The importance of the MMR vaccine to protect children against measles, mumps and rubella is the focus of a new campaign as Leeds marks World Immunisation Week.
Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases and protect ourselves and our children against ill health. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) four to five million deaths per year are prevented worldwide due to vaccinations. World Immunisation Week takes place from 24-30 April 2022.
Children are offered two doses of the MMR vaccine, the first when they turn one, and the second at around three years and four months, before they start nursery or school.
In Leeds routine immunisations have continued to be delivered throughout the pandemic and some GP practices have maintained excellent uptake throughout these challenging times. However, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a drop nationally in the numbers of children getting their routine childhood immunisations.
In England the latest UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data shows MMR vaccination uptake has dropped to the lowest level in a decade. Coverage of the first dose of the MMR vaccine in two year olds has dropped below 90%. Coverage for the two doses of MMR vaccine in five year olds in England is currently 85.5%. This is well below the 95% World Health Organisation’s target needed to achieve and sustain measles elimination.
This means that more than one in 10 children under the age of five are not fully protected from measles.
Measles is highly contagious and even a small decline in MMR uptake can lead to a rise in cases. Since the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1968 it is estimated that 20 million measles cases and 4,500 deaths have been prevented in the UK. The only way to prevent an outbreak of measles is to ensure good uptake of the MMR vaccine.
Victoria Eaton, Leeds City Council’s director of public health, commented:
“Measles can be very unpleasant and may lead to serious complications. The good news is that it is a preventable disease and two doses of the vaccine provides almost complete protection. It is never too late for children to get vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella which is why we’re calling on parents and carers to make sure their children are up to date.”
Parents of children who are due to have the vaccine, or who may have missed out, should contact their GP to arrange an appointment. If you are unsure whether your child has had two doses of the vaccine, check their red book or speak to your GP practice.
There is further information about the MMR vaccine at nhs.uk/MMR.
This post is based on a press release issued by Leeds City Council