Measles vaccine push for World Immunisation Week to combat low take-up rates in the North West

Parents in Greater Manchester are being urged to ensure their children’s vaccinations are up to date this week for World Immunisation Week (24-30 April), as measles cases rise across the region. 

Data from NHS England shows that in the North West almost 15% of children had not had both doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine before starting school, putting the region well below the World Health Organisation’s target of 95% coverage.

Earlier this month, a pilot scheme to combat infections was launched in the North West allowing children aged five and over to get vaccinated in a pharmacy, without an appointment.

Across the region 43 pharmacies are taking part in the scheme, of which 15 are in Greater Manchester.

The initiative follows an NHS MMR vaccine catch-up campaign, which saw over a million parents and carers in England get sent emails, letters and texts inviting them to book a vaccination appointment for their children.

The campaign targeted Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, and London, considered by the NHS to be the most at-risk areas due to the low number of people not up to date with their MMR vaccinations. 

Other efforts to boost vaccination rates have included vaccine catch-up clinics in GP surgeries, a roving ‘Living Well’ bus vaccination clinic, and extra sessions in schools.

Experts estimate that one person infected with measles can pass it onto around 15 other people, making it one of the world’s most infectious diseases. 

It is easily spread among the unvaccinated, with nurseries, schools and universities particularly vulnerable. 

Complications can include meningitis and seizures, and it is sometimes even fatal. 

However, two doses of the MMR vaccine can give someone effective lifelong protection against ever becoming seriously ill. 

Dr Matthieu Pegorie, Consultant in Health Protection for UKHSA North West, said: “Measles can be a serious infection that can lead to complications especially in young children and those with weakened immune systems.

“Parents should be aware that measles is a nasty illness for most children and sadly, for some, can be very serious and life changing, but it is completely preventable. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your children. I strongly urge parents to take up the offer as soon as possible and protect their child now.

For more information on vaccinations and symptoms, see the NHS website.

Featured image credit: SELF Magazine, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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