Public health officials in Kent and Medway urge parents to check children’s MMR immunisation records
Parents in Kent and Medway are being urged to check their children’s ‘red book’ health records to ensure MMR vaccinations are up-to-date as officials work to reach those missing a jab.
Since October there have been 347 confirmed measles cases in England - 127 recorded in the first three weeks of January alone – which has prompted the UK Health Security Agency to declare a ‘national incident’.
While the majority of cases are currently within London and the West Midlands, government health officials fear a wider spread because vaccination uptake rates have dropped below the 95% target needed to create herd immunity and keep the disease at bay.
Measles is highly infectious. One in five children who catch the disease are hospitalised, and on rare occasions the infection can be fatal.
Children are offered the first dose of the MMR vaccine at one year and the second dose usually at three years and four months.
But with vaccination rates now at their lowest for a decade, public health officials at both Kent County Council and Medway Council are asking families to check children’s health records, contained within the red books they are given at birth, to establish which immunisations they’ve had for measles, mumps and rubella.
Medway Council’s Director of Public Health, James Williams, said: “Ensuring that you and your loved ones, in particular children and young people, are vaccinated against measles, will keep them safe and protect others who may be at greater risk if they become infected.
“Take time today to check whether everyone in your household is up to date with their vaccinations. It is never too late to get vaccinated.”
Getting a missing jab
For school-aged children missing a vital dose, Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust’s School-aged Immunisation Service is offering an MMR catch-up.
For pupils in Years 8 and 11 - who are due another routine vaccine such as the HPV jab – they are being offered the opportunity to get their MMR injection in school at the same time.
While students in other year groups, who are without one or maybe both MMR doses, can book to be seen at a community clinic run by the school-aged immunisations team where they will be given the injection and their record updated.
Families with children not of school age should go through their GP – while unvaccinated adults are being urged to get immunised before travelling anywhere at Easter.
The issue, says Kent County Council, is ‘particularly important’ for people who work in the care sector or who are at risk of complications should they get measles.
Kent County Council Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr Ellen Schwartz, added: "Vaccination is our best defence against measles. It’s safe and effective, providing life-long protection. It’s also free on the NHS and, whatever your age, it’s never too late to catch up.
“For full protection, everyone, irrespective of age, should have both doses of MMR. Having the complete course of vaccine also reduces the chances a young child has to miss out on valuable time at school and parents need weeks off work to care for them.”