Health chiefs in Blackburn with Darwen have unveiled their plans to immunise children aged 10 to 16 who missed out on their MMR vaccine to prevent a local measles outbreak.
Starting immediately, the Council’s public health team and Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group have agreed extra vaccination sessionswill be offered in every GP practice in the borough. The aim is to vaccinate at least 95% of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children in the target age group before the start of the new school year in September. Some GP practices will put on dedicated vaccination clinics and other options, such as vaccinating children in schools, are being explored.
It is part of a national ‘catch up’ campaign that has been launched by the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England following a number of measles outbreaks around the country. The aim is to protect enough school children to prevent further outbreaks of the highly contagious disease.
There was one confirmed case of measles in Blackburn with Darwen during the first three months of this year. The borough has above average MMR vaccination rates for pre-school children compared with other parts of the country, but the 87% uptake still falls short of government targets to achieve a 95% vaccination rate for both doses.
In addition, it is estimated there could be almost 3,000 10 to 16-year-olds in Blackburn with Darwen who are unvaccinated or only received one dose of the MMR vaccine due to links mistakenly being made between the vaccine and autism in the late 90s and early 2000s. The lowest uptake was among 12 year olds, with figures showing that one in five had not had their second dose when they started school.
The MMR vaccination campaign will specifically target young people born between 1997 and 2003, but older teenagers and young adults who missed out on vaccination when they were younger are also encouraged to come forward.
Blackburn with Darwen Council public health consultant Dr Gifford Kerr said: “Although Blackburn with Darwen has had above average MMR vaccination rates in more recent years, we were affected just like everywhere else by the now disproved links between the MMR vaccine and autism in the late 90s and early 2000s. “This means that, with measles on the rise, we have a large number of children aged 10 to 16 who could be vulnerable. We welcome the national catch up campaign and will act as quickly as possible to identify unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children and give them the MMR vaccine to prevent a measles outbreak in this area.
“All GP practices in Blackburn with Darwen will be giving the MMR vaccine and I urge parents whose children haven’t been vaccinated or had both doses of the vaccine, as well as older teenagers and young adults, to contact their surgery immediately to make an appointment.”
Dr Chris Clayton, clinical chief officer of Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Children and young people who missed out on the MMR vaccine first time around, and who have not previously had measles, are vulnerable to severe and even potentially life-threatening illness in the event of any measles outbreak. This is especially as they become older. That’s why it’s vitally important to contact your GP now if you are a young adult who is concerned about not being vaccinated, or if you have a child who has not received the vaccination. By taking this simple step you can fully protect yourself or your loved ones against future illness. And importantly you will also be supporting the wellbeing of people in your community such as pregnant mums, who are particularly exposed to the continued spread of the measles virus.”
Cllr Mohammed Khan, the Council’s executive member for health and adult social care, said: “Measles is often thought of as a disease of the past and as a result people may be unaware that it is dangerous and can lead to complications and even death in severe cases. Parents should ensure their children are fully protected with doses of the MMR vaccine.
“The only way to prevent a measles outbreak is to make sure that there is good uptake of the MMR vaccine across all ages and we are well on with work with local partners, including GP practices, to accurately identify the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children and young people who will be targeted by this campaign.”
To support the national programme, a new Facebook page has been launched (www.facebook.com/getvaccinatedEngland) in conjunction with NHS Choices. People can also follow developments on Twitter using #getthemmr.
Lancashire County Council has launched a campaign to encourage take up of the MMR vaccine. The campaign is aimed at parents of children aged between 10 and 16 years.
Please follow the link below for more information on the LCC MMR campaignttp://www3.lancashire.gov.uk/corporate/news/press_releases/y/m/release.asp?id=201307&r=PR13/0295