Health & Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins urges parents to catch up with measles jab

The Health & Social Care Secretary has urged parents to make sure their children are up to date with their vaccines amid rising cases of measles in England.
Young children getting vaccinated.Young children getting vaccinated.
Young children getting vaccinated.

The UK Health Security Agency has declared a national incident following a rapid rise in cases of measles in the West Midlands since October, and has warned that outbreaks of measles will spread to other towns and cities unless action is taken to increase vaccination uptake.

Victoria Atkins MP, for Louth & Horncastle, has today (Monday) urged parents to make sure their child is up to date with their MMR vaccinations:

Measles can be a serious illness, but we have a safe and effective vaccine,” she said, “If you or your child are not fully vaccinated, please contact your GP to arrange an appointment.

"It’s never too late to protect yourself and your family.”

The free MMR vaccine is part of the NHS Routine Childhood Immunisation Programme, and a safe and effective way of protecting against measles, as well as mumps and rubella.

Measles spreads very easily among those who are unvaccinated, especially in nurseries and schools. It can be a very unpleasant illness and in some children can be very serious, leading to hospitalisation and tragically even death in rare cases.

People in certain at-risk groups including babies and young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity, are at increased risk of complications from measles.

Over 99 percent of those who have two doses of the MMR vaccine will be protected against measles and rubella. The vaccine also provides protection against mumps, which can be very painful with complications including inflammation of the ovaries and testicles, and in rare cases, the pancreas.

Although mumps protection is slightly lower, cases in vaccinated people are much less severe, highlighting the importance of the MMR vaccination.

Parents whose infants missed out, or anyone of any age who has not yet had a vaccine, are urged to come forward. Appointments for missed vaccinations can be made via your GP surgery.

Professor Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said: “Colleagues across the West Midlands have worked tirelessly to try to control the outbreak, but with vaccine uptake in some communities so low, there is now a very real risk of seeing the virus spread in other towns and cities.

“Children who get measles can be very poorly and some will suffer life-changing complications. The best way for parents to protect their children from measles is the MMR vaccine. Two doses of the MMR vaccine give lifelong protection and it’s never too late to catch up.

“Immediate action is needed to boost MMR uptake across communities where vaccine uptake is low. We know from the pandemic that the communities themselves, and those providing services within them, will have the knowledge to best support local families to understand the risks of measles, to learn more about the vaccines that can protect them and to enable innovative vaccine delivery approaches."We need a long-term concerted effort to protect individuals and to prevent large measles outbreaks.”