Half term holidays are the ideal time to check if your child is at risk of catching measles

19 October 2023

Photograph of children being active

The local NHS is urging Northamptonshire parents to check that their children are up to date with their MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccinations in the wake of measles cases rising across the country.

The easiest way to see if your child is up to date with their MMR vaccination is to check their red book. If you can’t find it, you can also ask their GP practice.

If all doses, or one, have been missed you can ask their practice how they can be seen to catch up and become fully protected. MMR doses are FREE and they are unlikely to need a GP appointment, as the MMR can often be given at an appointment with a practice nurse.

The MMR is given at one year old and again at around three years and four months in readiness for starting school. The MMR vaccine is often given at the same time as the pre-school booster.

Currently Northamptonshire is at 93.6% for 5 year old children who have had their first dose of MMR, however this drops dramatically to just 85.9% who have had their second MMR dose as well.

The World Health Organisation identifies measles as one the most contagious infections in the world, yet the disease is completely preventable with vaccination. The UK lost its eradication status for measles in 2018 following an increase measles cases in the country and vaccine levels lower than the at least 95% children immunised against vaccine preventable diseases target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Measles is highly infectious and if left unvaccinated nine out of ten children in a classroom will catch the disease if just one child is infectious.

In July this year the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced that there was a high risk of measles in London with a prediction of up to 160,000 cases in the capital alone. With some areas of London having as low as 40% of children unvaccinated, the risk of spread is much higher than elsewhere in the country. Every region in England has reported confirmed cases of the infectious disease and cases to date are over double that of the whole of last year.

While measles can be mild for some children, one in five will require a hospital visit and the infection can lead to complication in one in 15, such as meningitis and sepsis. There is no specific treatment for measles, which is why Northamptonshire parents are being reminded that vaccination gives the best protection from serious illness.

“Measles can start with cold like symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough with a rash not showing until they have been infectious for up to four days. In a classroom it may not be easy to spot that they have the measles infection at first. Before they have a rash they could have infected nine out of ten of their unvaccinated classmates. Please do check your child’s red book and play your part in keeping your child and others in Northamptonshire safe.”Dr Naomi Caldwell, Northamptonshire GP and Deputy Chief Medical Officer at NHS Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board

Anyone who has missed any MMR vaccinations can catch up at any time for free.