UPTAKE of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination in children has dropped to the lowest level in a decade, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Figures show a significant drop in the numbers of children being vaccinated against MMR since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Coverage of the first dose of the MMR vaccine in two-year-old children in England has dropped below 90 per cent and coverage for the two doses in five-year-old children is currently 85.5 per cent. These figures are below the 95 per cent World Health Organization (WHO) target needed to achieve and sustain measles elimination.
The UKHSA estimates that now more than one in 10 children under the age of five are not fully protected from measles.
A survey conducted by the UKHSA and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) of 2,000 parents and guardians of children aged five has found that almost half (48 per cent) are not aware that measles can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and brain inflammation, and 38 per cent are unaware that measles can be fatal.
More than half of parents (56 per cent) are not aware that two doses of the MMR vaccine gives 99 per cent protection against measles and rubella.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: "Even a small drop in vaccine coverage can have a big impact on population immunity levels and lead to outbreaks."
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, commented: "It’s very concerning to see this drop in MMR vaccination rates. The MMR vaccine offers safe and effective protection from serious, sometimes fatal, illnesses. It is one of the most effective health interventions we have and we would urge all parents to ensure their children have the MMR vaccination, and that their vaccinations are kept up-to-date.
"GPs and our teams have worked incredibly hard to ensure childhood vaccinations have continued to be available throughout the pandemic. If any parents did not come forward during the crisis, for whatever reason, we would encourage them to make an appointment for their child to have the MMR vaccination as soon as possible."