New appeal to get measles jabs

3:11pm Wednesday 29th January 2014

PUBLIC health experts in Wales are urging MMR vaccination for anyone remaining unprotected following a new outbreak of measles in south west Wales.

The appeal comes on the back of some of the best ever uptake rates for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine recorded in Wales, according to figures for June-September last year.

Five new cases have been reported in the Neath and Swansea areas in the past 11 days, that cannot be directly linked to an outbreak involving 44 cases reported last month.

The outbreak in Swansea in late 2012 to June last year was the biggest in the UK for a decade, involving more than 1,200 cases. During that period, around 130 cases were recorded in Gwent as the virus spread, and a huge MMR vaccination programme was carried out in one-off clinics and at schools and college campuses.

The age group affected in the latest flare-up is mainly 10 to18-year-olds, in which many thousands remain unprotected or only partly protected, despite last year’s vaccination push.

Dr Jörg Hoffmann, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, said: “This is a potentially nasty infection that can easily be prevented with a safe, effective vaccine. We would not see measles in Wales if enough children and young people were vaccinated.

“We are also seeing adult cases and would urge anyone born after 1970 to check whether they have either had measles or two doses of the MMR vaccination, and speak to their GP urgently if they have not.”

Two doses of MMR are required for full protection. The June-September uptake rates show a 98.4 per cent uptake for the first MMR jab (MMR1) in Wales, with the Gwent figure at 98.5 per cent.

A sustained 95 per cent uptake is required, but while the MMR1 rate is the highest it has ever been in Wales, the rate for the second (MMR2) jab reached 92.7 for June-September, better but still falling short. The Gwent rate was 92.9 per cent. Catch-up rates, for teens who may have missed out when very young, have improved too.

But while MMR1 uptake for teens reached 96.3 per cent (95.5 per cent in Gwent) in June-September, uptake of the second dose in that group was 88.5 per cent, and lower in Gwent, at 87.8.

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