29/04/2024 - Permalink

MMR catch-up campaign significantly boosts uptake across country

Related topics: Health

News from our partners NHS England and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)

A campaign encouraging young people to get up-to-date with their MMR vaccinations has led to a significant boost across the country, with one region delivering more than seven times the number of jabs in the first 12 weeks of this year to those aged five to 25.

Since January the NHS, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and local authorities have been urging millions of parents and carers to book their children in for missed measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccinations to protect children and young people from becoming seriously unwell.

While measles is being reported across the country – and NHS campaigning has seen four times as many MMR jabs delivered to those aged five to 25 years nationally so far this year compared to the same period in 2023 – cases have been particularly high in the Midlands and London, which have both seen a significant jump in MMR vaccination numbers.

The biggest increase was in the North West, considered an at risk area due to low vaccination rates, which delivered 14,462 doses to those aged five to 25 years in the first 12 weeks of the year – a more than seven times increase compared with the same period in 2023 (1,916 doses).

To take the vaccine out into communities, the Living Well Bus has been travelling around Cheshire and Merseyside offering walk-in appointments to those eligible for MMR and other routine childhood vaccinations, while school aged immunisation service providers have been visiting primary and secondary schools offering first and second doses. The North West has also been piloting MMR vaccines in community pharmacy for those who have been referred by their GP.

In London, vaccination numbers have more than tripled thanks to a combination of activity including extensive community outreach and pop-up events in schools, with almost 10,000 more doses given to five to 25-year-olds this year (14,180) compared with 4,248 a year ago.

While four times as many were delivered across the Midlands – 15,379 first and second doses given to five to 25-year-olds in the first three months of this year, up from 3,750 in the same period in 2023.

As well as MMR clinics at schools in Birmingham and Solihull, in Worcestershire they held clinics in libraries on Saturday mornings to make it as convenient as possible for people to come forward for their first or second doses, while in the Black Country they had pop-ups in community centres, and vaccine vans outside stores like Tesco and Poundland.

The latest surveillance data from UKHSA shows since 1 October 2023 more than 1200 cases of measles have been confirmed in England (1212 as of April 22) – 45.5% (551) of these cases have been in the West Midlands, 26.4% (320) in London, and 9.6% (116) in the East Midlands.

The new NHS operational figures, published today, show 360,964 first and second doses of the MMR vaccine have been delivered nationally to those aged 25 and under in the first few months of this year (1 January to 24 March 2024).

As part of the recent national catch-up campaign more than a million parents and carers of six to 11-year-olds were sent emails, letters and texts inviting them to book an appointment with their child’s GP practice for their missed MMR vaccine.

Throughout February and March over a million children and young adults aged 11 to 25 years living in London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester were encouraged to book an appointment, with these areas most at risk due to the number of people not up-to-date on their MMR vaccinations.

Nationally the biggest increases in vaccination numbers were in the 12 to 25 age group –  the first 12 months of this year saw a more than five-fold boost in this age group getting MMR jabs (31,059) compared with 6,908 in the same period 2023.

The NHS is also working with UKHSA on a continued campaign encouraging parents and carers of pre-school children to make sure their children are up-to-date with all their routine vaccinations, including the MMR vaccine.

The campaign has also seen a significant increase in jabs in the South West, with 7,113 first and second doses delivered to five to 25-year-olds from January to March, five times more than the 1,400 in the same period last year.

In the East of England vaccination teams visited travelling community and asylum seeker sites as part of community outreach, and held catch-up clinics at university fresher fairs, which helped increase MMR vaccinations in the region more than triple in the five to 25 age group from 1,799 in the first three months of 2023, to 6,649 this year.

In the South East, 8,213 doses were delivered in the first 12 weeks of this year compared with 2,454 last year in the five to 25 age group; and North East and Yorkshire saw more than three times the number delivered – 9,028 up from 2,672 in January to March 2023 in the same age group.

Steve Russell, NHS national director for vaccinations and screening, said:

“We know vaccines are the best protection we have against numerous serious illnesses, so as we mark World Immunisation Week it is hugely encouraging to see such significant increases in people coming forward for the MMR vaccine since we launched our catch-up campaign earlier this year.

“Thanks to the hard work of local areas, who hosted pop up clinics in community spaces like libraries and sports clubs, and university ‘freshers fairs’, among other initiatives, tens of thousands more young people are now protected against measles, mumps and rubella.

“Measles is a very serious illness and with data showing cases are still being reported around the country, it is vital that everyone who is still unprotected comes forward to get their two doses as soon as possible, by contacting their GP surgery or visiting one of the pop-up vaccination clinics running in some of the most at-risk areas.”

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said:

“We’re pleased to see that our recent campaign has led to an increase in those coming forward for the MMR vaccine.

“Thank you to the public and parents who are doing their part to help manage the ongoing outbreak and protect communities across the country by checking their children’s vaccination status and getting them vaccinated if necessary.

“Despite promising data showing that vaccination numbers have increased in London, we are still seeing rising cases of measles in the capital and so we are urging parents to check their children’s red book or get in touch with their local GP to ensure their children are up to date with MMR. Don’t wait for it to be on your doorstep, measles is a highly infectious disease and vaccination offers the best protection against it.”

Health Minister Maria Caulfield said:

“The MMR catch-up programme is making strong progress thanks to the tireless work of NHS staff, and I thank every parent or carer who has come forward to protect their children from these diseases.

“It is absolutely crucial every parent checks the vaccination status of their children and takes up the offer of a jab as soon as they can.”

Unvaccinated six to 25 years olds can get their MMR jabs via their GP surgery, with some areas also running pop-up vaccination clinics in libraries, university campuses, sports clubs, and other convenient places.

Catching measles can lead to life changing issues for adults and children, such as blindness, deafness and swelling of the brain (encephalitis).

Measles can also have a serious impact on pregnant women, potentially leading to premature birth, low birth weight and still birth. Health chiefs are urging anyone thinking about becoming pregnant to ensure their MMR vaccination status is up to date because the vaccine can’t be given during pregnancy.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine are needed for maximum life-long protection, with the first dose given around a person’s first birthday, and the second dose given at around three years and four months.

However, anyone can catch up at any age on any missed doses and it’s never too late to protect yourself. The vaccine doses are typically given via a single injection into the muscle of the thigh or upper arm and are usually delivered with their other one year and preschool vaccinations.