Urgent action is needed to ensure that children in Wales receive complete measles vaccination, warns Chief Medical Officer Sir Frank Atherton. He expresses concern that without an increase in the uptake of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, there could be more frequent outbreaks. The World Health Organization recommends a 95% double vaccination rate by the age of five, a target the UK falls below. Current figures indicate that 89.5% of five-year-old children in Wales have received both doses, while the UK average is at 84.5%, the lowest level since 2010-11.
Recent months have seen measles outbreaks in various UK locations, including Cardiff and Birmingham. Birmingham Children’s Hospital reported its highest number of cases in decades in January. Given the highly contagious nature of the disease, especially in settings like nurseries and schools, health boards in Wales are urged to target pupils in every school to boost immunization levels.
The MMR vaccine is administered in two separate courses, with the first dose at the age of one and the second at three years and four months. After completing both doses, 99% of individuals are protected against measles and rubella, and 88% are protected against mumps. Symptoms of measles include a high fever, sore and red eyes, coughing, sneezing, and small white spots inside the mouth. While measles typically clears up within seven to 10 days, complications can include pneumonia, meningitis, blindness, and seizures.
Sir Frank emphasizes the importance of parents ensuring their children are fully vaccinated, as measles can cause severe illness with life-changing complications. Babies under the age of one cannot receive the vaccine, making it essential for eligible individuals to be fully vaccinated and prevent the spread of the disease. Health boards in Wales have been tasked with taking urgent measures to ensure that 90% of pupils in every school are fully vaccinated by the end of July. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Chris Jones underscores the potential need for unvaccinated or under-vaccinated students and staff to isolate for up to 21 days in the event of an outbreak.