May 21, 2013

Measles surges in UK years after vaccine scare

Vaccination rates dropped after a flawed study linked the shot to autism. Catch-up clinics are being held.

The Associated Press

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Lucy Butler,15, gets ready to have her measles jab recently at All Saints School in Ingleby Barwick, Teesside, England, during a national vaccination catch-up campaign to curb a rise in measles cases in England.

AP

To stop measles outbreaks, more than 95 percent of children need to be fully immunized. In some parts of the U.K., the rate is still below 80 percent.

Unlike in the United States, where most states require children to be vaccinated against measles before starting school, no such regulations exist in Britain. Parents are advised to have their children immunized, but Britain's Department of Health said it had no plans to consider introducing mandatory vaccination.

Last year, there were 55 reported cases of measles in the United States, where the measles vaccination rate is above 90 percent. So far this year, there have been 22 cases, including three that were traced to Britain. In previous years, the U.K. has sometimes exported more cases of measles to the U.S. than some countries in Africa.

Portia Ncube, a health worker at an East London clinic, said the struggle to convince parents to get the MMR shot is being helped by the measles epidemic in Wales.

"They see what's happening in Wales, so some of them are now sensible enough to come in and get their children vaccinated," she said.

Clinic patient Ellen Christensen, mother of an infant son, acknowledged she had previously had some "irrational qualms" about the MMR vaccine.

"But after reading more about it, I know now that immunization is not only good for your own child, it's good for everyone," she said.

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