Parents of children under five-years-old in Birmingham and Solihull, who have missed their MMR vaccinations, have received a reminder letter this week from NHS England (West Midlands) and Public Health England (PHE) West Midlands this week, asking them to arrange immunisation at their GP surgery.
At the same time PHE has written to all West Midlands GPs asking them to be on the alert for the symptoms of measles and to take the opportunity to immunise children and adults who may not have received two doses of the MMR vaccine. The call comes as the outbreak, which originally focused in Birmingham and Solihull, has now become a West Midlands wide community issue with over 100 cases.
Dr Bharat Sibal, PHE West Midlands Lead Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, said: “Those affected are all recovering, but it’s important to understand measles can be a very serious illness and lead to severe complications, especially in people who are particularly vulnerable or have other health conditions. The current outbreak in the West Midlands has seen 51% of cases admitted to hospital.
“The misery caused by measles is entirely preventable. The free MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting against measles, as well as mumps and rubella. The ages of people affected ranges from 3 months to 50 years, however the average age is 5 years – which is why it’s particularly important for parents to have their children vaccinated when offered. The first MMR vaccine is given when the child is 1 year old, with a booster at 3 years 4 months of age, so we are writing to those parents who have missed one or both of those appointments.
“If children and young adults have missed these vaccinations in the past, it’s important to take up the vaccine now from GPs, particularly in light of the rising number of cases in Birmingham and Solihull. Check your child’s Red Book to see if they’ve received MMR vaccinations as scheduled, or check with your GP surgery if you’re unsure.”
Dr Kiran Patel, Medical Director, NHS England (West Midlands) said: “Measles is an incredibly infectious disease that is why we are asking people not to go to their GP or A&E department if they suspect they or their child may have measles. Instead people should call their GP or NHS111 for advice. The West Midlands is continuing to see an increase in cases centred in the Birmingham and Solihull areas, and we are working hard to limit further spread by people with the infection, and by encouraging those without the full MMR protection to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Public Health England (PHE) West Midlands is working with NHS England (West Midlands), Birmingham City Council, Solihull Council and local NHS partners to make sure that anyone who needs an MMR vaccination is aware.
Dr Bharat Sibal, PHE West Midlands, added: “Most of the recent cases we’ve seen had not received the required doses of the MMR vaccine. It is possible for anyone at any age to get measles, and the illness can be more severe in teenagers and adults than in young children, which is why we are trying to make sure anyone who has missed vaccinations get immunised as soon as possible.”
Symptoms to be aware of include:
- High fever
- Sore, red, watery eyes
- Aching and feeling generally unwell
- A blotchy red brown rash, which usually appears after the initial symptoms.
The free MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting against measles, as well as mumps and rubella. It is particularly important for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children when offered at one year of age and as a pre-school booster at three years four months of age. If children and young adults have missed these vaccinations in the past, it’s important to take up the vaccine now from GPs, particularly in light of the recent cases in Birmingham.