UKHSA modelling suggests that, unless MMR vaccination rates improve, London could see a measles outbreak with tens of thousands of cases.
The risk of large measles outbreaks outside London is low, but there is a possibility of smaller outbreaks among specific populations. Including teenagers, young people, and under-vaccinated communities, health officials have warned. Those who have not received the measles vaccine (MMR) are at particular risk.
MMR vaccination is a crucial part of the NHS Routine Childhood Immunization Programme. Parents who have missed vaccinating their infants, as well as unvaccinated individuals of any age, are being urged to come forward and ensure they receive the necessary vaccinations.
Data released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reveals a steady increase in measles cases this year. The risk assessment conducted by the UKHSA highlights the potential for a measles resurgence, especially in London.
From January 1 to June 30 this year, there have been 128 cases of measles, compared to 54 cases in the entirety of 2022. Alarmingly, 66 percent of the cases have been detected in London. Although cases have been reported in all regions of the country.
According to the UKHSA assessment, the risk of a measles epidemic across the UK as a whole is considered low. However, due to lower vaccination coverage levels in London, there is a possibility of an outbreak in the capital. Rather estimates range between 40,000 and 160,000 cases.
High risk of cases linked to overseas travel
The assessment also identifies a high risk of cases linked to overseas travel. It could lead to outbreaks in specific population groups such as young people and under-vaccinated communities.
The increased risk in London is primarily attributed to low vaccination rates over several years, compounded by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In certain areas and groups, the coverage for the first MMR dose at 2 years of age is as low as 69.5%.
Health officials emphasize the importance of parents checking whether their children have received both doses of the MMR vaccine. That provides 99% life-long protection. Parents can consult their child’s red book or contact their GP practice for verification. This applies to younger and older adults as well. Individuals who are not up-to-date with their vaccinations are urged to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Attaining high vaccination coverage across the population is known as “herd immunity.” It is crucial as it indirectly helps protect vulnerable groups, including infants under one year old.