7 Aug 2008 10:41 AM
National MMR catch up campaign launched

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by The Government News Network on 7 August 2008

The Department of Health is making extra vaccine and more funds available to help local health trusts put in place a campaign to vaccinate every child up to the age of 18 against measles.

In a letter sent to all Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) today, the Chief Medical Officer asks them to help reduce the risk of a measles epidemic by offering the MMR vaccine to every child up to the age of 18 who has not been vaccinated. He also asks PCTS to urge parents to get their children immunised.

The number of cases of measles in England is rising following a decade of relatively low vaccine uptake. In 2006 and 2007 there were 1,726 confirmed cases in England and Wales - more than the previous ten years put together. From 1996 to 2005 there was a total of 1,621 confirmed cases.

It is estimated that around three million children aged 18 months to 18 years have missed either their first or second MMR vaccination. Scientific advice from both the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency suggests that levels of MMR immunisation need to be increased as a matter of urgency.

The previous success of the MMR vaccination programme reduced the number of measles cases to very low levels for a number of years. Between 1992 and 2006 there were no deaths from acute measles in England. However there was one death in 2006 and another in 2008.

The Department of Health will be supporting PCTs to help parents to catch up by providing additional supplies of the MMR vaccine; information materials and also funding. An average PCT will receive additional funding of £30,000.

Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation at the Department of Health, said:

"Parents who have not had their children vaccinated with the MMR vaccine should do so now. The evidence on MMR is absolutely clear - there is no link between the vaccine and autism.

"The MMR vaccine coverage is not high enough to remove the threat of recurrence of measles outbreaks. Measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal. Delaying immunisation puts children at risk."

Notes to editors:

1. In 2006 and 2007 there were 1,726 confirmed cases in England and Wales which was more than the previous ten years from 1996 to 2005 where there were a total of 1,621 confirmed cases of measles.

2. Estimates suggest that a measles epidemic in Britain could result in 30,000 cases, or in a worst case scenario more than 100,000 cases of measles in children and young people. These children and young people will also be susceptible to mumps and rubella.

3. PCTs receive funding for immunisation as part of their annual settlement. The Department of Health will provide an additional sum to assist PCTs with initiating the programme. London PCTs will receive £60,000 and PCTs outside London will receive £30,000. This reflects the higher ratio of children requiring MMR vaccination in London.

4. In addition to the supplies of MMR vaccine used for the routine childhood immunisation programme, extra supplies of MMR will be available for the catch up campaign. Any additional vaccine purchased will eventually be used as part of the routine vaccination programme.

Figure 1. Confirmed cases of measles by month of onset, England and Wales: From 2007 to 31st May 2008

6. A copy if the CMO letter can be found here: