Measles Crisis: Vaccination Struggles & Urgent Solutions

Measles Vaccination
BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam Updated: In: Medical Negligence

The Chief Executive from the UKHSA ( UK Health Security Agency), Professor Dame Jenny Harries,  is warning that measles are likely to spread rapidly across more parts of the UK, with vaccine rates well below what is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Over 200 cases of measles have been confirmed in the West Midlands, most commonly in Birmingham and this followed reports that half of the children in parts of  inner city London like Hackney, are not vaccinated.

As a result of the influx of measles cases, pop-up clinics are being introduced to get more children vaccinates as cases continue to climb.

What Are Measles and How are They Spread?

Measles is one of the most infectious diseases in humans and is spread by coughs and sneezes. On average, in communities with low protection, one person will spread the virus to 15 others, making it far more infectious than coronavirus.

Babies and young children, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system are more at risk.

Symptoms of measles are a high fever, a blotchy red or brown rash, sore, red, and watery eyes, along with coughing and sneezing.

In most cases, measles clears up in 10 days. However, measles can lead to serious problems if it infects other parts of the body such as the lungs or brain.  If the initial symptoms remain untreated, it may lead to hospitalisation or lifelong problems.

Complications of measles includes pneumonia, meningitis, blindness, and seizures.

People with measles are infectious until at least four days after the rash appears.

The UKHSA is asking adults and children showing mild symptoms of measles not to visit their GP or hospital. Instead of you are displaying mild symptoms of measles please call the NHS on 111 or get help online.

Those showing symptoms of measles should also stay away from nursery, school, university, work, and other group activities while they are infectious.

Read more about the symptoms of measles here.

Urgent Actions Needed to UK Wide against Measles

Dame Jenny Harries expresses concerns that without urgent action, we are likely to see the measles virus “seeding and spreading rapidly” in other cities and towns with low vaccine uptake. She adds “the focus on this morning is on the West Midlands, but I think the real issue is we need a call to action right across the country.”  In November 2023, the NHS rolled out a NHS England Vaccination strategy with the specific purpose of increasing the take up rates of vaccinations across the country.

In response to the rapid outbreak, the ULHSA has declared the measles outbreak a national incident. This enables the allocation of more resources to address the outbreak.

Areas at High Risk

Nearly half of children in some areas of London, like Hackney, have not received full vaccination against measles.

Furthermore, areas such as Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Nottingham only have 75% of the five year olds protected by the double vaccination.

Lower Uptake of MMR Doses

Dame Jenny states that the UK had previously established an elimination status for measles. However, due to lower vaccination rates measles is making a come-back.

A healthcare professional will administer the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) jab in two doses, the first dose at 12 months and the second at about three years and four months, before children start school.

“On average about only 85% of children are arriving at school having had the two MMR doses,” she said.

The following NHS figures show that the uptake of both MMR doses by the age of five was very low in some areas during 2022-23:

  • 74% in London
  • 7% in West Midlands
  • 1% in the North West

In order to prevent the spread of measles, WHO recommends that at least 95% of the population should have received a two-dose vaccination.

What Has Caused the Measles Outbreak?

Helen Bedford, professor of children’s health at University College London comments that although the spread of vaccine misinformation may have contributed towards lower vaccine rates “it is too easy to blame anti-vaccine sentiment for current measles outbreaks.”

Limited access to GPs, cuts to trained staff who can answer parent’s questions about the MMR vaccinations and the difficulties patients face in booking in appointments are all factors that contribute towards lower vaccination levels particularly in inner city communities.

Furthermore, the rise in measles cases indicates a potential failure in measles diagnosis and prevention of the disease. Misdiagnosing individuals or failing to provide proper vaccination advice could contribute to the spread of the disease.

Professor Bedford adds that the pandemic has also impacted vaccinations with “some parents afraid to attend clinics for fear of catching Covid or because they were not clear that vaccination services were continuing.”

Camden Council’s Director of Health and Wellbeing, Kirsten Watters, has set up mobile vaccination clinics in London. This aim of these clinics is to increase MMR vaccine uptake in the borough of Camden, where one in four children starts school without completing their MMR vaccination. Watters highlights that these clinics offer busy parents a convenient place to promptly check the MMR vaccination off their list.

“When talking to parents, we find most do intend to vaccinate their child, we’ve got high levels of confidence and trust, it’s just that they’re finding it difficult to organise appointments and get to those vaccination clinics,” she told the Today programme.

Where Can I Get a MMR Vaccine?

Ask your GP surgery for the MMR vaccine if your child has missed either of the two doses.

Older children and adults can catch up on the jabs at any point by scheduling an appointment through their GP.

The UKHSA encourage young people starting college or university and anyone in their 20s who may have missed out as a child to come forward as well.

Request an alternative version called Priorix from your GP if you do not eat pork products, as the standard MMR vaccine contains ingredients derived from pork.

Addressing the Measles Outbreak

In light of the escalating measles outbreak across the UK, urgent actions are imperative to reduce the spread of this highly contagious disease. The warning from Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), underscores the critical need for a nationwide call to action to boost vaccination rates.

Individuals affected by vaccine-related issues, whether due to misinformation, misdiagnosis, or vaccine damage, may consider seeking assistance from experienced solicitors specialising in vaccine damage claims.

Moreover, the article highlights the challenges contributing to lower vaccination rates, including limited access to GPs, staff cuts, and the difficulties in scheduling appointments.

As measles is highly infectious, misdiagnosis or the failure to treat measles could lead to localised outbreaks especially in   nurseries and schools as well as other areas where young children could play leading to serious injury, hospitalisation and even death if untreated.

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