Plans in place for measles vaccinations in Central Bedfordshire as cases on the rise

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Clinicians ready to meet any surge in vaccination uptake

Clinicians are prepared to meet any surge in vaccination uptake in Central Bedfordshire around the latest measles outbreak.

A measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) strategy for the East of England has been produced, while a national vaccination programme began in December, Central Bedfordshire Council’s health and wellbeing board was told.

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Consultant in public health (health protection) for CBC Jo Freedman described it as “timely”, given the measles outbreak centred around London and the West Midlands.

Stock image of MMR vaccine.Stock image of MMR vaccine.
Stock image of MMR vaccine.

Presenting a report on child and adolescent immunisation uptake in Central Bedfordshire, she said: “MMR gets measured at two years and the first dose has been below target. I don’t think we’ve ever been above target for the first dose.

“By five years, we’re starting to get to the 95 per cent target (herd immunity) for the first dose. but the second dose is very much below target at around 90 per cent.

“It’s really important that there are two doses. One dose protects nine in ten children from measles. The second protects nine in ten who didn’t respond to the first dose. The two doses almost protect 100 per cent of children.

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“As a local authority, we amplify national and regional campaigns, we’re involved in stakeholder engagement and there’s our outreach team talking to parents and relevant groups about vaccination. We’re also working with BLMK integrated care board (ICB) on the measles situation.”

Immunisation manager for Hertfordshire Barbara Hamill explained: “The most important thing for uptake is a phone call to a parent.

“We’ll be implementing two call centre-style teams across the east of England and will know from a database those children with no MMR vaccination or an incomplete one.

“It’s six days a week and includes evenings and Saturdays. Several clinics are supporting this programme, which will function from April 1st.

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“Plenty of information will emerge from this, with another focused piece of work looking at the evidence. Is it a particular cohort or ethnic group that are saying ‘No, they don’t want their child vaccinated’?

“The last MMR is more difficult to administer around getting the parents in, as children are normally at nursery. The parents have gone back to work. If a GP doesn’t give good access time, they don’t turn up.

“But we’re finding if we phone and offer a clinic on a Saturday morning then they come. I’m about to establish a group across BLMK to access the early years, as well.”

Independent Biggleswade West councillor Hayley Whitaker said: “We’re almost bounded on two sides by that measles outbreak.

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“Hopefully it will lead to a surge in uptake of vaccination. Is there capacity to deal with this and what’s the timespan for that immunity to kick in and for children to be protected?” she asked.

Ms Hamill replied: “It takes two weeks for the vaccine to have the response you want. On the surge, there’s also a national invite going out to parents from February 5th.

“I don’t see problems around capacity. We’ve always been looking at the preventative programme around BLMK and potential uptake.”