DERBYSHIRE: Parents urged to get their children vaccinated

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Letters have been sent to the parents of all school pupils in Derbyshire reminding them to make sure their children get the MMR vaccine.

Derbyshire County Council has written to all parents via primary and secondary schools as part of its work in partnership with Public Health England and the NHS to keep the number of measles cases in Derbyshire low.

There have been just four reported cases of measles in the county this year, but public health professionals are urging parents to check their child’s vaccination records and take urgent action if they’re not up to date.

The majority of cases in the current outbreaks have been reported in unvaccinated school children and young adults, with nearly half of all cases reported in 10 to 16-year-olds who have not had the two doses of vaccine needed to provide a higher level of immunity.

Those in this age group are particularly at risk because many missed out in the late 1990s and early 2000s when concern around the discredited link between autism and the vaccine was widespread.

Councillor Dave Allen, Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Health and Communities said: “We have a strong MMR vaccination record in Derbyshire with 94% of two-year-olds and 93% of five-year-olds vaccinated, but there remain some children who are unvaccinated or have not had both vaccines.

“We estimate that around 2,700 Derbyshire 10 to 16-year-olds have not had any vaccine and 5,200 have had just one dose.

“The letter we’ve sent to schools urges the parents of children who have not been fully vaccinated with two doses of the vaccine to contact their GP and make an appointment as soon as possible.”

The latest figures for England and Wales confirm 2,016 cases of measles during 2012 – the highest annual total since 1994. Outbreaks in England and Wales in 2013 have continued to cause high numbers of new cases.

The first dose of MMR vaccination gives 95% defence against the disease and the second dose offers almost complete protection.

Derbyshire’s Director of Public Health Elaine Michel said: “Measles is an extremely serious but completely preventable disease which is why we’ve written to parents urging them to make sure their children are vaccinated. We have an excellent record in Derbyshire with a very low number of people being ill with measles and we want that to continue.

“It’s never too late to get the MMR vaccine. If your child has not had their two doses of MMR it’s easy to take action to protect them – just contact your GP to make an appointment.”

The Department of Health’s director of immunisation Professor David Salisbury has reassured parents the safety record of MMR is ‘not in doubt’ and urged them to take urgent action if their child has not been vaccinated.