Urgent action is needed to boost MMR uptake in the U.K
Prime Minister Boris Johnson lays out multiple measures intended to improve MMR vaccine uptake rates in the UK
In the UK, the ‘measles-free’ status bestowed by World Health Organisation (WHO) has been lost, just three years after the virus was eliminated in the country. The UK achieved measles-free status in 2016 after three years of limited spread due to high vaccination rates, but measles has since been spreading slowly in the UK for more than 12 months.
According to monitoring by WHO, measles has been on the rise globally - with incidences of the disease tripling in the first half of this year compared to 2018. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, there were 231 confirmed cases of measles in the UK.
“Losing our ‘measles-free’ status is a stark reminder of how important it is that every eligible person gets vaccinated. Elimination can only be sustained by maintaining and improving coverage of the MMR vaccine,” says Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England.
But now the new PM Boris Johnson has set out the government’s plans to improve vaccination rates – including for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) – on a visit to a hospital in the South West.
The PM has called upon healthcare leaders to make greater progress towards meeting the 95 per cent target for both doses of MMR. According to the Department of Health and Social Care, only 87 per cent of children have received their second dosage of the MMR - which has likely contributed to the increased incidence of measles.
Measles – what are the symptoms?
Measles is a highly infectious virus that can be very unpleasant and cause considerable discomfort - and sometimes it can lead to very serious health complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis.
Symptoms of measles can include:
· Cold and flu-like symptoms
· Sore, reddish eyes that may be sensitive to light
· Fever which can reach around 40C
· Small white spots on the inside of the cheeks
A few days after these symptoms appear, the measles rash (a blotchy, reddish-brown) will appear. This usually starts on the head or upper neck before spreading to the rest of the body.
NHS England, Public Health England, and The Department of Health and Social Care jointly collaborated on the proposed plans to increase vaccination uptake and will release a strategy to tackle the rising vaccination problem this autumn.
The strategy is expected to encourage the NHS to use technology and A.I. to identify those who have missed a vaccination. It will also develop a major campaign to support the importance of key vaccinations in protecting against potentially dangerous diseases, and work with the Department for Education to better inform students about their health and wellbeing, especially the value of vaccinations, while also enabling them to critically assess misinformation online about vaccination.
Ahead of the hospital visit, Boris Johnson spoke about the international need for vaccination, and the importance of proper vaccine education.
“This is a global challenge and there’s a number of reasons why people don’t get themselves or their children the vaccines they need, but we need decisive action across our health service and society to make sure communities are properly immunised. ”
From reassuring parents about the safety of vaccines, to making sure people are attending follow-up appointments, we can and must do more to halt the spread of infectious, treatable diseases in modern-day Britain,” said the PM.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock also highlighted the effectiveness and achievements of the NHS vaccination programme and the need to continue to develop vaccination efforts against preventable deadly diseases, such as the measles.
“It’s easy to forget how devastating measles can be precisely because vaccines are so effective at preventing it in the first place. With this strategy, the whole health system will come together to renew focus on vaccinations – especially for our children – and this time we will eliminate measles for good. ”
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