Published on October 4, 2004 at 9:10 AM
So far this year, numbers of measles cases are still at relatively low levels; there were 150 confirmed cases in the first half of 2004 compared with 296 cases in the same period in 2003. It is also encouraging to see that uptake of the MMR vaccine is now about 80% at two years of age.
However, due to the drop in MMR coverage after 1998, there is a large and growing group of children who haven’t been vaccinated, and who are therefore at risk of catching measles. The modelling undertaken by the Health Protection Agency and colleagues in London indicates that the level of unvaccinated children in London has now reached the point where measles transmission can be sustained, so that an epidemic is a possibility.
If an epidemic was to occur, Health Protection Agency data suggests that around one in ten children infected with the disease would require hospitalisation.
HPA London is working with directors of public health in London to mount a response to increase the number of children who are protected and so head off the dangers of an epidemic.
The risk of outbreaks of measles and the possibility of an epidemic is higher in parts of London than elsewhere in the UK. However if MMR vaccine uptake remains low in the rest of the country then the same risk could eventually arise.
There is an overwhelming body of evidence in favour of MMR as a safe and effective vaccine, and it’s never too late to receive the vaccine. School age children are especially at risk of infection as they mix socially with their peers, so a good time to think about vaccination is just before you child starts school.
Further information on measles can be found here