Kent and Medway public health leaders are urging parents and carers to make sure children are up to date with their MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccinations.
The call comes as UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) figures show a national rise in measles cases and six recent confirmed cases in the South East.
Between 1st January and 20th April UKHSA statistics revealed 49 confirmed cases of measles in England compared to 54 cases for the whole of 2022. Most have been in London and some cases are linked to travel abroad.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also warned of a world-wide resurgence of the highly infectious disease after immunisation rates fell globally, including in the UK, during the COVID-19 pandemic – unless those who missed out have catch-up jabs.
Measles could lead to serious complications
James Williams, Medway Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Measles is a very unpleasant illness and could lead to serious complications. It is really important that parents and carers check their children’s medical records, as well as their own, to make sure they are up to date with their vaccinations. Being vaccinated is the best way to reduce your risk of becoming unwell and lessening the chance of infectious diseases spreading within our community. It’s never too late to get vaccinated.”
Children are routinely offered the first dose of the MMR vaccine when they turn one and the second dose at three years and four months.
Uptake for the first dose of MMR in two-year-olds in the South East is at 91.5% with uptake of two MMR doses at age five years around 88%. While this is above the national average it is well below the 95% target set by the WHO to prevent measles outbreaks.
Vaccination is our best defence
Kent County Council Director of Public Health, Dr Anjan Ghosh, said: “Measles spreads easily, can lead to serious illness and, on rare occasions, can be fatal. Vaccination is our best defence against measles, providing life-long protection, so it is very concerning to see immunisation rates drop and cases increase. Parents and carers should review their child’s Red Book health record in the first instance and if you are still not sure, or you need to bring your child up to date with vaccines, contact your GP practice to check and to book an appointment. Teenagers and adults should also make sure they are covered, particularly before travelling this summer, or heading to college or university in September. Vaccines are free on the NHS and, whatever your age, it’s never too late to catch up.”
Anyone with symptoms of measles, including a high fever and blotchy red-brown rash, should stay at home and phone their GP, or NHS 111, for advice before visiting the surgery or A&E to avoid infecting others.
To find out more about childhood vaccinations visit the NHS website.