The national catch-up programme to increase MMR vaccination uptake in children and teenagers who are unvaccinated has so far resulted in more than 95 per cent of GP practices across England ordering additional doses of the vaccine – more than 200,000 extra in total.
The catch-up programme, run by Public Health England (PHE), NHS England and the Department of Health, aims to prevent measles outbreaks by vaccinating as many ten- to 16-year-olds as possible. This age group is the most at risk of measles due to the fall in coverage of MMR that occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when concern around the discredited link between autism and the vaccine was widespread.
The catch-up programme aims ensure that at least 95 per cent of ten- to 16-year-olds have received at least one dose of MMR. This is estimated to be around 300,000 children (eight per cent). The programme is also keen to reach another third of a million in this age group who need a second dose of MMR to give them full protection, and a further third of a million children below and above this age band who need another dose.
Figures published by PHE show that numbers of confirmed measles cases in England are still high. There were 288 cases in April (compared to 175 in April 2012), bringing the total number in 2013 (to April) to 962. This continues the upward trend seen since early 2012 with monthly totals around the highest recorded levels seen since 1994. However MMR coverage among five year olds in England is at its highest ever recorded levels, with 94 per cent receiving one dose and 90 per cent receiving two doses.