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Measles infection rates soar sparking jabs warning | UK | News UK News

Some experts fear a heavy-handed approach will scare parents and fail to reverse vaccination rates after they slumped to a 10-year low.

On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency announced that unvaccinated children could be sent home from school for up to 21 days in a bid to stem the spread of the disease across the West Midlands.

It declared a “national incident” after more than 300 confirmed or likely cases were identified in the region since October.

Meanwhile, cases of the highly infectious virus doubled across England and Wales last year.

The agency’s chief executive Dr Jenny Harries made a “call to action”, urging parents to get their child’s ­vaccination status checked.

Uptake has dropped below the recommended level of 95 per cent since the pandemic, to just 82 per cent in Birmingham and as low as 68 per cent in parts of London, Liverpool and Manchester.

Experts say that lockdown measures, with reduced face-to-face child health services, meant many infants did not have access to routine jabs. Professor Robert Dingwall, an infectious disease expert and former government adviser, said: “It is too easy to blame parents for the failure in vaccine services.

“What is being proposed about keeping unvaccinated children out of school will interrupt their education for little or no benefit and could be counter-productive. We need to rebuild community child health services in hard-to-reach areas and encourage people to take up vaccines.”

And Professor Carl Heneghan, an urgent care GP and director of Oxford University’s Centre of Evidence-Based Medicine, said: “Children cannot afford to miss 21 days of school.

“Instead of coercion, control and forced absence from school, public health officials should be giving ­education advice and support to communities where there is low vaccine uptake. People are sick of being talked down to and given mandates.”

Dr Alasdair Munro, a leading child specialist, added: “Vaccine hesitancy is a challenging problem and a large part of it is linked to the lack of community health services and declining numbers of health visitors exacerbated by the lockdown measures.

“Shutting children out of school because they are unvaccinated should only be a very last resort. Instead we need to reinvest in our child services.”

The West Midlands UKHSA said unvaccinated children could be asked not to attend school for up to three weeks. Its statement said: “If a child is unvaccinated and is a close contact of a measles case, we may advise that the child not come to school.” 

Parents in London have also been sent letters warning if their children are unvaccinated and come into close contact with a measles case, they may need to self-isolate for up to 21 days.

One in five children who get infected with measles will have to go to hospital, with one in 15 developing serious complications such as meningitis or sepsis. One in 5,000 will die.

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This notice was published: 2024-01-21 13:40:00

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