Rubella susceptibility screening for pregnant women will end in England on 1 April 2016, Public Health England (PHE) has announced.
The decision to end the screening programme was made due to the high uptakes of the MMR vaccination leading to decreased rates of rubella. Figures released by PHE show that 91.5% of children aged up to two years had received at least one vaccination, while 94.5% having received at least one dose of MMR by five years in England during 2014 and 2015.
‘The decision to end rubella susceptibility screening in pregnancy in England is based on a rigorous assessment of the evidence and expert clinical advice,’ said Anne Mackie, director of screening programmes at PHE. ‘A major factor is that high uptake of the MMR vaccine in children means that rubella infection is considered to be eliminated in the UK by the World Health Organization. The change will free up busy midwives so they can spend more time looking after a new mother and her baby.’
Currently rubella screening involves a blood test offered to all pregnant women at 8 to 12 weeks to establish if they are immune to rubella. Women who are not immune are advised to avoid contact with the virus and are offered the MMR vaccination after the birth of the baby, before any further pregnancies.
‘Although most UK pregnant women have themselves been vaccinated with a rubella containing vaccine, sustaining high coverage in younger children will reduce the risk of any unprotected women becoming infected and passing this to their unborn child,’ said Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE.
‘Appropriate training and education will be given to increase the knowledge of professional healthcare workers which will enable them to encourage pregnant women to be "rash aware" and to seek urgent medical attention if there is any concern,’ she said.