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Measles: 1 in 7 five-year-olds ‘not protected’, PHE warns | UK News



One in seven five-year-olds may not be protected against potentially life-threatening measles, Public Health England (PHE) has warned.

The message comes as a steady fall in the uptake of the MMR jab means the UK has now lost its measles-free status, just three years after the virus was eliminated.

Currently, only 87.4% of children have had the second dose of the vaccine.

In the first quarter of 2019 there were 231 confirmed cases of the virus.

The health body released the figures ahead of the new school year beginning in September and urged parents to check whether their child or children are fully protected.

The MMR vaccine comes in two stages: one dose given to infants around one-year-old and a second when the child is at around 3 years and 4 months old.

Their research suggests that more than 30,000 five-year-olds may not have had their first dose of MMR. PHE warns this leaves them “significantly more at risk compared to pupils who are fully vaccinated”.

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They add that around 90,000 (roughly one in seven) five-year-olds in England may need the second dose of MMR, with that number rising to around one in four primary school starters in London.

Additionally, around 100,000 (one in eight) five-year-olds in England may still need their pre-school booster. That jab protects against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants 95% of children to be vaccinated, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.

The PM has also asked health leaders to write to all GPs to get them to promote catch-up programmes for children and young people who haven’t had both doses of the MMR.

The skin of a patient after 3 days of measles infection
The skin of a patient after three days of measles infection

The government will also improve the advice on the NHS website, as well as targeting areas with particularly low vaccination rates.

Social media companies will be invited to a summit to explore how they can better promote accurate vaccination information.

Mr Johnson said “decisive action” was needed to ensure communities were properly immunised.

He said: “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 disease in modern-day Britain.”

UK teenagers were given measles jabs as part of a national vaccination catch-up campaign in 2015
UK teenagers were given measles jabs as part of a national vaccination catch-up campaign in 2015

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “It’s a real concern that so many young children – as many as a quarter of a reception class in some areas – could be starting school without the full protection that the NHS childhood immunisation programme offers for free.

“We know that parents want the best protection for their children and so many may be unaware that their child is not up-to-date.”

PHE explains that even if the jab is missed before children join primary school, older children can still have the dose.

The MMR vaccine immunises against measles, mumps and rubella
The MMR vaccine immunises against measles, mumps and rubella

Measles, which is highly infectious, usually passes after around a week, but the NHS warns it can develop serious and potentially life-threatening complications in some people.

Hundreds of thousands of cases occurred each year before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1968.

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