Young people aged 11 to 25 in London are being encouraged to book in for missed measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccinations as part of a new campaign by the NHS.
Parents of children between six and 11 will also be contacted directly by the NHS and encouraged to book appointments with their GP.
Vaccination rates in London are among the lowest in the country.
Measles is a highly infectious respiratory infection and the number of suspected cases has risen sharply in the last few years with more than 1,600 cases recorded in England and Wales in 2023.
Director of Vaccinations and Screening, Steve Russell, said in a post from 22 January: “The NHS is acting quickly to tackle the spread of measles by contacting one million people aged between 11 and 25 across London and the Midlands to urge them to get their vaccine.”
In Kingston, the full vaccination coverage rate for five-year-olds in the borough is 76.4% and has rarely exceeded 80% in the last five years. However, despite the relatively low coverage it is still above average for London and is significantly better than rates in central London, including 56.3% in Hackney.
Elsewhere, the World Health Organisation has announced that European measles cases increased from 941 in 2022, to over 300,000 in 2023.
Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, UK Health Security Agency Consultant Medical Epidemiologist added: “The continuing downward trend in the uptake of routine childhood vaccinations is a serious concern. The diseases that these vaccines protect against, such as measles, can be life-changing and even deadly.
“No parent wants this for their child especially when these diseases are easily preventable. We now have a very real risk of measles outbreaks across the country. Please don’t put this off.”
Despite the severity of the illness, many are still unconvinced about the need to get themselves or their children vaccinated, but in the opinion of academics, this can be a dangerous view.
Speaking on BBC Radio Surrey, Mark Felder, Professor of Microbiology at Kingston University, said: “People say to me: ‘Why do we worry? I haven’t seen a case of measles in years, it is not that bad!’ You haven’t seen a case of measles in years because vaccine coverage works.
“When people stop taking the vaccine either because they are concerned about misinformation around side effects or they are just thinking: ‘I don’t need to take it’, we see what we are seeing now.”
For more information about vaccinations visit nhs.uk.
Contact your GP if you wish to book an MMR vaccine for yourself or your child.