Four in 10 children in some parts of England have not received a vaccine to protect against measles and are at risk of being locked up for three weeks.
Councils in England have issued warnings to parents that children who are not up to date with their measles vaccinations could be sent home for 21 days if there is a measles outbreak at their school.
Measles is a highly contagious, and sometimes fatal, disease that is capable of infecting nine out of 10 unvaccinated children in a classroom if only one classmate is contagious.
While two doses of a vaccine called MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) are enough to offer 99 per cent protection, uptake across the UK is dangerously low, especially in London.
In Hackney, 41 per cent of children are not fully vaccinated – the highest proportion in the country – and could face being told to limit their contacts for weeks if there is a case of measles at their school.
The graph shows the percentage of five-year-olds in England who have received both doses of the MMR vaccine. While the national average is 85.7 per cent, the figure falls to 59 per cent in Hackney, north London.
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Camden and Haringey, also north London boroughs, were also among those with the lowest vaccine uptake, with 37 and 35 per cent not having received both vaccines respectively.
In fact, the capital took the top 18 spots for the highest number of children not vaccinated against measles, with Liverpool only breaking the streak with 23.5 per cent.
The low uptake of both MMR vaccines, which stands at 85.7 per cent nationally and 74.2 per cent in London, led health chiefs to warn earlier this year that 160,000 cases of the vaccine could occur. measles only in the capital.
Concern about an outbreak led city councils to send letters to parents in recent months warning that unvaccinated children could be excluded from school for 21 days in the event of an outbreak in their classroom.
One of them was London’s Barnet Council, which recorded that 29 percent of children were not vaccinated.
How do MMR vaccines work?
The MMR vaccine is a safe and effective combination vaccine.
Protects against three diseases: measles, mumps and rubella.
Highly infectious diseases can spread easily among unvaccinated people.
These conditions can lead to serious problems, such as meningitis, hearing loss, and problems during pregnancy.
Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide the best protection against measles, mumps, and rubella.
The NHS advises anyone who has not received two doses of the MMR vaccine to make an appointment for vaccination with their GP.
Two doses of the vaccine protect about 99 percent of people against measles and rubella, while about 88 percent of people are protected against mumps.
Fountain: National Health Service
In a letter seen by MailOnline they wrote: “We are currently seeing an increase in measles cases circulating in neighboring London boroughs, so now is a good time to check that your child’s MMR vaccine, which not only protects your child against measles but also against mumps and rubella, is up to date.’
It continued: “Any child identified as a close contact of a measles case without satisfactory vaccination status may be asked to isolate for up to 21 days.”
Haringey Council, which had the third worst MMR absorption of any local government area in England, is also reported to have sent a similar letter.
Even councils that are doing “well” in the capital are sending out warnings.
Hertfordshire County Council, where only one in 10 children are not up to date with their MMR vaccinations, also warned parents that unvaccinated children could face a 21-day exclusion period.
The 21-day isolation period is based on guidance published in 2019 by the UKHSA in 2019.
It says if a case of measles is detected, health teams will work with schools to advise on next steps for close contacts who have not received both MMR injections.
This may include an offer of the MMR vaccine, the issuance of measles preventive medication to the child’s close contacts with vulnerable health conditions, and a possible exclusion for up to 21 days.
Siblings of an unvaccinated child who has been in close contact with a measles case may also be asked to isolate themselves.
Such exclusions would mark the second time a virus has caused disruption to education in England in recent years.
Education was hugely disrupted by the Covid pandemic, with schools closed or children forced to isolate for being close contacts of an infected person under measures introduced to curb the spread of the virus at the time.
Given the overall low uptake of the MMR vaccine in London, the capital has been the center of efforts to encourage parents to come forward and have their children vaccinated.
However, NHS data shows that only two areas of around 150 in England have reached the 95 per cent immunization rate target, greatly reducing the chances of an outbreak.
NHS England data published earlier this year shows that uptake of the MMR vaccine is just 89.2 per cent for one dose in two-year-olds and 85.7 per cent for both injections among children aged two. five years.
These were County Durham in the north-east (96 per cent) and the East Riding of Yorkshire (95 per cent).
The 95 percent goal allows a population to effectively have herd immunity, which prevents diseases from spreading throughout the population.
Herd immunity is a key aspect of protecting people who cannot receive the MMR vaccine due to an allergy.
Nationally, only about 85 percent of children have received both MMR vaccines by the time they turn five, meaning one in six do not have full protection when they start school.
The MMR vaccine, which offers lifelong protection against measles, consists of two doses and is 99 percent effective in preventing infection.
In Britain, it is first given when the child turns one and then again at three years and four months.
Measles, which mostly causes flu-like symptoms and a rash, can cause very serious and even fatal health complications if it spreads to the lungs or brain.
One in five children who contract measles will need to go to the hospital, and one in 15 will develop serious complications such as meningitis or sepsis.
Part of what makes measles so serious is that it is very contagious.
Health officials estimate that nine out of 10 unvaccinated children will contract the disease if only one child in their class is contagious.
Doctors are increasingly concerned that measles, long kept at bay by these vaccines, could return due to declining use.
Acceptance of the MMR vaccine collapsed in the wake of a study by now-discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield that falsely linked the vaccines to autism.
Acceptance of MMR in England was about 91 percent before Wakefield’s study was published, but plummeted to 80 percent afterward.
While rates have recovered slightly, thanks to the concentrated efforts of health officials, a rise in anti-vaccine sentiment during the Covid pandemic is believed to have contributed to some parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.
The latest data shows that this year, up to July 31, 141 cases of measles have been recorded in England.
This is more than double the 54 cases recorded in all of 2022.
Of the 2,023 cases, 85 (60 per cent) were detected in London.
Only a fifth of the cases were imported by an incoming traveler to the UK, meaning the remainder were a result of local community transmission.
Of the total cases, 58 percent occurred in children under 10 years of age.
IS ANDREW WAKEFIELD’S DISCREDITED AUTISM RESEARCH TO BLAME FOR LOW MEASLES VACCINATION RATES?
In In 1995, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing that children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to suffer from intestinal diseases and autism.
He speculated that the injection of a “killed” form of the measles virus through vaccination causes alterations in intestinal tissue, leading to both disorders.
After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said, “The risk of developing this particular syndrome (what Wakefield called ‘autistic enterocolitis’) is related to the combination vaccine, MMR, rather than with individual vaccines.
At the time, Wakefield had a patent for unique vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella, for which he was accused of having a conflict of interest.
However, MMR vaccination rates in the United States and the United Kingdom plummeted until, in 2004, The Lancet editor Dr. Richard Horton described Wakefield’s research as “fundamentally flawed,” adding that he was paid by a group that filed lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.
The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.
Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practicing medicine in Britain, stating that his research had shown a “callous disregard” for children’s health.
On January 6, 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had symptoms of autism after vaccination, instead of the eight he claimed. .
At least two of the children also had developmental delays before being vaccinated, but Wakefield’s article stated that they were all “previously normal.”
Further findings revealed that none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, however the study claimed that six of the participants suffered from all three.