Measles: UNICEF warns Coronavirus could bring resurgence
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Senior health officials have revealed that the “very worrying” figures show MMR vaccine rates have fallen to their lowest level in a decade. The health experts warn that a drop in vaccine coverage can lead to outbreaks.
The statistics show that more than one in 10 children aged five in England are not up to date with their two doses of the jab.
The figures are even worse for London with more than one in four (28.1 percent) five-year-olds not up to date with the MMR vaccine.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the uptake rates of the MMR vaccine – as well as other childhood inoculations. Figures show a “significant drop” in children getting the jabs since March 2020 – when COVID-19 first hit England.
The most recent figures available show that, between July and September last year, only 88.6 percent of children had had their first dose by the age of two, and only 85.5 percent had had both doses by age five.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this falls significantly below its target of 95 percent needed to keep measles away.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and NHS are launching an appeal urging parents to make sure their children have made the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines – as well as other routine jabs – before starting school.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA, said: “The MMR vaccine offers the best protection from measles, mumps and rubella which is why we’re calling on parents and carers to make sure their children are up to date with their two doses.
“Even a small drop in vaccine coverage can have a big impact on population immunity levels and lead to outbreaks.”
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can cause serious complications including pneumonia, ear infections, inflammation of the brain, and in some rare cases it can be fatal.
It can also cause subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), which can lead to the destruction of the central nervous system, loss of motor control, epilepsy, and death – although, this is very rare.
It also damages the immune system making those who catch it more susceptible to other diseases and infections.
The UKHSA reported that more than half (51 percent) of parents and guardians in London were unaware of the seriousness of measles and the complications it can have on the children who catch it.
With international travel resuming, health officials are also concerned about it being brought in from countries that have higher levels of the disease.
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Since the measles vaccine was introduced in 1968, it is believed that as many as 4,500 deaths from the disease have been prevented in the UK.
Children are invited to take up the first dose of the MMR vaccine at one year old, with the second dose given at three years and four months.
Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director for primary care at NHS England, said: “It is incredibly important that all parents and guardians ensure their child is up to date with their routine vaccinations, including MMR, as these vaccines give children crucial protection against serious and potentially deadly illnesses and stop outbreaks in the community.
“If your child has missed a vaccination, please contact your GP practice to book an appointment as soon as you can to make sure they have maximum protection against disease.”
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