The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the United Kingdom is no longer measles-free just three years after the virus was eliminated. A steady decline in the uptake of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine – the so-called MMR jab – has been witnessed in the European country over the last decade, which has led to an increase in the number of measles cases.
In the first three months of the year, there were 231 cases of measles across the four nations of the United Kingdom. This appears to be on par with what was witnessed in 2018, when 970 tested cases of measles were reported.
It is also a staggering 10-fold increase since 2015, the year before the WHO decided to declare the country measles-free. The term "measles-free" doesn’t mean that the disease is completely gone, it simply denotes that there have been no endemic cases for a certain amount of time. For example, Costa Rica's last cases of measles were brought to the country by unvaccinated European tourists. Despite these cases, and thanks to Costa Rica's high rate of vaccinations, the Mesoamerican country still remains measles-free.
This is no longer the case for the United Kingdom. UNICEF, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, has reported that between 2010 and 2017 almost 170 million children went unvaccinated around the globe. About 527,000 of them were from the UK. Only 87 percent of children in the country have received their second shot, well below the 95 percent required to create herd immunity in a population.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged social media companies to do more and has unveiled a campaign to stop the spread of false information from anti-vaxxers.
“After a period of progress where we were once able to declare Britain measles-free, we’ve now seen hundreds of cases of measles in the UK this year. One case of this horrible disease is too many, and I am determined to step up our efforts to tackle its spread,” Johnson will say, The Guardian reports. “From reassuring parents about the safety of vaccines to making sure people are attending follow-up appointments, we can and must do more to halt the spread of infectious, treatable diseases in modern-day Britain.”
That said, Johnson will not consider measures to make vaccines compulsory. So-called “no jab, no school” policies have been introduced in several nations around the world and have shown promising results in increasing the number of vaccinated children.
[H/T: The Guardian]