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UKHSA Chief Executive warns of further outbreaks of measles

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Around 216 confirmed cases and 103 probable cases have been recorded in the West Midlands since October 2023, mostly in Birmingham

The UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) Chief Executive, Professor Dame Jenny Harries has expressed concern that measles outbreak could spread to other towns and cities unless urgent action is taken to increase Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination uptake in areas at greatest risk.

The virus can spread very easily among those who are unvaccinated, especially in nurseries and schools, she said on Friday (19 January) during a visit to Birmingham to review the ongoing work to contain the spread of the disease.

A rapid rise in cases has been seen in the West Midlands since 1 October 2023, with 216 confirmed cases and 103 probable cases recorded till 18 January.

The majority of the cases (around 80 per cent) were reported from Birmingham, with about 10 per cent in Coventry, mostly affecting children aged under 10 years.

Dame Jenny is calling on all local areas to increase MMR vaccine uptake rates in communities across the country.

She said: “Colleagues across the West Midlands have worked tirelessly to try to control the outbreak, but with vaccine uptake in some communities so low, there is now a very real risk of seeing the virus spread in other towns and cities.”

She is encouraging parents to ensure that their children get the MMR vaccine to protect them from measles, which can sometimes lead to life changing complications.

“Two doses of the MMR vaccine give lifelong protection and it’s never too late to catch up,” Dame Jenny said.

Furthermore, Dame Jenny highlighted that urgent action is needed to boost MMR uptake across communities where vaccine uptake is low.

The MMR vaccination is provided as part of the NHS Routine Childhood Immunisation Programme – with one dose offered at one year and another second dose at 3 years 4 months. It is a safe and effective way of protecting against measles, as well as mumps and rubella.

 

 

 

 

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