Thousands of North West youngsters being invited to receive MMR vaccines

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With measles cases on the rise, thousands of North West children have started receiving invitations to book a catch-up appointment.

Last week, NHS England launched a major drive to invite those not fully vaccinated with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) to come forward and catch up on missed doses, with reminders going out through February and March.

Uptake of the vaccine, which is usually given to children aged one and then a second vaccine at around three years and four months, has fallen below the World Health Organisation target of 95% coverage with two doses of MMR vaccine by 5 years.

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In the North West, 85.2% of children have had both doses of the vaccine by age 5, but the figure is as lower than 80% in some areas. Last September, more than 12,000 children started school unprotected.

MMR  vaccine invitations are being sent outMMR  vaccine invitations are being sent out
MMR vaccine invitations are being sent out

Now, NHS leaders across the North West are urging parents and guardians of children, aged 6 -11 in the region, to urgently book any missed MMR vaccinations at their GP practice, to ensure full protection against the disease.

Measles is one of the world's most infectious diseases, with one infected person giving it to approximately 15 other unvaccinated people. It is more than just a rash, and is a serious risk to those who are unvaccinated.

One in five children with the illness will require a hospital visit and the infection can lead to complication in one in 15, such as meningitis and sepsis. There is no specific treatment for measles, so parents are being reminded that vaccination gives the best protection from serious illness.

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What they say

Dr Linda Charles-Ozuzu, Regional Director of Commissioning at NHS England North West said: “The MMR vaccine is the best way we can protect children from measles, which is highly contagious and can be very dangerous in some cases.

“The recent rise in cases is worrying, but measles is a preventable disease, which is why we’re urging parents and carers to bring their children forward for any missed MMR vaccines. We’d also like to encourage parents of younger children to make sure their children have both doses of MMR as soon as they are invited.

“Two dose of the vaccine is enough to give lifelong protection from measles, mumps and rubella, so please contact your GP practice if your child has yet to have one, or both of the vaccines.”

Since the measles vaccine was introduced in the 1960s it is estimated to have saved more than 4,500 lives, by avoiding more than 20 million cases.

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The MMR vaccine is safe, and has been successfully used since the 1980s. The evidence is clear - there are no link between the MMR and autism.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles can start out with a runny nose and a cough, and so can be easy to miss until a rash forms.

Measles symptoms include:

· high fever

· sore, red, watery eyes

· coughing

· aching and feeling generally unwell

· a blotchy red brown rash, which usually appears after the initial symptoms