School-age children in Camden, Haringey and Brent are urged to get measles jab after outbreak in Wales

Parents are being urged to sign their kids up for the MMR vaccine

Parents are being urged to sign their kids up for the MMR vaccine - Credit: Archant

North London boroughs will be part of a national campaign to ensure all school-age children are vaccinated against measles, following an outbreak of the potentially deadly disease in Wales.

Since January, there have been seven confirmed cases in Barnet, five in Haringey and one in Camden. The average number of cases in the same period last year was two per borough.

On Friday the joint director for public health for Camden and Islington NHS wrote to the parents of all school-age children outlining the importance of immunisation.

Measles is a highly infectious disease that can cause blindness or even death and the recent epidemic in Wales, which has seen almost 1,000 people struck with the illness, has led to parents being urged to check if their children are immunised.

Until recently the number of cases in England has been extremely low due to a mass-campaign to immunise young children when the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine became available in the 1970s.

The epidemic in Wales has been linked to a fall in vaccine uptake after high profile reports in the 1990s of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine, which have since been discredited.

Cllr Helena Hart, Barnet cabinet member for public health, which has one of the highest rates of measles outbreaks in London, urged all parents and carers to contact their GP if they are unsure whether their children are vaccinated.

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She said: “We need to make sure that all the children who missed out on the vaccination when they were young are fully immunised and protected, so it is vital they take part in the catch-up programme.”

Cllr David Winskill, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for health on Haringey Council, said he had “asked for and had received assurances from Haringey Public Health that adequate supplies of the vaccine are available to meet demand for vaccinations”.

In 2012, 70 per cent of five-year-old children in Camden were successfully immunised against measles, receiving the two injections that are required.

In Barnet, 88 per cent of children aged five had received the injection, and in Haringey that number was 83 per cent.

The body which is responsible for immunisation strategy, NHS Public Health England (PHE), announced last week that it was starting a campaign to ensure that all school-age children across the country are immunised.

For a disease to be virtually eradicated, the World Health Organisation states that 95 per cent of the target population should be immunised.

PHE is aiming to achieve this percentage for the MMR vaccine across the whole country.

The jabs will be administered in local GP surgeries, with the amount of vaccine distributed according to local need.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, London director of PHE, said: “The catch-up programme recommends an approach to specifically target those young people most at risk. Those who have not been vaccinated should seek at least one dose of MMR vaccination, which will give them 95 per cent protection against measles. A second dose is then needed to provide almost complete protection. The only way to prevent measles outbreaks is to ensure good uptake of the MMR.

“When cases of measles are reported to PHE we take immediate action to ensure that vulnerable individuals are protected.”