22nd August 2018

Measles vaccination could be
the unexpected addition to this
year's pre-holiday checklist

Although it’s not an obvious item on your holiday preparation list, incorporating the measles vaccination into your pre-holiday routine may prove vital in staying healthy this summer. Public Health England is warning that incidents of measles are rising across the country after holidaymakers return from areas in Europe with high outbreaks and spread the virus.1 This comes just one year after the UK received elimination status for measles from the World Health Organization and reached the target 95% vaccination rate.2 

The reason for this recent outbreak traces back to 1998 when a study was published that claimed to have found a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. The study has since been widely discredited, withdrawn from the esteemed medical journal The Lancet, and the author struck off from the medical register. However, uptake of the MMR vaccine fell from 92% in 1995 to just 72% in 2000, leaving many children vulnerable to infection.3,4 Now, 20 years later, the damaging effects of this fraudulent study are making themselves felt. These same unvaccinated children are now grown up and travelling around Europe, Including destinations where large outbreaks have occurred such as Italy and Germany. Because they are unvaccinated, these young travellers are at risk of catching and spreading measles back home.1 

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Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to man, and in rare cases can be fatal.2 Because there is no treatment for measles, vaccination is the only way to protect against it. But the good news is that MMR is very effective, and the more people who are vaccinated the harder it is for the virus to spread.3 You’re never too old to be vaccinated and it’s even free on the NHS! Single vaccines are available at some private clinics; however, these are not currently recommended by the NHS.5 

 So when you’ve booked that holiday in Europe, don’t forget to check your vaccination status with your GP and, if necessary, book yourself in for an MMR vaccination too. 

References

  1. Department of Health. Measles and summer travel to Europe 2018; https://www.gov.uk/government/news/measles-and-summer-travel-to-europe (accessed August 2018). 
  2. Public Health England. Measles has been eliminated in the UK – so why do we still see cases and outbreaks? 2018; https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2018/01/22/measles-has-been-eliminated-in-the-uk-so-why-do-we-still-see-cases-and-outbreaks/ (accessed August 2018).
  3. World Health Organization measles factsheet: http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/measles (accessed August 2018).
  4. Public Health England. Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR): use of combined vaccine instead of single vaccines. 2014; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mmr-vaccine-dispelling-myths/measles-mumps-rubella-mmr-maintaining-uptake-of-vaccine (accessed August 2018).
  5. NHS. MMR vaccine FAQs, 2018; https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/mmr-questions-answers/ (accessed August 2018).