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Health experts are urging parents and carers to ensure their children are vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) as data shows a worrying rise in cases across the UK.

The plea comes the week that the NHS celebrates its 75th and recognises the huge impact vaccines have had on protecting children against deadly and highly contagious diseases including measles, meningitis, polio and whooping cough.

Data, recently published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), shows a sharp rise in measles cases, with 49 confirmed reports between 1 January and 20 April this year compared to 54 cases for the whole of 2022.

GPs across the North East and North Cumbria are now urging parents and carers to ensure their children are vaccinated to prevent against the spread of the potentially deadly disease.

Dr Neil O'Brien, medical director, North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) said: "We know that vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical invention in history. Ensuring your children are properly immunised is one of the most important things you can do.

"From 2019 to 2022 there were no cases of measles within our region, however this has changed and we now are seeing a small number of cases emerging - therefore it is vital that all children are kept up to date with their MMR doses and fully protected.

"Measles is a highly infectious disease and can spread very quickly, one person with measles can infect nine out of ten close contacts, which can lead to serious problems such as pneumonia, meningitis, and on rare occasions, long-term disability or even death.

"We're asking all parents, carers and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with both MMR doses. It’s never too late to catch up, and you can get the MMR vaccine free whatever your age."

Children require two doses of the MMR vaccine, the first dose given around the child’s first birthday and the second dose given at around three years and four months old. Both doses are required to ensure full and lasting protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

Spending 15 minutes or more in direct contact with someone infected with measles is enough to catch the infection. People whose immunity is compromised, pregnant women and unvaccinated children are at increased risk of severe disease.

Measles symptoms include:

  • high fever
  • sore, red, watery eyes
  • coughing
  • aching and feeling generally unwell
  • a blotchy red brown rash, which usually appears after the initial symptoms.

"GP practices across the North East and North Cumbria give around 30,000 vaccinations to children every year," added Dr O'Brien.

"Our rates of primary and pre-school vaccinations have consistently been the best in England for many years.

"Of the 6686 children who turned 2 years old between January and March this year 6344, 94.5%, had their first measles (MMR) vaccine, which is higher than the national average of 89.2%.

"This is good overall, however we are still concerned that around 360 children have yet to have their MMR. If we can help more parents, who have not yet had their children immunised, to come forward we could achieve big gains to protect those children and our whole population.

"The MMR vaccine is one of the most studied vaccines in the world, with millions of doses given every year - it is safe and will protect your child, family and friends and the wider community.

"If you think you haven't had your child vaccinated yet, or they are not up to date with their MMR vaccinations, please contact your local GP practice to check or to book an appointment.”

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