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MMR vaccine uptake rises by a quarter since 2023, says NHS

The NHS MMR campaign has boosted vaccine uptake, but UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) figures show cases are still on the rise
Campaign has boosted vaccine uptake, but cases continue to rise

The number of children receiving their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) injections is up by a quarter from last year, show NHS England figures.

This follows from a national campaign launched by the NHS in January amid increasing measles rates in England. NHS data shows that more than 360,000 MMR jabs were administered till 24 March 2024, showing a 23% rise.

Steve Russell, NHS national director for vaccinations and screening, said: ‘We know vaccines are the best protection we have against numerous serious illnesses, so it is hugely encouraging to see such significant increases in people coming forward for the MMR vaccine since we launched our catch-up campaign earlier this year.’

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With an estimated 3.4 million under-16s at risk of contracting the virus, the campaign sent letters and emails to more than a million parents and carers of children aged from six to 11 inviting them to get their child vaccinated. Pop-up MMR clinics have been held in wellbeing buses, schools, pharmacies and outside supermarkets.

But UKSHA figures show measles cases are still on the rise, with a 40% increase in reported cases since October 2023. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the cases were in children under 10.

Responding to these findings, Professor Helen Bedford, immunization lead at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health welcomed the success of the MMR campaign but said there was still a long way to go.

‘It is good news to see so many people vaccinated in such a short space of time – and that pop-up clinics and other initiatives had removed some of the practical barriers to accessing vaccines and providing flexible clinics appointments and information,’ said Bedford.

‘However, we are still way off the 95% uptake target set by the World Health Organization. More work is needed to prevent further measles outbreaks,’ she said.