RCGP leads way in promoting safety, effectiveness and importance of MMR vaccination

Figures from the RCGP’s Research and Surveillance Centre and UKHSA have shown a worrying increase in measles presentations, with spikes in the West Midlands and London. The College has been at the forefront of promoting the safety, effectiveness and importance of the MMR vaccination and urging parents to ensure their children’s vaccinations are up-to-date. RCGP Chair, Kamila Hawthorne spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme last week, and LBC’s breakfast programme this morning – she also penned the following op-eds over the weekend.

Saturday 20 January

Published in the Daily Mail

We all witnessed the amazing results that vaccines achieved during Covid. The mass roll-out of jabs weakened a high-mortality infection in the UK and around the world. So it’s deeply worrying that the rate of uptake for all routine childhood vaccinations is falling - meaning that measles, which can be a serious disease, is on the rise.

In some parts of London, less than half of children have had the MMR jab, which protects against measles, causing 104 cases last year.

The Midlands, too, is weathering a wave of measles infections, as data from our Research and Surveillance Centre and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed this week. Too many infants and school-aged children are unvaccinated.

It would be tragic if such an outbreak turned deadly. That’s why I’m urging parents, carers and guardians to get their children fully vaccinated, which they can do at their GPs. Young adults, who also missed the MMR vaccine should get vaccinated too.

After living through a global pandemic, perhaps people have grown complacent about measles, seeing it as something mild and treatable. The truth is it’s a highly infectious disease that can be fatal, with significant numbers of people needing hospitalisation if they suffer a lung or brain complication due to the infection.

Even having uncomplicated measles can be unpleasant, with high temperatures, cough and a rash.

Children, pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems and the elderly are particularly vulnerable.

Some readers will remember the outbreaks of polio in the 1950s and 60s, perhaps even getting the disease themselves. But the vaccination programme against polio saved millions of children from a deadly disease and the disability it can cause. We are lucky that it was officially eradicated in Europe in 2003. 

By 2017, measles, too, had been stamped out in the UK, or so we thought. An epidemic would be a such a backward step.

Vaccinations are our ammunition against preventable diseases – but they need to be widely used if they’re to be effective.

I urge parents to trust the science. Have faith in your family doctors. The MMR vaccinations are safe, effective – and essential to safeguard the health of our children and the wider population.

Sunday 21 January

Published in i news

The Childhood Vaccination Programme is one of the great successes of the NHS, but the MMR vaccine can only work to reduce transmission of these viruses in communities, if enough people have it. Maintaining high vaccination rates is a top priority for GPs and our teams, and as a society, we mustn't become complacent. In 2017, the UK achieved measles elimination status, but unfortunately this has been reversed, and now data from the RCGP’s Research and Surveillance Centre and UKHSA has confirmed spikes in parts of the UK.

We cannot stress enough how dangerous measles can be. Although it's rare, the disease can be life-threatening and can result in life-changing health complications, particularly for children, pregnant women, the elderly and those who are chronically ill. The MMR vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective at giving people lifelong protection from the disease - and if parents have any reservations about its safety, they can ask their GP, or any member of their clinical practice team.

We need to restore momentum to the MMR programme and fight against vaccine complacency and hesitancy. There may be many reasons why uptake is falling. After the experience of living through a global health emergency, one might be that some people have grown complacent about a disease, that may be seen as something fairly mild and that used to be quite common before the vaccine was available. But it isn't mild, it is highly infectious, and there is a high rate of complications.

The recent outbreak in the West Midlands is really concerning, and we would urge all parents to check their children's vaccinations are up-to-date, and if they're not, to make an appointment as soon as possible.

If you notice symptoms of measles - such as cold and flu symptoms combined with a temperature and a rash that starts behind the ears and spreads to the face and the rest of the body - either in yourself or your children, it's important to seek medical advice.

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.