The percentage of 5 year olds who have had both doses of the MMR vaccine in England is currently 86.3%, well below the World Health Organization’s target of 95% which it says is needed to achieve and sustain the elimination of measles. It also means around 3 in 20 children starting school are at risk of catching measles.
The virus is highly contagious, so even a small decline in MMR uptake can lead to a rise in cases. And, as international travel resumes, it is more likely that measles will be brought in from countries that have higher levels of the disease.
The MMR vaccine is known to give 99% protection against both measles and rubella. Children are offered 2 doses of the 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.
Councillor Jasbir Jaspal, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "Measles is highly contagious; it can infect 9 in 10 non-immune children – those who are either unvaccinated or have not been infected previously – and lead to complications such as ear and chest infections, fits, diarrhoea and dehydration.
“On what are thankfully rare occasions, it can cause long term disabilities or, tragically, even death.
“Starting nursery and school increases the risk of exposure to infectious diseases, and that's why it is vital your children have their MMR vaccines as soon as they are eligible for them.
"Indeed, it is incredibly important that parents and carers ensure their child is up to date with all their routine vaccinations, not just MMR, as these vaccines give children crucial protection against serious and potentially deadly illnesses. They also help to stop outbreaks in the community.
“If you think your child has missed a vaccination, check their Red Book. If you don’t have the Red Book to hand, do not worry – simply contact your GP to check as soon as you can. You can ask for an appointment for their jab to be arranged so that you can make sure they have maximum protection against disease.”
Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency, added: “The MMR vaccine offers the best protection from measles, mumps and rubella which is why we’re calling on parents and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with their 2 doses.
“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."