Young adults in Greater Manchester urged to get MMR jab after rise in measles cases

There have been 733 cases of measles in England since October last year. Credit: PA Images

More than 900,000 young people are receiving a letter urging them to get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine following a rise in the number of cases.

The NHS is writing to 19-25-year-olds in Greater Manchester inviting them to book an appointment after records showed the did not receive the jab as children.

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

Coverage of the MMR vaccine started to decline after a report by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 which falsely linked the jab with autism, according to a UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) 2023 measles briefing document.

Even though the claim was discredited and Wakefield struck off the medical register, the vaccination programme took years to recover.

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

Amid a current rise in cases across England, health officials launched a catch-up campaign initially targeting six to 11-year-olds and then 11 to 16-year-olds in London and the West Midlands, and now 19 to 25-year-olds in specific regions, including Greater Manchester, West Midlands and London.

There have been 733 reported cases of measles in England since October 2023. Credit: ITV News

People can get their jab at their GP surgery, while some areas are also running pop-up vaccination clinics in libraries, university campuses and sports clubs.

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

“But the NHS MMR vaccine gives life-long protection against becoming seriously unwell, so with cases of measles on the rise, it is not worth the risk of going without this vital protection.

“Measles, mumps and rubella are preventable, but catching them is easy when people are unvaccinated, so I urge people to come forward and get the MMR vaccine sooner, rather than later.”

MMR vaccine coverage is the lowest it has been for more than a decade. Credit: ITV News

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant medical epidemiologist for immunisation at UKHSA, said “anyone who is not vaccinated against measles can catch it".

She continued: “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.”

There have been 733 cases of measles in England since October 2023.

The current outbreak was initially in Birmingham and the West Midlands – but cases have now also been identified in the North West, London, East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...