Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal that 496 laboratory confirmed cases of measles have been reported in England and Wales up to the end of May 2011, surpassing the annual 2010 total of 374 cases.
However, uptake rates for MMR in children aged two reached 90% in the first quarter of this year – the highest level for 13 years and a 0.6% increase from the previous quarter. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and six English regions achieved at least 90% coverage.
Children who received their first dose of MMR vaccine by the age of five in the UK remained stable at 92.8%. MMR coverage for two doses in children aged five increased by 0.3% between January and March 2011 to 85.1 per cent. The new cases of measles this year are predominantly in children and adults under 19 years of age, the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated. Other European countries have also seen increases in measles cases in recent months with more than 11,000 cases reported across 35 European countries in the first four months of the year.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of the immunisation department at the HPA, said: ‘We're very encouraged to see that UK MMR uptake has reached 90% in children aged two, indicating increasing levels of trust by parents in the immunisation programme. We're on the way to reaching our goal of 95% uptake.
‘But anyone who missed out on MMR as a child will continue to be at risk of measles, which explains why we are seeing these new cases in a broad age range.
‘It's that time of year when children are travelling on school trips and family holidays. Measles is a highly infectious and potentially dangerous illness which spreads very easily. Whether you stay here in the UK or travel abroad it is crucial that individuals who may be at risk are fully immunised."