Paediatricians reassure parents MMR vaccines are lifesaving, and call on government to publish overdue vaccination strategy

On Tuesday 1 February, UKHSA published concerning data that the UK once again has not met the WHO targets for Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination, and indeed the situation is getting worse, with now 1 in 10 children over the age of 5 at risk of measles.

Measles is a highly infectious disease, with potentially serious complications. The falling number of first and second vaccines is extremely concerning and makes it more likely that we will see outbreaks as children continue to mix socially and COVID-19 infection control measures are stood down.

In response to the announcement, senior child health experts from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health responded to the new figures: 

Dr Helen Bedford, Professor of Children’s Health, University College London said: 

Measles is much more infectious than COVID-19 and potentially a serious illness for children, especially the very young. A key issue is that measles cases have been extremely low during the pandemic, but measles won’t go away unless we reach WHO vaccine uptake targets. At current vaccines levels there is a real and imminent risk of measles outbreaks. 

In the UK we are fortunate to have a highly successful childhood immunisation programme offering vaccines to protect children against fourteen potentially serious infections before the age of five years. To protect our children, it is important that we meet the vaccine targets, and have appropriate data that helps us understand any difference in uptake so we can provide tailored support to families where needed. 

Dr Max Davie, consultant paediatrician and RCPCH Officer for Health Improvement said:

The good news for parents and carers is that the MMR vaccine is highly effective with a very good safety record. Two doses are needed for best protection. If your child hasn’t had a first or second dose, or you are just not sure what they have and haven’t had, we wholly encourage you to contact your GP surgery to ask and arrange. 

The NHS is open and this absolutely includes routine vaccinations for your child. It is important that we work together to make sure children are as safe as they can be from these potentially serious illnesses. 

Dr Camilla Kingdon, President RCPCH said: 

To see data that 1 in 10 children are at risk of measles over the age of five makes for sober reading, when we have the vaccines to ensure that these group of diseases are consigned to history. 

The RCPCH has been reiterating the importance of children receiving all of the immunisations they are eligible for. We must tackle this issue. It is absolutely critical that government now publishes the long overdue vaccination strategy alongside a new, cross-departmental child health strategy. Health professionals should take the opportunity to talk to families about immunisations and respond to any questions they may have.