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Measles cases increase blamed on slump in MMR vaccinations

6 February 2009

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A sharp rise in the number of measles cases has been blamed on the slow uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

According to figures issued by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), measles cases rose by more than a third in 2008. In England and Wales 1,348 cases were reported in 2008, while in 2007 there were 990 – a 36% rise.

The increase is seen as a result of the safety scare about the MMR vaccine.

Researchers had hoped to rid Europe of measles by 2010, but the new results confirm this is an increasingly unlikely target.

In England and Wales, 84.5% of children had the first dose of the MMR jab by their second birthday, but the number receiving both doses by the time they reach five dropped to 77.9%.

Dr Mary Ramsay, an HPA immunisation expert, said: “The year-on-year increase of measles across England and Wales is very worrying.

“Measles should not be taken lightly as you can never tell who will go on to develop the more serious complications of pneumonia and encephalitis.

“This is why it’s incredibly important to remember that measles isn’t a ‘harmless’ childhood disease and that it is never too late to get your child immunised with the MMR vaccine.”

Copyright © Press Association 2009