The Urgent Need to Boost MMR Vaccination Rates to Prevent Measles Outbreaks

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Zara Nwosu
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The Urgent Need to Boost MMR Vaccination Rates to Prevent Measles Outbreaks

The Urgent Need to Boost MMR Vaccination Rates to Prevent Measles Outbreaks

In recent years, a decline in Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine uptake has been observed worldwide, leading to a resurgence of measles cases. This decline, influenced by various factors including a lack of understanding of the disease's severity, has raised alarms among public health experts who warn of potential outbreaks if immediate action is not taken.

The Current Situation of Measles Outbreaks and Vaccination Rates

Since December 1, there have been reports of measles cases in several states in the US, with international travel and declining global vaccination rates being blamed for the rise in cases. Despite measles being eliminated in the US in 2000, clusters are still possible due to the virus not being eliminated worldwide. The US has seen vaccination rates remain low, particularly among children, with about 92% of children vaccinated by age 2, falling below the federal target of 95%. The last significant measles outbreak in the US was in 2018-19 in Rockland County, New York, focused among unvaccinated children in Orthodox Jewish communities.

Similarly, the UK is witnessing a widening measles outbreak with 216 confirmed cases and 103 probable cases reported since October. The MMR vaccine uptake has seen a worrying drop in recent years, and the vaccination rates fall below the World Health Organization's recommendation of at least 95% of children being fully vaccinated. The UK Health Security Agency has declared a national incident and initiated a public campaign to increase childhood vaccination against measles.

The Threat Posed by Measles

The measles virus is highly contagious, spreading easily through coughing, sneezing, and contact with contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include high fever, cough, red eyes, runny nose, and a characteristic rash. It has a long incubation period, making it difficult to recognize until the rash appears. Over 99% of those who have two doses of the MMR vaccine will be protected against measles and rubella. The vaccine also protects against mumps. However, measles can spread very easily among those who are unvaccinated, emphasizing the need to improve uptake rates.

Efforts to Improve MMR Vaccine Uptake

In response to the decline in MMR vaccine uptake, several initiatives are being put into action. The Public Health Agency has announced a vaccination campaign aimed at curbing the threat of measles. The MMR catch-up campaign will run until 31 March 2024, offering first and second doses of the MMR vaccine to anyone aged between 12 months and 25 years who missed getting the vaccines the first time around.

In Wales, the Chief Medical Officer is urging parents to check their children’s MMR vaccination status amid rising concerns over measles outbreaks. The goal is to ensure at least 90% of students in every school in Wales is fully vaccinated by 2024 to prevent potential outbreaks. Public Health Wales, the NHS, and the Welsh Government are working on plans to boost MMR uptake levels in the coming months.

These efforts show the critical importance of increasing vaccination rates to prevent further measles outbreaks and protect public health. It is essential for individuals, especially parents, to understand the severity of measles and ensure they and their children are fully vaccinated against this highly contagious disease.

Public Health Measles