As children return to school, the NHS is urging parents across Yorkshire to ensure that their children are up-to-date with their MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccinations due to the increasing cases of measles nationwide.

Childhood vaccination rates in England have declined over the past decade, and recent statistics reveal that 8,600 children aged four and five, starting in reception, in Yorkshire, are not immunised against measles, mumps, and rubella. Across England, 102,000 children entering school are at risk of contracting measles.

Measles is highly contagious, and if a child is not vaccinated, nine out of ten children in a classroom will contract the disease if even one child is infectious. Every region in England has reported confirmed cases of this infectious disease, and the cases to date are more than double the total for the previous year.

While measles may manifest mildly in some children, one in five will require hospitalisation, and the infection can lead to complications in one in fifteen cases, such as meningitis and sepsis. As there is no specific treatment for measles, parents are reminded that vaccination offers the best protection against severe illness.

Dr Faisel Baig, the region’s Medical Director for Primary Care, said; “Measles can start with cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough with a rash not showing until they have been infectious for up to four days. In a classroom, it may not be easy to spot they have the measles infection at first and before they have a rash they could have infected nine out of ten of their unvaccinated classmates.”

The MMR vaccine is given at one year old and again at around three years and four months in readiness for starting school. Two doses are enough to give lifelong protection from becoming seriously unwell with mumps, measles and rubella. The MMR vaccine is often given at the same time as the pre-school booster including protection against polio. Anyone who has missed any of the vaccinations can catch up at any time.

Dr Baig, who is also a GP in North Lincolnshire, added; “It’s important we keep our little ones fully protected from measles, which is on the rise. The MMR vaccine is the best possible way to keep our children safe and healthy. So, I am urging parents and guardians to check your child’s red book to make sure your child is fully vaccinated against this disease.”

To ascertain whether your child’s vaccinations are up to date, refer to their red book or consult their GP practice. If any doses have been missed, appointments can be made at the GP practice to catch up and ensure protection. For further information on the NHS vaccination schedule, please visit NHS vaccinations and when to have them.

The World Health Organization identifies measles as one of the most contagious infections globally, yet this disease is entirely preventable through vaccination. The UK lost its status of measles eradication in 2018 due to an uptick in cases and vaccination levels falling below the targeted 95%.