After worrying reports of the number of people receiving vaccinations dropped for the fourth year, despite the number of cases of measles trebling over the last year. The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called out what the ‘fake news’ surrounding the safety of vaccinations and told reporters that he wouldn’t rule out keeping unvaccinated children out of school.
Refusing school places to unvaccinated children is common practice in France, where children aren’t allowed to go to state schools or nurseries unless they have had all their vaccinations. The USA has a similar policy for children who haven’t had the MMR jab. However, experts have said that this would be an extreme measure and could fuel the anti-vaxx movement.
The Health Secretary was interviewed on TalkRadio about the subject after Unicef revealed that over half a million children in the UK were unvaccinated against measles between 2010 and 2017. He told listeners that he was very worried about the issue and that he wouldn’t rule out meeting with the Education Secretary to come up with a similar policy to that in France and America.
Over the last few years, there have been 259 cases of measles in England which rose to 966 in 2018. Children need two doses of the vaccine for protection, the first dose is said to have had a 95% uptake in 2017 but the second one was only 88%. Unicef has explained this by saying the rates reflect a “lack of access, poor health systems, complacency and in some cases, fear or scepticism about vaccines.”
Public Health England has stated that the UK received WHO measles elimination status in 2017, so the overall risk of measles among the UK population is low. However, due to ongoing outbreaks in Europe there are increased risks of infection, particularly in people who haven’t had the vaccine, which could lead to spreading in communities with low MMR coverage and in closely mixed age groups.
Measles is an extremely serious illness that can lead to complications, including infections of the lungs and brain and seizures.