(CTN News) – The chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned about a potential measles epidemic in Surrey due to poor vaccination rates.
Dame Jenny Harries reported that rates were around 70% in the Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care Board area.
This is lower than in other areas where outbreaks have been documented.
Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership (SHHCP) stated that it aimed to raise awareness and vaccine uptake.
Dr Charlotte Canniff, SHHCP’s joint chief medical officer, stated that the MMR vaccine uptake had decreased nationally and in Surrey Heartlands.
She stated that SHHCP was working closely with local partners to boost vaccine knowledge and uptake, so protecting more children.
“This includes working with GP practices in areas of lower uptake to provide support and increase coverage,” Dr. Canniff stated.
“Measles can be serious and it spreads very easily so having the MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent it,” she said.
The UKHSA has officially declared the measles outbreak a national emergency.
On Friday, Dame Jenny asked parents to check their children’s measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination status.
She expressed concern that, without immediate action, the measles virus will “seed and spread rapidly” in neighbouring cities and villages with low vaccine uptake.
In recent months, more than 200 cases have been confirmed in the West Midlands, with Birmingham accounting for the majority of them.
Dame Jenny stated that the UK had previously reached an eradication status for measles, but vaccination rates had recently decreased.
“On average about only 85% of children are arriving at school having had the two MMR doses,” she went on to say.
She also stated that the United Kingdom falls far short of the World Health Organization’s recommended MMR vaccine coverage.