Measles jabs planned for thousands of children by east London NHS chiefs

Three-year-old Mim gets measles jab from Claris Quartey-Eapafio at an east London surgery

Three-year-old Mim gets measles jab from Claris Quartey-Eapafio at an east London surgery - Credit: THCouncil

Plans are under way for measles jabs for thousands of schoolchildren across east London.

The MRR vaccine

The MRR vaccine - Credit: THCouncil

Medical chiefs in the East End have issued an assurance that the MMR vaccine is safe—and are urging all parents to get their kids immunised.

Local authorities including Tower Hamlets and neighbouring Newham are starting mass vaccination strategies to avoid the threat of epidemic, following the outbreak in South Wales earlier this month.

Tower Hamlets public health director Dr Somen Banerjee said: “The vaccine is safe and has been highly effective at reducing the number of infections.

“Parents who are unsure of or believe their child has not had two doses of MMR, whatever their age, should contact their GP—it’s never too late to get vaccinated.”

Just one case of measles has been reported in Newham so far this year, one of nine cases across London—but none in Tower Hamlets which had a clean bill of health.

The NHS is targeting schoolkids between 10 and 16 to be immunised, especially in densely-populated inner urban areas which the London Assembly fears put them most at risk.

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The Assembly’s Health chair Murad Qureshi said: “London has currently the lowest MMR uptake in the country, putting children most at risk.”

But east London appears to be bucking the trend, with nine-out-of-every 10 children in Tower Hamlets and Newham having had their first vaccine compared to eight-out-of-10 across London.

Uptake was slightly less for the second dose—79 per cent in Tower Hamlets and 80 per cent in Newham, according to former NHS Primary Care trust figures.

Uptake among the under fives, however, was better in the East End than anywhere in London, currently the highest at 94 per cent, according to Tower Hamlets council.

Yet there are “still concerns” that children in the older age groups, 10 to 16, may not have received the two injections and would not be protected.

Tower Hamlets cabinet member for public health, Abdul Asad, said: “We are contacting schools and GPs to reach parents of children who haven’t yet been vaccinated.”

Newham Council does not expect a major outbreak because the number of vaccinations is “much higher than areas where outbreaks are.”

All GP practices between now and the end of the summer are contacting families with children who may have missed one or both vaccinations.

A Newham spokesman said: “Parents should make sure vaccinations are up to date—it’s never too late to be vaccinated.”

The London Assembly has warned the government’s Chief Medical Officer of a measles outbreak because of London’s “demographic challenges” and low uptake of the MMR vaccine.