Health experts are urging the public to get young people and children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, saying it’s never too late to get an MMR jab.

A rise in measles in recent weeks could signal the start of an outbreak in London – and most confirmed cases are in adolescents and young adults.

In London there have been more than 60 cases of measles confirmed in the last two months, a period when there would usually be less than 10.

And it’s significant that 48 of these of these cases were in patients aged 15 or over.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, regional director for Public Health England (PHE) in London, said: “We are seeing an increase in measles cases across London which could be considered an outbreak.

“The cases are being confirmed mainly in adolescents and young adults, and it’s never too late for them to have the vaccine.

“Those who have not received two doses of the vaccine in the past – or who are unsure – should speak to their GP.

“There’s no harm in receiving an additional dose where there is any uncertainty.”

MMR is given to children aged 12 months, with a second dose shortly after their third birthday, but PHE has warned that around 24,000 children are not having their jabs on time.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 95 per cent of children need to be vaccinated for herd immunity to be effective.

Vaccine uptake rates in England are currently among the highest in Europe, but an increase is still needed to reach the WHO’s 95 per cent target for MMR vaccination in two-year-olds.

The current rate in London is just over 87 per cent.


An increase in measles cases is also being seen across the rest of England.

Uptake of the MMR vaccine fell heavily in the late 1990s following the publication by Dr Andrew Wakefield of research suggesting a possible link between the vaccine and autism.

Experts have widely discredited his study and he was struck off the medical register in 2010.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications.

Although usually a mild illness in children, measles can be more severe in adults.

Signs of measles include cold-like symptoms, sore red eyes, a high temperature and a red-brown blotchy rash.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE said: "We're asking parents, young people and healthcare professionals to help us eradicate measles in this country.

"Back in days before a vaccine was available, hundreds of thousands caught measles and around 100 people died each year.

"But now, the whole community benefits from the herd immunity the safe and effective MMR vaccination offers.

"Fewer people get ill and the disease's spread is restricted."

In 2014/15, 92.3 per cent of children were vaccinated with the first dose of MMR by their second birthday, down on the previous year.

Some 88.6 per cent of children had received both doses of MMR by their fifth birthday, a slight increase on the previous year although still below the WHO target.

She added: "This is an opportunity to consign measles to the history books.”