MMR uptake across communities where vaccine uptake is low. We know from the pandemic that the communities themselves, and those providing services within them, will have the knowledge to best support local families to understand the risks of measles, to learn more about the vaccines that can protect them and to enable innovative vaccine delivery approaches. We need a long-term concerted effort to protect individuals and to prevent large measles outbreaks.”
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