Antenatal rubella screening is to end on 1 April this year, partly due to high MMR coverage, Public Health England (PHE) announced today.
The decision to end screening comes after a recent review by the UK National Screening Committee, which found rates of rubella infection to be so low in the UK that risk of the disease has been eliminated.
Rubella is now considered to be an uncommon infection, with the review finding that 94.5% of children in the UK are vaccinated with MMR before their fifth birthday, taking vaccination numbers close to the World Health Organization’s target of 95%.
Instead of screening, women who are unsure of their MMR status are being urged to check with GPs when appropriate, especially if they have only recently registered with a practice and are planning pregnancy or going travelling.
Pregnant women who aren’t up to date with their MMR vaccination are advised to avoid contact with the virus and should be vaccinated soon after they give birth, before any future pregnancies.
Dr Anne Mackie, director of screening programmes at PHE, said: ‘The decision to end rubella susceptibility screening in pregnancy in England is based on a rigorous assessment of the evidence and expert clinical advice.
‘Screening for rubella in pregnancy does not give any protection to the unborn baby in that pregnancy. The best preventative measure a woman can take to protect herself from rubella is to ensure she is immunised with the MMR vaccine before she gets pregnant.’
Backing up her advice, Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: ‘It is possible to have the MMR vaccination at any age, so if you suspect that you, or your children, are not up to date with your MMR, contact your GP.’
The announcement comes after a report last year found that MMR vaccination uptake had shown a slight decrease across the country, with wide variation in national coverage.