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Councils offer public health assistance for measles vaccination programme

Public Health England (PHE) aims to vaccinate more than a million extra 10 to 16-year-olds in the next six months as part of nationwide vaccination catch-up programme.

Across England, 587 cases were reported between January and March, and there were 2,000 last year. South Wales is currently suffering an outbreak of measles too.

Under their new responsibilities for public health, council leaders across the country are echoing calls by PHE and the NHS that it is not too late to get vaccinated and for people to check that they and their loved ones are protected.

About 88% of the population is protected against measles, but this programme aims to bring the total closer to the 95% recommended by the World Health Organisation.

In the first instance people are being asked to check with their GP, but in areas where vaccination rates are significantly below 95%, councils and PHE may need to set up additional vaccination clinics in schools and leisure centres to ensure that their populations are protected.

The LGA has been working with the Association of Directors of Public Health, PHE, the Department of Health and councils themselves to ensure that lead councillors for public health services and directors of public health have access to data about the number of cases in their area.

LGA chairman Sir Merrick Cockell said: “Councils all over the country are ready to provide colleagues from Public Health England and the NHS with every assistance in rolling out the vaccination catch-up programme, and where necessary we will be helping set up special clinics in schools and community youth centres to encourage take-up.

“We echo the call for people to check their medical records and for parents in particular to make sure their children have had both doses of the MMR jab needed to protect them from this highly contagious disease.

“Because of the now widely discredited controversy around the MMR jab in the 1990s, generations of children have grown up without being fully immunised against measles. The recent outbreaks serve as a timely reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated and we urge people not to wait until cases are reported closer to home.”

Janet Atherton, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said:

“Last year more people were given the MMR jab than ever before in this country yet we saw almost five times as many cases as we had in 2004. Unfortunately the drop in vaccination rates in the late 1990s following concerns around the safety of the vaccine have created a generation of young people who are now at high risk from the disease.

“Whether it be through schools, our links with the community or through our own workforce, local authorities have a real opportunity to support PHE and get the message out there that MMR is not only safe, but by making sure our children and young people are fully vaccinated we can help prevent a disease that should have been consigned to the history books years ago.”

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