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Public Health Wales renews call for parents to take children for MMR jab

Measles cases still rising despite 10,000 MMR jabs in past week

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Public Health Wales has issued a fresh urgent call for parents to take unvaccinated children for their MMR jab, as the number of measles cases in Wales has now risen to 886 – despite more than 10,000 non-routine vaccinations being given across Wales in the past week alone.

It warns that there is no sign of an end to the outbreak, with 78 new cases since last Thursday and a total of 80 admissions so far. As well as Swansea, there are high rates of measles throughout the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University, Powys and Hywel Dda health board areas, especially in Neath Port Talbot and North Powys.

Public Health Wales is particularly keen to target children 10-18 years old for vaccination before the school summer holidays begin, and so all health boards have set up vaccination sessions in schools, with more drop-in sessions this Saturday in the worst affected areas.

Dr Marion Lyons, its director of health protection, said: “There is still an urgent need to vaccinate more children if we are going to end this outbreak. The hardest hit age group is those between 10 and 18 so we would remind those young people and their parents that now is the time to be vaccinated.

“We have seen in the last few days that measles can be potentially fatal and no one should be complacent about the severity of measles. It can kill but can be prevented by a simple, safe vaccine.”

She reminded parents that two MMR doses are needed for protection, and that even if their child is already incubating measles by the time that they receive the jab, they are likely to have milder symptoms than if they hadn’t been vaccinated.

Dr Lyons said: “Measles cannot be taken lightly because you can never tell who will go on to develop the more serious complications of pneumonia or encephalitis. MMR vaccination offers the only protection against these complications … The alarming numbers of cases of measles and continuing spread of the disease in Wales illustrates how vital it is for parents to get their children vaccinated."

She added that babies 6-12 months old could also be offered MMR by their GP in the worst-hit areas, but would still need their routine two doses later, at the usual age.

Public Health Wales has advised parents who suspect that their child has measles to contact their GP and, if they need to attend the surgery, to phone ahead so that arrangements can be made in advance for minimising contact with other vulnerable patients.

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