Measles outbreaks in Barnet and Haringey spark vaccine plea
PUBLISHED: 16:46 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:46 29 March 2019
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Two cases of measles at a Golders Green school have shocked parents - as the Ham&High can reveal there have been scores of children infected in Barnet and Haringey since October.
A pair of siblings at the King Alfred School in North End Road have reported contracting the disease, and Public Health England (PHE), teachers and parents have warned against not vaccinating children.
PHE said it had been notified. The two cases are among 25 reported in Barnet since October 2018.
This is the third highest figure in north London, behind only Hackney and Haringey – where an outbreak among the orthodox Jewish community has seen 268 and 54 confirmed cases respectively.
In 2017/18, PHE data show only 76 per cent of five year olds in Barnet had both required doses of the MMR jab. The number is even lower in Haringey, at 70pc. The figures are well below the national average, of 87pc.
One parent at the school, who did not wish to be named, said she was not surprised by the outbreak due to what she called the “anti-vax” sentiment among some parents.
She told the Ham&High: “It’s just anecdotal, but in a group of ten friends [of my child], I know that three or four hadn’t had their HPV vaccines. And it’s the same with MMR.
“It’s hard to believe, these are in many cases middle-class parents who should know better, the MMR vaccine’s safe.”
The school’s headteacher Robert Lobatto told this newspaper: “We have had two children reporting cases of measles in the last ten days. They are siblings and we haven’t had any other reports.
“Obviously whether to vaccinate children is a parent’s choice, but the vast majority of parents take up vaccinations.”
He said the school carried out PHE’s immunisations programme.
Dr Tania Misra, a consultant at its local Health Protection Team, said: “Protecting your children with two doses of the MMR vaccine is the best way to ensure they are not at risk of catching measles, mumps or rubella and preventing their spread to others who cannot be immunised such as newborn babies, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems who are most vulnerable to infection.
“Measles spreads very easily amongst anyone who has not had two doses of MMR, particularly children, and this is why outbreaks can occur in communities where there are a large number of unimmunised individuals. There is an ongoing outbreak of measles in North London, with over 400 cases reported since October 2018.”
Dr Misra emphasised it was never too late to be immunised.
A Barnet Council spokesperson said: “Vaccination is the only way to protect our communities from measles. It is important that all children receive their immunisations at the correct time, so they are protected at the earliest opportunity. To arrange a vaccination for your child, see your local GP.”
Haringey Council admitted that immunisation rates were lower in the borough than it would like, and urged parents to vaccinate children before they start primary school.
A spokesperson said: “As a community we can all help to stop the spread of measles – the most powerful way of doing this is by ensuring our young residents receive the MMR vaccine. It is really important that children are vaccinated before they start school. If you are unsure if your child has been vaccinated, please check with your GP. There is also comprehensive advice on the NHS website. As a council, we will continue to work with partners to ensure the right guidance is available and that the vaccine is accessible to the community.”