UK’s public health agency warned that an outbreak of measles in England could spread to other towns and cities if action is not taken to boost vaccinations. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) declared a national incident- a signal for a growing public health risk- as it said that 216 confirmed cases and 103 probable cases in the West Midlands were recorded since October 1 last year. The majority cases have been reported in children aged under 10. UKHSA chief executive Jenny Harries said, “With vaccine uptake in some communities so low, there is now a very real risk of seeing the virus spread in other towns and cities.”
The UK health chief also said that immediate action was needed to boost uptake of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine as UK needs “a long-term concerted effort to protect individuals and to prevent large measles outbreaks.”
World Health Organisation and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in November that there had been a “staggering” annual rise in measles cases and deaths globally in 2022.
Measles- one of the most contagious viruses in the world- is preventable by two doses of vaccine but efforts to contain it have been disrupted worldwide owing to the Covid pandemic.
In Britain, the MMR vaccination is part of the routine childhood immunisation programme offered by the state-funded National Health Service but the UKHSA said in some areas in London coverage of the first MMR dose at 2 years of age was as low as 69.5%. In July, the health body also warned of a steady rise in measles cases and the risk of a resurgence of the virus.