Parents in Wolverhampton are being urged to ensure their children are immunised against measles as a national vaccination campaign is launched.

Public Health England, NHS England and the Department of Health have this week unveiled an MMR vaccine 'catch-up' programme to make sure as many 10 to 16 year olds are vaccinated against the disease as possible.

New figures published by Public Health England show high numbers of confirmed measles cases in England in the first 3 months of 2013, reaching 587 by end of March - following a record annual high of almost 2,000 cases in 2012.

Although there were no cases in Wolverhampton in the first 3 months of the year, there have been 13 across the West Midlands as well as outbreaks in the North West and North East. Meanwhile, more than 800 people have contracted measles in Swansea, South Wales.

Ros Jervis, Wolverhampton's Director for Public Health, said: "Although fortunately cases of measles in Wolverhampton are very rare, the launch of this national campaign is a timely reminder for parents to make sure their children are immunised against this very unpleasant disease - and indeed to check all their vaccinations are up to date.

"I'd encourage parents to contact their GP to find out if they are due any vaccinations or boosters, and make an appointment for their children if necessary."

Experts believe the rise in measles cases can be mostly attributed to the proportion of unprotected 10 to 16 year olds who missed out on vaccination in the late 1990s and early 2000s when concern around the discredited link between the MMR vaccine and autism was widespread.

As a result, many children - particularly older children - are not protected against infection and, after many years of low vaccination uptake, measles became re-established in 2007.

Wolverhampton City Council and its partners including Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group and the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust are working with Public Health England to produce a locally-tailored plan to offer MMR to un-vaccinated and partially vaccinated 10 to 16 year olds over the coming months, either through GPs or in community settings.

Ros added: "We are working closely with health colleagues across the city to support the national immunisation programme. We are currently in the process of reviewing historic immunisation data which will help us identify those children and young people who are at risk and to plan our strategy to ensure that they are offered vaccinations."

PHE West Midlands Centre Director Dr Sue Ibbotson said: "Measles is a potentially fatal but entirely preventable disease so it is very disappointing that cases have recently increased in parts of the West Midlands.

"The catch-up programme recommends an approach to specifically target those young people most at risk. Those who have not been vaccinated should urgently seek at least one dose of the MMR vaccination which will give them 95% protection against measles. A second dose is then needed to provide almost complete protection."

Public Health England has launched a new Facebook page in conjunction with NHS Choices at Type=links;Linkid=1643;Title=Public Health England Facebook;Target=_blank;.

  • released: Friday 26 April, 2013