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One million children and teenagers to get measles jab amid fears of English outbreaks
The 20million campaign follows a big rise in cases in South WalesMany affected missed out on vaccination in late 1990s and early 2000s587 confirmed measles cases in England in first three months of 2013That's more than three times the 168 cases in
the same period of 2012
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Vaccinations: Figures show there were 587 confirmed measles cases in England in the first three months of this year, more than three times the 168 cases in the same period of 2012
Figures from Public Health England
(PHE) show there were 587 confirmed measles cases in England in the
first three months of this year, more than three times the 168 cases in
the same period of 2012. The highest number of cases is among ten to
Experts predict England’s total this year will exceed the 1,920 cases confirmed in 2012 unless action is taken.
Professor David Salisbury, director of
immunisation at the Department of Health, said: ‘The situation in
Swansea, I believe, is a wake-up call for parents – for parents who for
whatever reason, quite a few years ago, chose not to vaccinate their
children and for whom these days vaccines aren’t really things that they
think about very much.’
He added: ‘You have to prevent measles
and that means we need to get ahead before we have got large numbers of
cases and large outbreaks occurring in England.’
He said the country faced a potential
national health emergency without a catch-up campaign that will be
carried out by GPs, schools and community programmes until September.
Around one third of a million ten to 16-year-olds who are not already vaccinated will be the ‘first priority’.
A further third of a million children
in this age group need at least one more MMR jab to give them full
protection, along with a similar number above and below this age range.
Protection: The 20million campaign follows a big rise in cases in south Wales, where public health officials have been running clinics to increase protection rates (file picture)
Dr Mary Ramsay, PHE head of
immunisation, said there was particular concern about potential measles
outbreaks in London, the South and East of England where MMR vaccination
rates were historically lower than in the North.
She said older children not vaccinated
as toddlers could ‘spread infection very effectively’, adding: ‘Measles
is not a mild illness. It is very unpleasant and can lead to serious
complications … with more than 100 children in England being
hospitalised so far this year.’
Speaking this morning on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she added that parents often think once their child is over the age of five they are not at risk from measles.
‘We are worried – this is not an epidemic in England yet as the cases we have had have been clustered, but there is the potential for outbreaks to happen in other areas as there are people who have not been vaccinated. We really want to get ahead of that and stop this happening across England.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today confirmed that his three sons Antonio, Alberto and Miguel have all had the MMR jab
‘We have already done several things over the years (to get children vaccinated) and we ran a similar campaign in 2008. But the problem is people forget that their children are still at risk of measles over the age of five.
‘Although people are being reminded, they don’t realise that the measles risk doesn’t stop.’
She added that most children born today are vaccinated before they start school but the problem is a minority who were not immunised a decade ago at the height of the MMR scare.
‘We are trying to get at the very small proportion that are left who haven’t had the injection and they are quite difficult to find. We are going to be asking GPS to go through their records and contact parents both through the general practice and also through schools.’
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today confirmed that his three sons Antonio, Alberto and Miguel have all had the MMR jab, and said that he did not feel the need to 'cross his fingers' as he decided to have them vaccinated.
Speaking on his Call Clegg phone-in show on LBC 97.3 radio, the Liberal Democrat leader said: 'The overwhelming advice is that this is the right thing to do to protect the health of your child.
'I think you have to have trust in the people who look at this. They have no axe to grind, they just want to do the right thing and come up with the right science.
'They have said very categorically that the concern about a link between MMR and other conditions is just not proven, and they say really explicitly that it is really bad for your children's health if you don't take this action.
'I really would urge parents, whatever your misgivings, do what people who know about this most say is right for your children – get that course of jabs done.'