Huge push to get 900,000 young adults in ‘Wakefield Generation’ vaccinated against MMR amid worst measles outbreak in a decade

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Almost a million young adults are being invited for an MMR jab in one of the biggest vaccine catch-up drives in NHS history.

Part of the so-called ‘Wakefield Generation’, many born in the late 1990s and early 2000s missed out on the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine when they were children.

Now health officials are targeting the 19-to-25-year-olds using pop-up vaccination clinics at universities, sports centres and other public places in areas with ongoing measles outbreaks.

Latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows signs the outbreak is slowing, with 733 cases of measles having now been confirmed in England.

Experts say the high number is due to many parents not taking their children for the MMR vaccine as a result of now discredited research by gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield in 1998. Although Wakefield was later struck off the medical register and the paper retracted by the Lancet, the damage means many who were children at the time were never fully vaccinated

But with such high infection rates, officials are concerned numbers could still spiral out of control in areas with low vaccination uptake.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant medical epidemiologist for immunisation at UKHSA, said: ‘Anyone who is not vaccinated against measles can catch it.

‘Being unvaccinated also means you risk spreading the disease to others, including those at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill – like infants, who aren’t able to receive their MMR vaccine until their first birthday, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system.

‘The MMR jab also protects against complications from mumps in young adults. I strongly urge anyone who’s not vaccinated to protect both themselves and those more vulnerable around them.’

From today, more than 900,000 young people in the West Midlands, London, and Greater Manchester will be encouraged to get either both or any outstanding doses of the jab.

Measles cases are now at the highest level in more than a decade with officials launching campaigns to boost uptake of all childhood vaccines as well as catch-up programmes

Measles cases are now at the highest level in more than a decade with officials launching campaigns to boost uptake of all childhood vaccines as well as catch-up programmes

This graph shows how vaccine coverage has vastly reduced cases of measles compared to historic peaks, but experts are concerned about dropping uptake

This graph shows how vaccine coverage has vastly reduced cases of measles compared to historic peaks, but experts are concerned about dropping uptake 

Measles cases are now at the highest level in more than a decade with officials launching campaigns to boost uptake of all childhood vaccines as well as catch-up programmes. Cases confirmed through either local or reference laboratory testing. There is a data reporting lag. Source: UKHSA

Measles cases are now at the highest level in more than a decade with officials launching campaigns to boost uptake of all childhood vaccines as well as catch-up programmes. Cases confirmed through either local or reference laboratory testing. There is a data reporting lag. Source: UKHSA

Cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough and a runny or blocked nose, are usually the first signal of measles. A few days later, some people develop small white spots on the inside of their cheeks and the back of their lips. The tell-tale measles rash also develops, usually starting on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body

Cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough and a runny or blocked nose, are usually the first signal of measles. A few days later, some people develop small white spots on the inside of their cheeks and the back of their lips. The tell-tale measles rash also develops, usually starting on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body

Experts say the high number is due to many parents not taking their children for the MMR vaccine as a result of now discredited research by gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield in 1998.

Although Wakefield was later struck off the medical register and the paper retracted by the Lancet, the damage means many who were children at the time were never fully vaccinated.

Measles cases are now at the highest level in more than a decade with officials launching campaigns to boost uptake of all childhood vaccines as well as catch-up programmes.

Steve Russell, NHS Director of vaccinations and screening, said: ‘Measles is one of the most infectious diseases in the world and can cause serious harm to adults and children of all ages.

‘But the NHS MMR vaccine gives life-long protection against becoming seriously unwell, so with cases of measles on the rise, it is not worth the risk of going without this vital protection.

‘Measles, mumps and rubella are preventable, but catching them is easy when people are unvaccinated, so I urge people to come forward and get the MMR vaccine sooner, rather than later.’

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