A quarter of people still need MMR jabs
PUBLISHED: 08:39 16 May 2019
At least 25per cent of the population need to have their second dose of measles vaccination, according to health experts.
Only 70pc of children in Kent and Medway have had their booster jab for measles, mumps and rubella.
But the World Health Organisation states 95pc need to be vaccinated to ensure the highly infectious disease does not spread.
Health experts are now urging parents to make sure their children have had both jabs.
Director for public health in Kent, Andrew Scott-Clark, said uptake of these vaccinations is "critical" to protect vulnerable people.
He said: "Vaccination is the key thing that will prevent measles, along with mumps and rubella because it's part of the MMR vaccination.
"Uptake is critical and we really want to aim to get to about a 95pc coverage rate to ensure the whole population is covered, known as herd immunity.
"We know we can't get 100pc but we will get as close to it as possible."
The health expert noted there are concerns about the jabs on social media but explained all accusations have been disproved.
Claims the MMR vaccine causes autism has been discredited and the doctor who made the conclusions has been struck off.
He said: "If you look online, there's quite a big lobby around 'these things are dangerous and we shouldn't be having them' which is not government public policy.
"It's not what the evidence shows. There is a lot of work in the media particularly on those types of vehicles to try and counter that."
Parents who are worried about the vaccinations have been known to throw "measles parties" to expose children to the disease to build immunity.
At the health reform and public health cabinet committee on Friday, Cllr Dan Daley (Lib Dem) asked whether there is any merit in this idea.
He said: "When I was growing up, measles and certainly chicken pox, were rights of passage as almost every child had it no matter what.
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"I wasn't aware that we were frightened of it, in the sense of serious outcomes, because it was either a three-week thing that was an itch or a scratch and you went through the system.
"I know that there's been scare stories about Autism and a lot of that may be just scare stories but has the disease actually changed dramatically so it's become a really seriously debilitating or dangerous, almost death disease?"
However Mr Scott-Clark explained while small children are "best able to cope" with the disease, exposing children in one of these parties could affect unprotected adults worse.
He said: "Small children are best able to cope with measles but we know that this can be a serious illness for children but that's rarer.
"It can be a serious illness for unprotected adults. It's probably more serious in adults than in children."
Un-immunised young adults have been known to contract the disease when they start university.
Typically the number of reported cases of measles increases in September as students are more likely to be exposed when in large groups.
Fortunately there have only been three confirmed cases of measles since January, which were all linked to travel.
Consultant in health protection at Public Health England South East, Dr Claire Winslade, is urging parents to check the immunity of their family especially before going on holiday.
She said: "Measles is not currently circulating in Kent but that said it is a very infectious virus and can spread rapidly among communities, such as schools, if people have not been fully immunised.
"Anyone who is any doubt about their MMR vaccination status should contact their local GP service.
"Children should receive two doses of MMR vaccine for maximum protection.
"MMR is a highly effective and safe vaccine and there is no upper age limit for receiving MMR."
GP surgeries across the county are offering free catch-up vaccinations for anyone under 19 who is concerned they may have missed a course of treatment.
On top of the MMR jabs, clinicians are also offering flu, HPV, diphtheria tetanus and polio vaccinations.
To find out where the services are near you, go to www.kentcht.nhs.uk/2019/04/02/measles-mumps-and-rubella-vaccine-available-this-easter