The number of cases of measles has increased dramatically in the last year, despite record lows in the previous annum. A suspected 400% increase is said to be the cause of people dismissing the all-important MMR (measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine.
Often people choose to ignore vaccines for ethical and religious reasons however the main controversy is still the suspicion that the MMR vaccine could lead to autism though this has long since been discredited. However, the trust in the vaccine has been diminished considerably.
Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be deadly. The MMR vaccine can prevent it but because of these preconceptions, there has been a decline in overall routine immunization. This has been proven by the 282 cases in the UK in 2017 alone with 35 deaths across Europe. Though this is nowhere near the chilling numbers faced in Romania (the worst affected country in Europe) with almost 6000 cases in 2017.
The vaccine is given as two doses to very young children as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. One problem may be that parents of children often miss critical GP appointments, either because of external circumstances or because they don’t deem them necessary. This has been an issue faced by many practices across the UK – leading to an economic loss to the NHS.
There should be an awareness that adults and older children can be vaccinated at any age if they haven’t been fully immunized before. Immunisation is very important to achieve herd immunity. Herd immunity is when a large enough proportion of the population is immune to a particular infection. This means there is a less of a chance of it being able to spread person to person. Herd immunity decreases the likelihood of widespread epidemic s – not unlike what we have seen with measles in the last year.
Measles symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing and cough, sore, red eyes, a high temperature and, after a few days, a red-brown blotchy rash. It is a highly preventable disease but first, we must endeavour to reduce the stigma associated with vaccines because they bring more benefits to a population than harm.