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Measles surge not down to vaccine failure

By Emma Wilkinson

Ongoing surges in measles cases in the UK are a result of falling immunisation rates and not a failure of the MMR vaccine, research from the Health Protection Agency has confirmed.

Analysis of laboratory confirmed measles cases between 2002 and 2007 showed one dose provides 95% protection and two doses 100% protection against the infection.

During the study period there were 1,794 cases confirmed by the HPA in children eligible for the MMR vaccine, 786 from communities where vaccine uptake was representative of the general population.

Of those 730 (93%) had received no MMR vaccine at all, 50 (6%) had received one dose of the vaccine and only six cases (1%) had received two doses of the vaccine.

Latest figures show national uptake of MMR is still only 84% for the first dose and 76% for the second.

Presenting the data at the annual HPA conference, Dr Mary Ramsay, HPA consultant in immunisation, said the effectiveness seen in the study was similar to that shown in the early clinical trials of the measles vaccine.

'These results confirm that the current problems with measles cases are mainly due to children not receiving MMR vaccine.

'It reinforces the need for children and young adults to complete the recommended vaccine schedule to be fully protected.'

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesperson said current circulating strains were very susceptible to the MMR vaccine and the need for a catch-up programme was great.

'The Department of Health announced a catch-up campaign but GPs haven't heard exactly how it's going to be run.

'They left it to the PCTs to organise but many GPs do not know what's happening - it's important there is no delay.'

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