- 19 August 2019
- 3 min read
PM orders urgent action to boost vaccination rates after measles rise
Boris Johnson has ordered urgent action to boost the number of children and young people receiving vaccinations following a rise in cases of measles.
Mumbo jumbo - Boris Johnson
Complacent parents and a misguided belief in “superstitious mumbo jumbo” spread online about the supposed risks of vaccines have contributed to the UK losing its measles-free status, Boris Johnson has said.
Speaking in Truro, Mr Johnson said: “I think there’s complacency on the part of parents about the need to get that second vaccine but also, I’m afraid, people have been listening to that superstitious mumbo jumbo on the internet, all that anti-vax stuff and thinking that the MMR vaccine is a bad idea.
“That’s wrong. “Please get your kids vaccinated because it’s not just the right thing for them, but also of course it is the right thing for the whole population because it might not be your kid that gets it, it could be somebody else’s.”
Social media companies expected to do more
Mr Johnson’s comments came as:
– Public Health England warned that one in seven five-year-olds may not be fully up to date with routine immunisations
– Social media giants were urged to do more to tackle misinformation online
– Labour said the loss of the UK’s measles-free status was a “shocking indictment”, blaming Tory cuts to public health budgets
As part of the fresh effort, NHS England will write to all GPs, urging them to promote “catch-up” vaccination programmes, and will seek to strengthen the role of local immunisation co-ordinators in a bid to improve uptake.
The Government will also seek to update the advice on the NHS’s website to address misleading information about the dangers of vaccines. Social media companies will be called to a summit to discuss how they can promote accurate information about vaccination.
Johnson to ensure 95% of UK have had MMR vaccine
The Prime Minister set out the plans to improve vaccination rates – including for the measles, mumps and rubella jab (MMR) – on a visit to Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro on Monday.
He has called for health leaders to renew their efforts to ensure 95% of the population have had both doses of the MMR vaccine.
Currently only 87.2% of children have the second dose of the jab, down from a high of 88.6% in 2014-15, the lower uptake of which is thought to be partly behind the spread of measles, Downing Street said.
Britain no longer has WHO measles-free status
There were 231 confirmed cases of measles in the UK during the first quarter of 2019, and Britain has lost its “measles-free” status with the World Health Organisation (WHO) three years after the virus was eliminated in the country.
NHS England will write to all GPs urging them to promote “catch-up” vaccination programmes, and will seek to strengthen the role of local immunisation co-ordinators in a bid to improve uptake.
The Government will also seek to update the advice on the NHS’s website to address misleading information about the dangers of vaccines.
Social media to be asked to help spread information
Social media companies will also be called to a summit to discuss how they can promote accurate information about vaccination.
The Department for Health and Social Care will also deliver a strategy to address the issue in the autumn, in which the NHS is expected to be asked to use technology to identify who may have missed a vaccination and make booking appointments easier.
Ahead of the visit, Mr Johnson said: “After a period of progress where we were once able to declare Britain measles free, we’ve now seen hundreds of cases of measles in the UK this year.
“One case of this horrible disease is too many, and I am determined to step up our efforts to tackle its spread.
“This is a global challenge and there’s a number of reasons why people don’t get themselves or their children the vaccines they need, but we need decisive action across our health service and society to make sure communities are properly immunised.
“From reassuring parents about the safety of vaccines, to making sure people are attending follow-up appointments, we can and must do more to halt the spread of infectious, treatable diseases in modern-day Britain.”
Hancock - we will eliminate measles for good
More than 30,000 five-year-olds – around one in 19 – may still need to receive their first dose of MMR, leaving them significantly more at risk compared with pupils who are fully vaccinated.
Around 90,000 (one in seven) may still need to receive their second dose of MMR, including almost 30,000 in London – meaning around a quarter of all primary school starters in the capital are not fully protected.
Around 100,000 (one in eight) five-year-olds in England may still need their four-in-one pre-school booster which protects against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “It’s easy to forget how devastating measles can be, precisely because vaccines are so effective at preventing it in the first place.
“With this strategy, the whole health system will come together to renew focus on vaccinations, especially for our children, and this time we will eliminate measles for good.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said: “Losing our measles-free status is a stark reminder of how important it is that every eligible person gets vaccinated.
“Elimination can only be sustained by maintaining and improving coverage of the MMR vaccine.
“Measles is one of the most infectious diseases known to man – only one person travelling back to an area with lower vaccination rates can lead to an outbreak.
“Anyone who has not received two doses of MMR vaccine is always at risk. “Making it as easy as possible for parents to access vaccines so that they can offer their children the best possible start in life is a priority for us, DHSC and for NHS England.
“Through our Value of Vaccines campaign we’ll be using all opportunities to remind people to get two doses of MMR vaccine – whether that’s new parents, school children or younger adults.
“This will be crucial to the UK achieving elimination status again in future.” Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, said: “People not getting the vaccines they need is leading to a killer disease like measles unnecessarily becoming a health risk for our country again, with the number of cases almost quadrupling in just one year.
“The NHS and the Government are right to take action to boost vaccination rates – vaccine rejection and falling uptake is a preventable public health risk and it is vital that people get themselves and their children vaccinated.”