A new measles and rubella elimination strategy mapping out how the UK can achieve a future that is free of measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) has been published.
The strategy, developed by Public Health England (PHE) and supported by partners across the NHS and the devolved administrations, builds on the experience and success of 50 years of measles vaccination and 30 years of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisation programme.
The strategy focuses on four core components required to maintain elimination of measles and rubella:
- Achieve and sustain ≥95 per cent coverage with two doses of MMR vaccine in the routine childhood programme.
- Achieve ≥95 per cent coverage with two doses of MMR vaccine in older age cohorts through opportunistic and targeted catch-up.
- Strengthen measles and rubella surveillance.
- Ensure easy access to high-quality, evidence-based information.
Analysis conducted by PHE shows that immunity levels within some age groups across the UK - especially young people aged 15 to 20 years - are well below the levels needed to prevent measles from spreading.
In 2016 and 2017, uptake of the first dose of the MMR vaccine in five-year olds in the UK exceeded 95 per cent for the first time. However, uptake of the second dose of MMR in five-year-old children is currently 88 per cent.
The new strategy says that partners in the local health economy need to work together to continue to increase uptake of the MMR vaccine in all children, and address immunity gaps across the population by catching up teenagers and young adults who missed out on the vaccine when they were younger.