Parents and carers are being urged to book their children in for missed vaccinations against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), as measles cases continue to rise.
The call comes as part of an NHS campaign after recent figures showed more than 3.4million children under the age of 16 are unprotected and at risk of catching these diseases.
South-west London’s chief medical officer, Dr John Byrne, said the NHS was acting quickly to tackle the spread of measles.
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.”
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 missed vaccinations.
In October 2023, data published by NHS England for 2022/23 showed that MMR vaccination programmes in South London were not able to meet the uptake recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO recommends that nationally at least 95 per cent of children have jabs for diseases that can be stopped by vaccines to prevent outbreaks.
The latest national average percentage of children receiving both MMR doses before their fifth birthday in England stands at 84.5 per cent.
Croydon, Merton and Wandsworth boroughs have the lowest uptake in South London of children in this category, all below 76 per cent.
Dr Angela Bhan, consultant in public health and Bromley place executive director for the NHS in South East London, said: “I want to reiterate to South-east London communities that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect ourselves and our families against measles outbreaks and the adverse effects the infection can have.
“The MMR vaccine is proven to be safe and offers lifelong protection against measles as well as mumps and rubella.”
Measles is an infection that spreads very easily and can cause serious problems in some people. It usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth.
Rubella is a rare illness that causes a spotty rash. It usually gets better in about a week, but it can be serious in pregnancy.
Mumps is a contagious viral infection. It is most recognisable by the painful swellings in the side of the face under the ears, giving a person with mumps a distinctive ‘hamster face’ appearance.
Other symptoms of mumps include headaches, joint pain and a high temperature, which may develop a few days before the swelling of the parotid glands.
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