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By Ian Dipple Tuesday 25 March 2014 Updated: 26/03 10:10
CASES of measles across Worcestershire have plummeted following a campaign to boost the number of people vaccinated against the disease.
Figures released by Public Health England show there were just six confirmed reports of measles during 2013 compared to 41 the year before, which was the highest in the West Midlands.
Five of those cases occurred during last April when concerns about a potential outbreak in the county were heightened following a surge in the number of people affected in the Swansea area of Wales.
The rise in measles cases was attributed to a drop in vaccination rates due to a now discredited and inaccurate report published over a decade ago by Dr Andrew Wakefield, which made a link between the MMR vaccine and autism which led to thousands of parents choosing not to vaccinate their child.
In order to prevent outbreaks in the community 95 per cent of people need to have had both doses of the MMR vaccine, usually given at 13 months and before a child starts school. But in Worcestershire just 91 per cent of five-year-olds had received both doses.
A national catch up programme involving GPs and schools was launched to try and vaccinate all those children aged ten to 16-years-old who have either not had the MMR jab or just one dose of it, in time for the start of the current school year last September.
PHE West Midlands say it has resulted in the number of ten to 16-year-olds receiving at least one does of the MMR vaccine in Worcestershire rising from 93.4 per cent to 96.4 per cent.
There was a slight drop in the cases of mumps in Worcestershire as well, down from 23 to 22, but significantly only six of those cases were confirmed following the start of the catch-up programme.
Dr Musarrat Afza, PHE West Midlands lead consultant for immunisation, said: "Measles is a potentially fatal, but entirely preventable, disease so we are delighted measles cases have recently decreased in England.
"The best way to prevent measles outbreaks is to ensure good uptake of the MMR vaccine across all age groups, so it’s heartening to see the success the catch-up programme had."
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