Measles and mumps cases rising with Londoners, aged 19 to 25, getting NHS letters to take MMR vaccine

By Staff

Nearly one million young adults who did not get their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine when they were children are being urged to take part in a catch-up campaign as cases of measles cases rise. The NHS is writing to more than 900,000 19 to 25-year-olds in London, as well as Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, inviting them to book an appointment.

These people would have been eligible for a jab when the vaccine rates began to fall in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Coverage of the MMR jab started to decline following a 1998 report by Andrew Wakefield.

This erroneously linked the jab with autism, according to a UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) 2023 measles briefing document. Despite the claim being discredited, and Wakefield being struck off the medical register, the vaccination programme took years to recover.

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Now, health officials report that MMR vaccine coverage is the lowest it has been for more than a decade, with just 85% of children having both doses of the jab before they start school aged five. Amid a current rise in cases across England, experts launched a catch-up campaign initially targeting six to 11-year-olds, and then 11 to 16-year-olds in the capital and the West Midlands.

Currently, it is targetting 19 to 25-year-olds in certain regions of the UK.

Where to get the jab and how to find out if you need one

People can get their jab at their GP surgery, while some areas are also running pop-up vaccination clinics in libraries, university campuses and sports clubs.

The NHS says that your GP surgery should be able to check whether you’ve had both doses of the MMR vaccine. You may also be able to access your vaccination record online through GP online services.

You can find out how to access your health records here. Officials say that, if your vaccination records are not available, or do not exist, it will ‘not harm you’ to have the MMR vaccine again.

Can you get the vaccine during Ramadan?

According to the NHS website, ‘many Muslim scholars’ say you can have the MMR vaccine when you are fasting in Ramadan. NHS advice reads: “It is injected into the muscle and does not give nutrition.

“You can speak to your GP for advice on when to have your MMR vaccine. There are two types of MMR vaccine – one that has gelatine made from pork (porcine gelatine) and one that does not.

“If you can’t have porcine gelatine, you can ask for the MMR vaccine (Priorix) that does not contain this ingredient.”

PA reports that there have been 733 cases of measles in England since October last year. The current outbreak was initially in Birmingham and the West Midlands – but cases have now also been identified in the North West, London, East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Steve Russell, NHS England’s director of vaccinations and screening, said: “Measles is one of the most infectious diseases in the world and can cause serious harm to adults and children of all ages. But the NHS MMR vaccine gives life-long protection against becoming seriously unwell, so with cases of measles on the rise, it is not worth the risk of going without this vital protection.

“Measles, mumps and rubella are preventable, but catching them is easy when people are unvaccinated, so I urge people to come forward and get the MMR vaccine sooner, rather than later.”

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