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From the BBC website 19 January 2024

The chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned of a potential measles outbreak in Surrey due to low vaccination rates.

Dame Jenny Harries said rates were at about 70% in the the Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care Board area.

That is lower than other regions where outbreaks have been reported.

Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership (SHHCP) said it was working to increase both awareness and vaccine uptake.

Joint chief medical officer of SHHCP, Dr Charlotte Canniff, said there had been a fall in the uptake of the MMR vaccine nationally and across Surrey Heartlands.

She said SHHCP was working closely with local partners to increase both vaccine awareness and uptake so more children were protected.

“This includes working with GP practices in areas of lower uptake to provide support and increase coverage,” said Dr Canniff.

“Measles can be serious and it spreads very easily so having the MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent it,” she added.

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The UKHSA has now declared the measles outbreak a national incident.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Friday, Dame Jenny urged parents to check whether children have had their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab.

She expressed concern that, without urgent action, we are likely to see the measles virus “seeding and spreading rapidly” in other cities and towns with low vaccine uptake.

More than 200 cases have been confirmed in the West Midlands in recent months, mostly in Birmingham.

Dame Harries has called for a “national call to action” to ensure children get their MMR vaccines
Dame Jenny said the UK had previously established an elimination status for measles, but vaccination rates have now dropped.

“On average about only 85% of children are arriving at school having had the two MMR doses,” she said.

She added the UK is “well under” the recommended coverage for MMR vaccination that the World Health Organisation recommends.