Suffolk bucks the national trend for vaccine rates as the UK loses its ‘measles free’ status

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National rates for the 2nd MMR vaccine have fallen to just 87.2 % but Suffolk has bucked this trend.

It has been revealed that the national rates for the second MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine have now fallen to just 87.2 % nationally, which is thought to have led to a large increase in cases in England and Wales in 2018 (991 compared to only 278 the previous year).

However, despite this national picture, as a result of the hard work of local healthcare professionals and the engagement of parents, Suffolk continues to buck this trend with vaccination rates in Suffolk at the end of March 2019 reaching 94.5% for the first MMR dose (by 24 months of age) and 90.3% for the second booster dose (by 5 years of age).

Following the introduction of a targeted multi agency campaign launched in December 2018, a Suffolk project group was set up to address falling vaccination rates. Public Health Suffolk have worked with NHS England and Improvement, Public Health England, Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Groups and Child Health Information Service to identify and remove potential barriers for parents and children in accessing immunisation services. They have also improved the quality of vaccination data and encouraged parents to consider the preschool booster/MMR just prior to school entry.

As a result of this, vaccination rates in Suffolk for both MMR doses improved between the first quarter and last quarter of 2018/19, by 2.4% for dose one and 3.5% for dose two. This is particularly encouraging at a time when there has been a decrease nationally, which has led to the UK failing to meet the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended target of 95% for the second MMR vaccine.

This, along with the consequential large spike in the number of confirmed measles cases in England and Wales, has resulted in the UK losing the ‘measles free’ status they achieved two years ago. The WHO views a country as ‘measles free’ when there are low levels of measles infection circulating in the population along with high vaccine cover, as well as good systems for identifying cases of measles.

To address this NHS England plans to write to GPs across the country, including Suffolk, to promote ‘catch up’ campaigns, encouraging the parents of children and young people who haven’t received two doses of MMR to contact their GP surgery to arrange vaccination against this highly infectious and preventable disease.

Councillor James Reeder, Cabinet Member for Public Health, said:

“I’m delighted that Suffolk has bucked the national trend for MMR vaccination rates, which is a testament to the hard work of Public Health Suffolk ably supported by Public Health England colleagues, our partners and local healthcare professionals.

“However, this good news doesn’t mean we can be complacent. We have more to do and I would urge parents in Suffolk to take their children for vaccination and ensure their child’s vaccinations are up to date. Vaccination prevents serious illnesses such as Measles which has complications including pneumonia, ear infections, brain inflammation and in some serious cases even death.”