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Measles cases drop 60% following MMR catch-ups

Cases of measles have fallen more than 60% following the introduction of the MMR catch-up programme, according to new figures.

In June, 113 children aged 10-16 were diagnosed with the disease, down from 299 in April when the scheme began.

The programme aims to identify and administer the MMR to unvaccinated and partially vaccinated 10-16 year-olds through GPs and/or school programmes and is run jointly by Public Health England (PHE), the Department of Health (DH) and NHS England.

Progress in the campaign has been monitored using data on the MMR status of children aged between 10 and 16 years old, gathered from around 2,000 general practices in July 2013.

When compared with similar aged children in 2012, the numbers point to almost 60,000 previously unvaccinated children having now had one dose in England. Additionally, a slightly higher number have now completed the 2 dose course.

Screening and immunisation teams in each of the 25 NHS Area Teams across England have been asked to reinforce the work done so far by general practices to sustain the MMR catch-up, and to plan for additional efforts to identify those remaining unvaccinated children in the target age-range.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE said: "It is still too early to be confident that the drop in cases has come from the campaign but we are making good progress towards the 95% target. Nevertheless, we must still continue with all of our efforts to identify and vaccinate any unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children and young people.

"The next phase of the catch-up programme involves each Area Team planning additional activities appropriate to their circumstances. This may include schools' based activities such as school nurse visits to schools and direct contact with parents."

Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation at the DH, said: "These figures are encouraging, but the best thing that parents can do, if their children have not had two doses of MMR, is to make an appointment with the GP before their children return back to school or college."