Around one in ten children starting school in the North East at risk of measles

Credit: PA

New research shows that around one in ten children starting school in the North East are at risk of developing measles.

Health bosses are calling on parents and guardians to ensure their children are up to date with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and all other routine childhood immunisations.

It comes as the latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and NHS shows MMR vaccination uptake across the country has dropped to the lowest level in a decade.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, there has been a significant drop in the numbers getting their children vaccinated against MMR and other childhood vaccines at the right time.

Coverage for the two doses of the MMR vaccine in five-year olds in the North East is currently 89% – well below the 95% World Health Organisation’s target needed to achieve and sustain measles elimination.

Coverage of the first dose of the MMR vaccine in 2-year olds is 91% in the North East.

Dr Simon Howard, Consultant in Health Protection at UKHSA North East said: “Even a small drop in vaccine coverage can have a big impact on population immunity levels and lead to outbreaks.

“I would urge parents to check if their children are up to date with their MMR vaccines and if not to get them booked in as soon as they are able. It’s never too late to catch-up."

MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine

What is the MMR Vaccine?

It protects against 3 serious illnesses:

  • Measles

  • Mumps

  • Rubella (German measles)

These highly infectious conditions can easily spread between unvaccinated people.

Measles can lead to complications such as ear infections, pneumonia, and inflammation of the brain which require hospitalisation and on rare occasions can lead to long term disability or death.

2 doses of the MMR vaccine provide the best protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

Since the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1968 it is estimated that 20 million measles cases and 4,500 deaths have been prevented in the UK.

When should children have the MMR vaccine?

Children are offered two doses of the MMR vaccine by their registered GP surgery, the first when they turn 1 and the second at around 3 years and 4 months, before they start nursery or school.

Parents who are unsure if their child is up to date with all their routine vaccinations should check their child’s Red Book (personal child health record) in the first instance.

If you are still not sure, or if you need to bring your child up to date with their vaccines, contact your GP practice to check and book an appointment.

What is the effectiveness of the MMR vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is very effective.

After 2 doses:

  • around 99% of people will be protected against measles and rubella

  • around 88% of people will be protected against mumps

People who are vaccinated against mumps, but still catch it, are less likely to have serious complications or be admitted to hospital.

Protection against measles, mumps and rubella starts to develop around 2 weeks after having the MMR vaccine.

New research commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care and the UKHSA, conducted by Censuswide, shows that many parents are not aware of the risks measles poses to their unvaccinated children.

The research revealed that, out of 95 parents with children aged five and under in the North East:

  • 58% are not aware that measles can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and brain inflammation

  • 64% are not aware measles can be fatal

  • 34% are not aware that two doses of the MMR vaccine gives 99% protection against measles and rubella