GP leaders call for national MMR catch-up campaign
Exclusive The NHS needs to ‘step up to the mark’ and launch a national public health campaign led by GPs to prevent further outbreaks of measles, say representatives from both the RCGP and the BMA.
The intervention comes as Public Health Wales announced a further 72 cases have been reported in the measles outbreak centred on Swansea, bringing the total number to 765, including 77 people who have been hospitalised.
GP leaders told Pulse they are very concerned about the potential for outbreaks elsewhere and called for Public Health England to publicise and fund catch-up campaigns to try to reach people who have not had both doses of MMR.
The most recent Government figures on MMR coverage show 88.6% of children under 5 years have had both doses of MMR in the UK, with rates of 89.9% in Wales and 88.1% in England. There is marked variation in England, however, with the North West recording 92.5% of children under 5 years completing their MMR vaccinations, compared with just 80.8% in London.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘I think there is a big concern – particularly in urban areas where historically MMR immunisation uptake has been low, especially over the past decade, meaning there is a big reservoir of children and young adults who are not protected.’
Dr Vautrey called for a co-ordinated effort to put in place additional funding for GP practices to run a catch-up campaign.
He said: ‘This is a role for Public Health England and the director of public health in each area – this is their bread and butter and they need to step up to the mark and ensure they really do focus on getting comprehensive protection for those who are vulnerable.’
He added: ‘There is no reason why there couldn’t be a directed enhanced service in the same way that we saw for pertussis protection for pregnant women. This was coordinated nationally and I think there is scope for doing that again.’
RCGP immunisation lead Dr George Kassianos said: ‘Practices need to work together with the Public Health England – we really need them to put out statements and adverts so that we can avoid an epidemic, in particular in our inner city areas, especially in London.’
He added: ‘Some areas of London have immunisation rates below 80% and that’s why it is particularly worrying.’
Dr Kassianos said the RCGP is not only urging vaccination for all children and young people who have missed both doses of MMR, but also those who have received single measles vaccinations.
LMC leaders in South Wales told Pulse they had been put ‘under enormous strain’ and are now set for a second round of immunisations to help control the ongoing measles outbreak in the region.
Public Health England said it was looking at ‘every opportunity’ to increase vaccine uptake, but that ‘it looks like the upwards trends [in MMR coverage] are continuing’.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England said: ‘The uptake of MMR vaccine is the highest it has ever been, having increased in recent years. In the last quarter of 2012, 94.1% of English five year olds had received one dose of MMR, and 88.9% had received both doses.
‘Public Health England is working with partners across the new public health system to identify every opportunity to increase vaccine uptake’