By Lilian Anekwe
Ministers have ruled out a catch-up campaign to boost MMR vaccination rates – and instead encouraged GPs to use their discretion and give the vaccine to anyone for whom it is clinically necessary.
Figures released by the Health Protection Agency last week showed 334 laboratory confirmed cases of measles were reported in England and Wales between January and the end of April 2011, compared to 374 cases for the whole of 2010 and 33 during the same period last year.
The latest UK quarterly figures for MMR uptake show that between September and December 2010 89.4% of children had received their first dose of MMR vaccine by the age of two years, an increase of 0.5% on the previous quarter, and 84.8% of children had received their second dose by age 5, up 0.2% from the previous quarter.
The surge in cases led to calls from GP experts for the Government consider a catch-up campaign.
Dr George Kassianos, a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire and RCGP spokesperson on immunisation, told Pulse: 'The Department of Health should undertake a campaign to inform patients. The HPA is doing as much as it can, but we need a sustained campaign – only then can we have a chance of immunising children are not protected.'
But a Department of Health spokesperson said: 'We are not currently planning a further MMR catch-up campaign because coverage is rising for those aged five to eighteen. GPs have been using their records to identify and vaccinate children who had not had two doses.'
In a circular sent last week from Professor David Salisbury, the DH director of immunisation, admitted there was 'some confusion about what the Departmental MMR vaccination policy is', and reminded GPs that the 'policy is to give two doses of MMR vaccine to anyone with incomplete immunisation history.'GPs call for MMR publicity campaign