Parents urged to use half term as chance to catch up on MMR vaccinations

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Parents of children who are not fully vaccinated against measles have been urged to use this February half term as an opportunity to get them the protection they need, as the number of cases continues to rise in many parts of England.

Children need two doses of the MMR vaccine for full protection against the infections.  The first dose is offered around their first birthday, and the second at around the age of three years and four months.

In recent years, the number of children vaccinated against measles has fallen below the 95% target necessary to achieve and maintain elimination.  This gives measles, which can be a very serious disease, a chance to get a foothold in our communities. Achieving high vaccination coverage across the population is important as it also indirectly helps protect infants under one year old and other vulnerable groups who cannot be vaccinated.

Vaccination rates in all parts of Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes are below 95%, and in some areas are as low as 70%.  This leaves the region vulnerable to a large-scale measles outbreak, such as those seen recently in both London and the West Midlands.

Dr Sarah Whiteman, Chief Medical Director at Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board, said:

“Measles is a serious infection which can cause a very unpleasant illness.  It can lead to hospitalisation and other complications and, in rare cases, measles can even be fatal.  The risk of complications is higher in groups such as babies and young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity.

“There are lots of reasons why your child may not be up to date on all of their vaccinations.  We know that some families couldn’t attend routine appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of those children are now at school or coming up to school age.

“We also know that families sometimes change their minds so, even if you previously chose not to have your child vaccinated, the opportunity is still there.

“We are seeing increased demand for the jabs at the moment.  Many parents realise that the time to catch up on missing vaccinations is now, before the cases we’ve seen in London and Birmingham find their way to our area, and this is a very sensible approach which I welcome.  I hope others will follow suit this half term.”

Most healthy adults will have developed some immunity to measles but can still receive two doses of the vaccine, if they have not already done so, by contacting their general practice.

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