Parents in Swindon are being urged to vaccinate their children against measles after a rise in cases across the country.

Cases are rising especially among young children, and this has led to Swindon Borough Council’s director of public health issuing the plea. 

Measles spreads very easily among those who are unvaccinated and can cause very serious illness in some children, leading to hospitalisation.

People in certain at-risk groups including babies and young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity, are at increased risk of complications from measles. Symptoms include a high fever, sore red watery eyes and a blotchy red-brown rash.

Recent figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have revealed that the uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in young children aged 5 is 85 per cent. This is at its lowest level in more than a decade and well below the recommended target of 95 per cent.

In 2022/23, 86.8 per cent of children in Swindon have received two doses of the MMR vaccine by the age of five.

The best protection against measles for children and adults is to get both doses of the MMR vaccine. Children are offered a free vaccine on the NHS at 12 months old and then a pre-school booster dose at three years and four months of age.

Parents are encouraged to check their child’s personal child health record (PCHR), known as the red book, or contact their GP practice to check if they’ve been vaccinated.

Throughout the next few months, national MMR vaccination reminders will be sent to the parents and guardians of children aged between 6 and 11 in Swindon, who are not yet fully vaccinated against measles.

A version of the MMR vaccine that does not contain gelatine can be obtained from GP practices, making it suitable for people of all faiths, but this may need to be ordered in advance. 

Professor Steve Maddern, Swindon Borough Council’s director of public health said: “I would encourage Swindon residents to make sure they’re up to date with their routine MMR vaccine. In particular, I would urge all parents to check if their children are vaccinated, to protect them against measles, mumps and rubella.

“Measles is a serious illness, with one in five children who get the disease having to be admitted to hospital for treatment, so if you or your child has not had the MMR jab, it’s vital you get vaccinated.”