Fears over measles outbreaks have triggered a sharp rise in the number of parents seeking catch-up jabs for their children, health bosses say.

Dr Claire Fuller, England’s leading GP, said doctors nationwide have reported ‘more people coming forward’ for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

She also revealed there has been a seven-fold increase in people researching the vaccine on the NHS website.

It comes after the UK Health Security Agency declared a ‘national incident’ and called for action amid a worrying surge in cases.

A further 113 suspected cases were reported last week, which is higher than the previous two weeks and takes the total for the year to 258.

In England, 89.3 per cent of two-year-olds received their first dose of the MMR vaccine in the year to March 2023 (blue line), up from 89.2 per cent the previous year. Meanwhile, 88.7 per cent of two-year-olds had both doses, down from 89 per cent a year earlier

In England, 89.3 per cent of two-year-olds received their first dose of the MMR vaccine in the year to March 2023 (blue line), up from 89.2 per cent the previous year. Meanwhile, 88.7 per cent of two-year-olds had both doses, down from 89 per cent a year earlier

Cases have been mainly centred around London and Birmingham but officials fear other towns and cities are at risk.

NHS figures show 3.4 million under-16s in England have not received the necessary two doses of the MMR jab, leaving them at risk of the potentially deadly virus.

Dr Claire Fuller, medical director for primary care at NHS England, said: ‘We’re hearing from GPs that more people are coming forward to get an MMR catch-up jab in response to efforts to protect as many people as possible against measles, while visits to the NHS MMR webpage have increased over 600 per cent in the last three days — with around one visit every nine seconds.

‘With measles cases rising in parts of the country, it’s vital that we keep this momentum up.’

The NHS says people should check their vaccination history and catch-up on any missed doses from their GP or a pop-up clinic.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said the outbreak is ‘a real cause for concern’.

She told the BBC: ‘We are seeing a significant increase in the number of children with measles, particularly in the west Midlands and London.

‘That is a real cause for concern because it is such a contagious virus.’

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said vaccines are the ‘bread and butter’ of family doctors’ work, and surgeries were working hard to increase uptake before measles could spread.

She added that the RCGP is also offering training to doctors on how to spot cases of measles, and how to talk to parents about any concerns.

Professor Hawthorne said: ‘I haven’t seen a case of measles for about 20 years, and a lot of my younger colleagues have not seen a case of measles yet in their careers.

‘We are encouraging GPs to take that training talking about symptoms and what to do if you see a case.’

Pharmacies say they could also help with the vaccination drive, if the NHS commissioned them to do so, as they did with the Covid jab.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said: ‘At the moment, pharmacies are not vaccinating against measles, but it’s something they could do, if asked by the NHS.

‘They are already well-trained in vaccination services and provide accessibility and convenience to patients.

Cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough and a runny or blocked nose, are usually the first signal of measles. A few days later, some people develop small white spots on the inside of their cheeks and the back of their lips. The tell-tale measles rash also develops, usually starting on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body

Cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough and a runny or blocked nose, are usually the first signal of measles. A few days later, some people develop small white spots on the inside of their cheeks and the back of their lips. The tell-tale measles rash also develops, usually starting on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body

 

‘When it is difficult for many patients to book an appointment with their GP surgeries, having vaccination services supplied by community pharmacies makes perfect sense.

‘We have written to the NHS earlier this week to express our willingness to support this initiative.’

The World Health Organisation has said measles is rapidly spreading across Europe, with a 40-fold rise in cases over the past year.

Measles is more contagious than Covid, and 95 per cent of the population need to be vaccinated to protect the wider population through herd immunity.

Less than 85 per cent of five-year-olds in England are fully protected, falling to only 56 per cent in some parts of the country.

One in five children who catch measles virus will need hospital treatment. It can cause serious complications including brain inflammation and pneumonia.

WHAT JABS SHOULD I HAVE HAD BY AGE 18?

Vaccinations for various unpleasant and deadly diseases are given free on the NHS to children and teenagers.

Here is a list of all the jabs someone should have by the age of 18 to make sure they and others across the country are protected:

Eight weeks old

  • 6-in-1 vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B.
  • Pneumococcal (PCV)
  • Rotavirus
  • Meningitis B 

12 weeks old

  • Second doses of 6-in-1 and Rotavirus 

16 weeks old

  • Third dose of 6-in-1
  • Second doses of PCV and men. B 

One year old 

  • Hib/meningitis C
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Third dose of PCV and meningitis B 

Two to eight years old

  • Annual children’s flu vaccine

Three years, four months old

  • Second dose of MMR
  • 4-in-1 pre-school booster for diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough

12-13 years old (girls)

  • HPV (two doses within a year)

14 years old

  • 3-in-1 teenage booster for diphtheria, tetanus and polio
  • MenACWY  

 Source: NHS Choices

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