London at risk of measles outbreak due to low vaccination rates

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London is at risk of a measles outbreak leading to as many as 160,000 cases unless vaccination rates improve, a public health authority has warned.

Cases of measles are already rising in England, with 128 in the first half of the year compared with 54 in the whole of 2022, according to data published Friday by the UK Health Security Agency.

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Two thirds of cases were found in London, due to lower vaccination rates in the capital.

The body said that the risk of a large measles outbreak outside London is low, but there is greater chance of concentrated outbreaks among under-vaccinated communities and in young people.

People aged 19 to 25 years are at particular risk because of scare campaigns against the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella in the early 2000s, the UKHSA warned.

Uptake of the MMR vaccine for children is at the lowest level in a decade, said the authority. Currently, 85 percent of five-year-olds have both doses of the jab in England, lower than the 95 percent needed to prevent outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization.

By the time children start school, 10 percent are unprotected from measles in England, and 20 percent in London.

The National Health Service launched a campaign on Friday to encourage people to check whether they are fully vaccinated, which can be done by contacting a GP or checking childhood health records.

“Measles spreads very easily but is preventable,” said Vanessa Saliba, a consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA. “Due to longstanding sub-optimal vaccine uptake there is now a very real risk of seeing big outbreaks in London.”

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