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Revealed: The number of unvaccinated children in Newham at risk of catching measles

PUBLISHED: 10:00 02 May 2019

The British Society for Immunology is calling on the government and the NHS to conduct a review of immunisation rates, to learn from the areas that are doing well and apply that to the rest of the country. Photo: PA

The British Society for Immunology is calling on the government and the NHS to conduct a review of immunisation rates, to learn from the areas that are doing well and apply that to the rest of the country. Photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

More than 10,000 children in Newham have been left unprotected from measles over the last decade, figures show.

The charity Unicef said increasing numbers of youngsters are being left at risk.

It said that vaccination rates are plummeting. Inaccurate and misleading anti-vaccination messages on social media are believed to be among the causes.

Between April 2010 and December 2018, 6,410 Newham children had not received their first vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella by age five, according to Public Health England.

Two jabs are required by five-years-old to provide full immunity and a further 6,830 children did not receive the second jab.

At just more than 70 per cent, the overall vaccination rate is well short of the World Health Organisation's 95 per cent goal – what it says is needed to stop the disease spreading.

It means 13,240 children are at risk of the highly contagious disease in the borough.

Measles can cause a rash and fever, and can lead to serious complications.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently said he would not rule out banning unvaccinated children from schools.

When asked if he would follow measures attempted in France and the US to tackle measles, he said: “I wouldn't rule out anything but I don't think we're there yet.

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“In America they tried to do this and the courts stopped them so it can be complicated, but really it's people's responsibility as a parent to do the right thing – the right thing for their own children as well as, of course, the right of the community that everybody lives in.”

Unicef's analysis estimated that 169 million children around the world missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 – an average of 21.1 million a year. More than half a million of them were thought to be in the UK.

The most recent figures, from October to December 2018, show that uptake for both doses of the MMR vaccine in England's five-year-old children is 87 per cent.

There were 966 measles cases in England in 2018, up from 259 in 2017.

Mary Ramsay, Public Health England's head of immunisations, said: “The UK achieved WHO measles elimination status in 2017, so the overall risk of measles to the UK population is low.

“However due to ongoing measles outbreaks in Europe, we will continue to see cases, particularly in unimmunised individuals.

“This could lead to some spread in communities with low MMR coverage and in age groups with very close mixing.

“Measles can be extremely serious, so make sure you and your family are protected.”

A spokesman for Newham's Clinical Commissioning Group emphasised that vaccinations are free and protect from diseases that can become very serious.

“They also prevent infection during pregnancy which can cause serious complications affecting the unborn baby or resulting in miscarriage,” he said.

“If children are over three years and four months, it is important that all parents and guardians check that their children have had two doses of the MMR vaccination. If your child has not received the immunisation, we would encourage you to contact your local GP practice urgently to arrange for them to have it.”

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