A national catch-up programme to increase MMR vaccination uptake in English teenagers was announced today.
The scheme launched by Public Health England (PHE), NHS England and the Department of Health (DH) aims to vaccinate as many unvaccinated and partially vaccinated 10-16 year olds as possible before September.
Dr Paul Cosford, PHE director for health protection said: “We are confident that local teams have the resources to identify and vaccinate those children most at risk, and that the NHS has sufficient vaccine to cover the approaches described in the action plan.
“Our plan specifically aims to strengthen current routine approaches to vaccination and specifically to target “hard to reach” populations with known low vaccination rates.”
Dr Laurence Buckman, chair of the British Medical Association's GP Committee said:“For it to be successful Public Health England, local authorities, NHS England and GPs need to work together. This is the first big test for integrated working between these organisations since the NHS was restructured and it is important that we make it a success.
“We need to ensure that this is carefully planned so that as many individuals as possible are vaccinated and further measles outbreaks are prevented.
Despite England having its highest national MMR vaccination levels ever, new figures show confirmed cases of measles hit 587 at the end of March.
In 2012 94% of 5 year olds received one dose and 90% received two doses, according to PHE data, following a record high of almost 2,000 measles cases last year.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “Measles is a potentially fatal but entirely preventable disease so we are very disappointed that measles cases have recently increased in England.
She added: “The catch-up programme set out today recommends an approach to specifically target those young people most at risk.”
In England the highest number of cases are in the North West and North East, with almost 20% of cases being hospitalised.
Fifteen people experienced complications such as pneumonia, chest infection, meningitis and gastroenteritis.
Dr Clare Gerada, Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) chair said: "The recent outbreak across Wales and parts of England has shown what a serious condition measles is and the terrible consequences it can have.
Experts claim the rise in cases could be attributed to the 10-16 year-olds who were not vaccinated in the late 1990s and early 2000s because of false claims there was a link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
Dr Clare Gerada said: "The catch-up programme is a wise and necessary move, but it is very distressing for patients and for those of us working in the NHS to find ourselves in this position when, a few years ago, we were almost at the point of eradicating the disease and the present situation could have been avoided.
PHE hopes to raise awareness for the scheme through a Facebook page and Twitter, as well as handing out written materials.
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