Parents and carers in south west London are being urged to book their children in for their missed measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine as part of a major new NHS drive to protect children from becoming seriously unwell as measles cases continue to rise across the country.
The NHS campaign will see all parents of children aged from six to 11 years contacted encouraging them to contact their GP practice in the usual way to make an appointment for their missed MMR vaccine.
NHS figures show that nationally more than 3.4 million children under the age of 16 years are unprotected and at risk of catching these serious and completely preventable diseases.
However, anyone can catch up at any age on any missed doses and it’s never too late to protect yourself.
Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious and can easily spread between unvaccinated people, with one in five children who get measles having to be admitted to hospital for treatment. So if you or your child have not had your MMR jab, it is vital you come forward as soon as possible.South west London’s Chief Medical Officer Dr John Byrne
Thanks to NHS efforts last winter, the number of MMR vaccinations increased by 10% compared to the previous year with two million, texts, email and letters sent to parents across the country between September 2022 and February 2023.
The NHS campaign will target areas with low uptake of the vaccine with the health service contacting just over one million people aged 11 to 25 years-old in London and the West Midlands to invite them to catch up on their missed MMR vaccinations.
South west London’s Chief Medical Officer Dr John Byrne said the NHS is acting quickly to tackle the spread of measles.
He said the move builds on the national MMR catch-up campaign the NHS rolled out at the beginning of winter, with text, email and letter reminders sent out to parents and guardians of children up to five who have yet to get full protection.
Dr Byrne stressed that measles is not just a childhood disease and can be serious at any age.
He said measles and rubella can cause significant problems in pregnancy for both mother and baby. If caught during pregnancy, measles can be very serious, causing stillbirth, miscarriage and low birth weight and the NHS is also urging young adults to catch up on any missed doses before thinking about starting a family.
Dr Byrne said: “Measles is a serious but entirely preventable disease and the MMR vaccine is safe, quick and free – millions of doses are delivered every year.
“Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious and can easily spread between unvaccinated people, with one in five children who get measles having to be admitted to hospital for treatment.
“So if you or your child have not had your MMR jab, it is vital you come forward as soon as possible.
“People who are unvaccinated can get their catch-up jabs at MMR pop-ups in schools and other convenient places while GPs, teachers and trusted community leaders are encouraging groups that are less likely to get their jab to come forward.”
Two doses of the safe and effective MMR vaccine are needed for maximum life-long protection, with the first dose given around the child’s first birthday, and the second dose given at around three years and four months old.
The vaccine doses are typically given via a single injection into the muscle of the thigh or upper arm and are usually delivered with their other one year and preschool vaccinations.
Complications from measles, mumps and rubella can be potentially life changing including blindness, deafness and swelling of the brain (encephalitis). Mumps can carry the risk of infertility for young men.
Analysis shows one infected child in a classroom can infect up to nine other unvaccinated children, making it one of the most infectious diseases worldwide; and more infectious than Covid-19. Meanwhile, one in five children with measles, will need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.
Data shows the MMR vaccine is safe and very effective. After 2 doses:
- around 99% of people will be protected against measles and rubella
- around 88% of people will be protected against mumps
This latest campaign follows on from an NHS polio and MMR catch-up campaign, which targeted un-or-partially-vaccinated children aged one to 11 years in London, rolled out at the end of March through GP practices, primary schools and community vaccination clinics.