Jabs campaign

Drawing up plans: immunisation programme to target one million children Photo: PA Images

The latest figures show 179 people in he North West contracted meales during the first three months of the year. It comes as the government announces a new national vaccination campaign targeting a million children and teenagers.

GP surgeries, schools and community programmes will be used to vaccinate children and young people who have not had either one or two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in a £20 million campaign.

The scheme has been launched after new figures from Public Health England (PHE) revealed that there were 587 confirmed measles cases in the first three months of this year in England, more than double the 220 in the same period of 2012.

The highest regional total was in the North West at 179, followed by 175 in the North East.

Out of the total number of confirmed cases this year, nearly one in five - 20%, or 108 cases - were admitted to hospital, with 15 of these experiencing complications such as pneumonia, meningitis and gastroenteritis.

The figures, if unchecked, put England on course for another record annual high in measles cases after 1,920 confirmed cases last year.

The rise comes in spite of the highest ever national MMR vaccination level being achieved in England with 94% of five-year-olds receiving one dose and 90% receiving two doses according to the latest PHE figures.

The leap in the number of confirmed cases can mostly be attributed to the proportion of unprotected 10 to 16-year-olds who missed out on vaccination in the late 1990s and early years of 2000 when fears about the discredited link between autism and the vaccine was widespread, according to public health experts.

Children are offered an MMR vaccine at 12 to 13 months, giving 95% protection and then a second dose at around three-and-a-half-years-old which boosts this protection to 99%.

An estimated one third of a million 10 to 16-year-olds who are unvaccinated will be made a "first priority" in the new campaign.

“Measles is a potentially fatal but entirely preventable disease so it is very disappointing that cases have recently increased in the North West region. The catch-up programme set out today recommends an approach to specifically target those young people most at risk. Those who have not been vaccinated should urgently seek at least one dose of MMR vaccination which will give them 95 per cent protection

– Dr Paul Cleary, Consultant Epidemiologist from Public Health England