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Herefordshire health community backs drive for MMR jabs

Parents and carers are being encouraged to make sure their children are fully immunised as cases of measles continue to increase across the West Midlands.

Herefordshire health professionals are backing advice being issued by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).  The Agency reports that in the first six month of 2012, 32 new cases were reported across the West Midlands as opposed to 40 cases for the whole of 2011.

There has also been a national rise in cases of measles and mumps so far this year and the increases have been associated with children and young people who are not fully immunised, including those in travelling communities.

HPA West Midlands Regional Epidemiologist, Dr Obaghe Edeghere, said: “It’s extremely concerning that measles cases are continuing to rise, especially after we had seen a marked decrease in 2010.  Measles can be a very serious infection and parents should understand the risks associated with the infection, which in severe cases can result in death.

“Although uptake of the MMR has improved in recent years, it is still too low to provide enough people with the protection necessary to stop larger outbreaks among unvaccinated individuals.”

The latest published data (January to March 2012) on the uptake of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination in the West Midlands shows a 93 percent coverage for the first dose in children aged 24 months, and 88 percent for the required two doses by age five.  This compares with Herefordshire figures which are 90 percent and 81 percent respectively.

Dr Arif Mahmood, consultant in public health medicine, said:  “To be fully protected, children need to receive both doses of the vaccine.  With almost 20 percent of children in Herefordshire not being fully immunised, the threat of an outbreak is a real worry. 

“I would urge parents and carers to check their children’s vaccination records to make sure they are up to date, or to contact their GP who can advise them on how to make sure their children are fully protected.”