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Government fights measles outbreak with MMR catch-up campaign

Public health The MMR catch-up campaign is targeting more than 1 million children and teenagers who are unprotected against measles in an effort to combat the rising number of cases across England.

The government has launched a national MMR catch-up campaign to target more than one million children and teenagers who are unprotected against measles in an effort to combat the rising number of cases across England.


Public Health England (PHE), NHS England and the Department of Health are targeting 10 to 16-year-olds across the country who have never received the MMR vaccination or need one further dose to be protected, they announced yesterday (April 24).   


This year, 587 cases of measles were recorded in England by the end of March, with the highest number of cases in the north east and north west and a peak in 10 to 14-year-olds, according to the latest figures from PHE.


Experts blame the measles outbreak on widespread concerns about the discredited link between autism and the MMR vaccine

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Eighteen per cent of people with measles have been hospitalised, with 15 people suffering from complications such as pneumonia, meningitis and gastroenteritis. This follows last year's record high of nearly 2,000 cases in England.


In Wales there have been 981 confirmed cases in the past six months, resulting in the death of one 25-year-old man.


Experts blame the current outbreak on widespread concerns about the discredited link between autism and the MMR vaccine during the late 1990s and early 2000s, which meant many children and teenagers went unprotected.  


PHE estimates there are 300,000 unvaccinated children aged 10 to 16 years, and a similar number who need at least one further dose to give them full protection. Meanwhile there are another 300,000 outside this age group who need at least one further dose of the MMR vaccine.


The catch-up programme will see local groups led by NHS England area teams, together with local government directors of public health and PHE centres, identifying and giving the jab to 10 to 16-year-olds through their GPs or schools. Further action will be taken if the vaccination needs to be extended to those beyond this age bracket, PHE said.


"Measles is a potentially fatal but entirely preventable disease so we are very disappointed that measles cases have recently increased in England," PHE head of immunisation Mary Ramsay said.


"The only way to prevent measles outbreaks, such as the one we are seeing in south Wales, is to ensure good uptake of the MMR vaccine across all age groups," she said.


PHE has set up a Facebook page and Twitter hashtag #getthemmr to encourage vaccine take-up.


Have you seen an increase in patient inquiries about MMR vaccination?

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