The United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has published data this week showing a significant increase in the number of measles cases in the UK. There have been 49 cases in the European country between January 1 and April, a significant increase compared to last year. In 2022, there were 54 cases in total.
Of the cases this year, most were in London, and most were in children. Adults over the age of 20 are not immune from the disease – in fact, 16 cases were in this group. That group and children under the age of five (20 of them in 2023 in the UK) are more likely to have complications – and the complications are serious, which is why people are urged to vaccinate their kids.
“Measles spreads very easily and can lead to complications that require a stay in hospital and on rare occasions can cause lifelong disability or death, so it is very concerning to see cases starting to pick up this year,” Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said in a statement.
In the UK, the measles vaccine is given as part of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) jab, which is given in two doses – the first when the child is one, the second one at age 3 years and 4 months. The uptake of the MMR vaccine in the UK is significantly lower than the 95 percent target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) which is necessary to achieve and maintain the elimination of the disease. In England, only 89 percent of children age 2 have had their first dose and only 85 percent of children age 5 have had both MMR jabs.
“Vaccines are our best line of defence against diseases like measles, mumps and rubella and help stop outbreaks occurring in the community,” Dr Saliba continued.
“Measles spreads very easily and can lead to complications that require a stay in hospital and on rare occasions can cause lifelong disability or death, so it is very concerning to see cases starting to pick up this year.”
In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) guarantees free MMR vaccines whatever one’s age. The UKHSA is working with medical practitioners to raise awareness of this rise and increase the uptake of the vaccine.
“The MMR vaccine has helped prevent the development of potentially life-threatening illness among millions, and it is clear that when uptake falls, infections rise, so I strongly urge parents to review the status of their child’s vaccinations so they can keep them and others protected from measles, mumps, and rubella,” Steve Russell, NHS Director of Vaccinations and Screening.