Vaccine uptake at all time high on Merseyside

Published on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 12:28
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Parents are responding to the largest outbreak of measles on Merseyside since 1988 by having their children vaccinated. The latest figures for Liverpool show that 96% of children have had their first dose of MMR vaccine by the age of two and nine children out of 10 have had the second dose by age five. The uptake rates for other PCTs are also at an all-time high.

Dr. Roberto Vivancos, a consultant in communicable disease control with the HPA's Cheshire and Merseyside Health Protection Unit (HPU) said: "The response by parents has been extremely encouraging and MMR uptake rates across Merseyside are now the highest they've ever been.

"This has been the largest outbreak of measles in the North West since the introduction of MMR vaccine 24 years ago and it has demonstrated just why this vaccine is so important in protecting the public health. Parents of young children clearly value the protection, security and peace of mind that MMR vaccine affords, but there remains a pool of older children, teenagers and young adults who are not vaccinated and remain vulnerable to measles, mumps and German measles.

"Our message to older teenagers and young adults is that if you were not vaccinated as children, it's not too late for you. You should speak to your family doctor about MMR vaccine because without its protection you will remain vulnerable to three potentially very serious diseases. In addition to the current outbreak of measles in the Liverpool area, we have seen outbreaks of mumps in further education colleges and universities in recent years and if pregnant women should get German measles the consequences for the unborn child can be devastating.

"Our message to parents of unvaccinated younger children and teenagers is to speak to the family doctor and arrange to have them vaccinated now."

The latest figures reveal that there have been 301 laboratory confirmed cases in Liverpool and surrounding districts (as at 2.00pm on Tuesday 12 June) since the beginning of January this year. A further 148 probable cases are under investigation.

Over 90 cases (almost one-third of the total) were teenagers over the age of 15 and young adults. Seventy were babies and toddlers under the age of one year who were too young to be vaccinated and were therefore vulnerable to infection from older contacts. And approximately 55 were children aged 13-40 months who were either wholly or partially unvaccinated.

Fifty four of the laboratory confirmed cases and 13 of the suspected cases were treated in hospital. A number were seriously ill, requiring intensive care, but thankfully all have recovered or are recovering. (Possibly an underestimation as there may have been more people in hospital than we knew about - or have yet to be reported to us.)

Dr. Vivancos added: "It is a tribute to the hard work of the team here at Cheshire and Merseyside Health Protection Unit and to our colleagues in local NHS services that this outbreak was largely confined to Liverpool and neighbouring areas. Their efforts were immense. At one time we had an operations centre open seven days a week."Actions to contain the outbreak included:

Following up on vulnerable contacts of cases, including immune-compromised children and adults, pregnant women and babies to ensure that they were vaccinated or offered human immunoglobulin where appropriate. In some instances, contacts of measles cases extended to over 100 people.

A measles priority clinic was set up in Liverpool. Contacts of measles cases were referred by the HPA for either protective MMR vaccination or human immunoglobulin.

GPs were asked to trawl their records to identify unvaccinated children, teenagers and young adults and invite them in for MMR jabs. Thousands have already been vaccinated as a result and the campaign is on-going.


This is a geographical breakdown of the 301 laboratory confirmed cases:

Liverpool: 183

Knowsley: 42

Sefton: 37

Western Cheshire: 14

Wirral: 10

Halton and St. Helens: 10

Central & Eastern Cheshire: 3

Warrington: 2

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