Before you head off to enjoy the Easter holidays with your family, health experts have warned parents that their children should be immunised against measles.
Denmark, France and Germany have all experienced a sharp increase of measles outbreaks this year, with France reporting 1,000 cases alone in January. Health experts are urging parents to make sure their children have been fully inoculated with the MMR jab before going on holiday in Europe.
In the UK, children normally have their first MMR injection from 13 months and then a booster jab from 6 months later. However, take up of the MMR injection fell dramatically after 1998 when Dr Andrew Wakefield published a scientific paper linking MMR to autism and Crohn’s Disease – which has since been thoroughly discredited.
At the time, worry about Dr Wakefield’s apparent claims meant that many parents decided not to give their child the MMR vaccine, some opting for paying for single doses of each vaccine, while others chose not to vaccinate at all. This led to an all-time low MMR uptake of 79.9% in 2003/04.
The MMR rate has slowly been rising in England, with 88.2% of children now having at least one measles, mumps and rubella inoculation before their second birthday, but it’s is still considerably short of the 95% target set by the World Health Organisation. In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, 92% of children have been immunised with the MMR jab.
Parents planning a trip to Europe this year are being advised by The Health Protection Agency to make sure children are fully immunised and have had two doses of MMR before travelling. “Measles is very contagious and cause a fever, coughing and spots on the skin,” it warns.
No need to worry if your child is fully immunised, but if you’re unsure, check with your doctor.
For more information about measles and the symptoms, check out how you can spot them in our guide to measles.