Leeds health chief issues measles warning after MMR vaccinations fall to lowest level in a decade

One of the city's most senior civil servants has said it is "never too late" for children to get the MMR vaccine, as statistics reveal more than one in 10 very young children are not fully protected from measles.

By Richard Beecham
Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 4:30 pm

It comes as Leeds marks world immunisation week, which aims to spread awareness of vaccine efficacy when it comes to impacting measles, mumps and rubella.

According to the latest data from the UK Health Security Agency, coverage of the first dose of MMR has fallen to its lowest level in a decade, with the first dose in two year olds dropping to less than 90 per cent.

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Health chiefs say it's "never too late" to get the jab. Pic: PA.

Children are offered two doses of the MMR vaccine - the first when they turn one, and the second at around three and a half.

Health chiefs are now warning that the drop-off in MMR vaccinations during the Covid-19 pandemic is cause for concern, and that measles can be particularly serious in young children.

Victoria Eaton, Leeds City Council’s director of public health, said: “Measles can be very unpleasant and may lead to serious complications.

"The good news is that it is a preventable disease and two doses of the vaccine provides almost complete protection.

"It is never too late for children to get vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella which is why we’re calling on parents and carers to make sure their children are up to date.”

The importance of the MMR vaccine to protect children against measles, mumps and rubella is the focus of a new campaign as Leeds marks World Immunisation Week.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), four to five million deaths per year are prevented worldwide due to vaccinations.

In Leeds routine immunisations have continued to be delivered throughout the pandemic and some GP practices have maintained excellent uptake throughout these challenging times. However, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a drop nationally in the numbers of children getting their routine childhood immunisations.

The UKHSA added coverage for the two doses of MMR vaccine in five year olds in England is currently 85.5 per cent - well below the 95 per cent World Health Organisation’s target needed to sustain measles elimination.

This means that more than one in 10 children under the age of five are not fully protected from measles.

Measles is highly contagious and even a small decline in MMR uptake can lead to a rise in cases. Since the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1968 it is estimated that 20 million measles cases and 4,500 deaths have been prevented in the UK.

Parents of children who are due to have the vaccine, or who may have missed out, should contact their GP to arrange an appointment. If you are unsure whether your child has had two doses of the vaccine, check their red book or speak to your GP practice.