Public Health England has urged patients who are unsure if they have had two doses of the MMR vaccine to check with their GP before going on holiday, following a record number of measles cases.
The latest official figures show that in the first six months of 2018 there have been 643 confirmed measles cases in England, with the highest number in London at 225 cases.
This is nearly 400 more than was reported in the whole of 2017, when there were only 267 cases across the country.
PHE attributed the spike to a drop in the vaccination rate in the early 2000s when ‘coverage levels dipped to a low of 80% in 2003’.
PHE said: ‘This means that there are significant numbers of unprotected teenagers and young adults who could catch measles both in England, particularly in environments of close mixing such as summer festivals, and when they travel abroad for the summer holidays.’
PHE’s head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay added: ‘Measles is circulating in England and the rest of Europe. We often think about what travel-related vaccines we might need before going on holiday, but it’s also important to check that we are up to date with routine vaccinations like MMR.
‘If you are unsure if you have had two doses of MMR call your GP practice to check and catch up if needed.’
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Unfortunately, we had major setbacks in the 1990s when false claims about the MMR vaccine caused panic which led to a significant drop in the numbers of parents allowing their children to be immunised, and the latest figures would appear to indicate that we are still feeling the impact.’
She added: ‘We ask all parents to do the right thing, including when returning from abroad, and have their children vaccinated according to the latest vaccination guidelines in the best interests of their own health and so that we stand the best chance of permanently eradicating measles in the future.’
At the beginning of the year, PHE issued a warning after 122 cases of the measles were reported in five areas across England just nine days into 2018.