Vaccination against deadly disease at 10-year-low in children
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned that thousands of children across England are at risk of catching deadly measles after MMR vaccine rates fell to their lowest level in ten years.
Since the Covid pandemic began in March 2020, officials have seen a “significant drop” in children getting the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.
The figures, which officials described as “very worrying,” show that more than one in 10 children aged five are not up to date with their MMR vaccinations.
The most recently available data, from July to September 2021, found only 85.5% of children had both doses of the MMR jab by the age of five. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims 95% of children must be vaccinated to keep measles at bay.
Measles is a highly contagious disease, and as such even a small fall in the number of children getting vaccinated against it could result in a substantial spike in case numbers.
“Even a small drop in vaccine coverage can have a big impact on population immunity levels and lead to outbreaks,” Dr. Vanessa Saliba from the UKHSA warned.
If contracted, measles can cause ear infections, pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, or even, in the worst-case scenario, long-term disability or death.
The NHS and the UKHSA launched a joint appeal on Tuesday, calling on parents and guardians to ensure children have received all the necessary vaccines before starting school in September.
Children in England are invited to get the MMR jab when they turn one, with the second dose given at the age of three years and four months.
Ahead of the campaign launch, the Department of Health and Social Care and the UKHSA conducted a survey that found almost half of parents are unaware of the risks measles can pose.
Of 2,000 parents and guardians of children aged five or younger, 48% didn’t know measles could cause serious medical complications, and only 38% knew that it could be fatal.