An estimated 527,000 children in the UK missed out on their first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017.
A report published by UNICEF, which estimated an average of 21.1 million children globally miss out on the dose annually, found that measles cases reported worldwide have risen by 300% in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period last year.
The BMA has said the figures are ‘incredibly concerning’ and that even a small decrease in the vaccine uptake has ‘disastrous’ effects.
Research recently showed the fear of potential side effects was the main reason behind people choosing not to get vaccinated.
BMA science board chair Professor Dame Parveen Kumar said: ‘Immunisation against infectious diseases like measles are vital in preventing needless suffering and the deaths of children, as well as protecting public health.
‘There is clear evidence that improved vaccine uptake decreases the number of cases of disease, which both protects thousands of children from harm and reduces pressure on the health service.
‘These figures from Unicef are therefore incredibly concerning, as even small drops in vaccine uptake can have a disastrous effect, substantially increasing the risk of harmful disease outbreaks.’
Professor Dame Kumar added: ‘Crucially, to increase vaccine rates, there must be easy access to facilities for all parts of the population to receive protection. For this to happen there needs to be sufficient funding to deliver fully-resourced services, be that in general practice, the community or through local authorities.
‘There is a voluntary system for childhood vaccination system in the UK. Parents and carers need support to make informed choices, but if misinformation – be this via targeted campaigns or through inaccurate reporting – is a deterrent this must be stopped. We need vastly improved awareness campaigns, publicising the benefits of vaccination and working towards removing apathy and indecision.
‘Great progress has been made towards eradicating diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella over the last century, and we cannot let disturbing trends put our children at risk or push back the clock on conditions which belong firmly in the past.’