In Brief

Half a million UK children missed measles jab

NHS boss warns of ‘public health time bomb’ thanks to ‘vaccination deniers’

More than half a million children in the UK did not receive their measles vaccination between 2010 and 2017, according to Unicef research. 

The UN children’s charity says that globally nearly 170m children under the age of 10, including 2.5m in the US, have missed their vaccination.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can lead to major complications, including infections of the brain and lungs. It is sometimes fatal.

An estimated 110,000 people died from the disease in 2017, a 22% rise on the previous year, ITV News reports.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation announced that measles cases worldwide rose by 300% during the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period last year.

There were 259 cases of the highly infectious illness in England in 2017, rising to 966 in 2018, while similar surges have been seen across Europe, and parts of Asia and Africa.

The Daily Telegraph says the increase is due to the anti-vaccination movement which emerged from “fraudulent” discredited research by “disgraced” British doctor Andrew Wakefield linking the MMR jab to autism.

NHS chief Simon Stevens told the BBC the trend of people rejecting vaccines was a “growing public health time bomb” and that “vaccination deniers” have been gaining traction on social media. He called on social media companies to develop a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-vax posts.

Professor Beate Kampmann, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the Unicef data was a “wake-up call”, while Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, said that vaccinating against childhood infections like measles “should be a no-brainer”.

Henrietta Fore, executive director at Unicef, said: “The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike.”

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