A 36% jump in the number of measles cases last year has been blamed on a slump in the uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab over fears about its safety.
There were 1,348 cases in 2008 in England and Wales, up from 990 in 2007, according to data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
Poor vaccination rates in Britain and a handful of countries may has scuppered plans to banish measles from Europe by 2010, researchers announced earlier this month.
Figures show 84.5% of children received the first dose of MMR by their second birthday in England and Wales. The number of pre-school children receiving both doses of MMR by their fifth birthday fell to 77.9%.
According to statistics from the World Health Organization, 95% of children need to be vaccinated to ensure "herd immunity" - when the chain of infection is broken because large numbers of the population are immune.
Dr Mary Ramsay, an HPA immunisation expert said: "The year-on-year increase of measles across England and Wales is very worrying.
"Measles should not be taken lightly as you can never tell who will go on to develop the more serious complications of pneumonia and encephalitis.
"This is why it's incredibly important to remember that measles isn't a 'harmless' childhood disease and that it is never too late to get your child immunised with the MMR vaccine."
Copyright © Press Association 2009
We asked you to tell us what you think about the MMR vaccine. Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Yes, all children should be vaccinated for herd immunity to be
raised. Autism risk and the live measles virus found in THAT study was so badly shown to be immaterial to the vaccine." - Janet, Essex
"I have dealt with a number of people with measles where I work. All cases I have come across, apart from a very sad child case, were foreign workers from eastern Europe. All were totally oblivious to the potential threat they posed to the population at large; indeed, some had continued working despite being warned, many in the food industry. Most also ignored warnings about mixing with pregnant women!
Their total disregard for others and lack of insight was staggering. The very sad child case was a little adopted boy, whose vaccination record was sketchy. He developed fits and was admitted to the isolation in the childrens unit. As with the previous correspondent, all vaccines should be mandatory, INCLUDING foreigners coming in to work and mix with our populaitons, whether they are from the EU or not. If they do not comply, they should be turned
away." - Name and address supplied
"I think we should be making it clear to parents that the MMR has an enormous amount of research into its safety and efficacy, whilst the single vaccines are not as effective and cause delay in immunisation and also do not have as much research behind them." - Fiona Wharton, Cambridgeshire
"I fully support the DH stance on MMR as the public do not always appreciate how devastating measles mumps and rubella may be, especially if complications arise. I work as a health professional in Cheshire where we have recently experienced one of the highest measles outbreaks in the UK." - Kathryn Johnson, Cheshire
"I think parents should be given the choice re single or triple
vaccinations and then there probably would not be the rises we are experiencing now." - Caron Davis, Lincolnshire
"I think it should be mandatory, like in the USA where children are not allowed to go to school unless fully immunised. Obviously, there would be exceptions due to allergies, but these would be rare." - Name and address supplied
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