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If your child is not protected against measles, get them immunised, this is the message from a health chief in Havering.

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After the recent measles outbreak in Swansea a national catch-up programme to increase MMR vaccination uptake in children and teenagers was announced yesterday (Thursday) by Public Health England, NHS England and the Department of Health.

The aim is to prevent outbreaks by vaccinating as many unvaccinated and partially vaccinated 10 to 16-year-olds as possible in time for the next school year.

Havering Council’s director of public health, Dr Mary Black, is advising parents with children who have not been immunised against measles, a highly infectious viral illness that can lead to serious complications, including blindness and even death, to see their doctor as soon as possible.

She said: “Young people who have not been immunised, for whatever reason, are not immune and can catch it. They need to be immunised and can to go to their doctor to do this. All the GPs in the borough are ready and have stocks readily available.”

Experts believe the rise in measles cases can be mostly attributed to the proportion of unprotected young people, who missed out on vaccination in the late 1990s and early 2000s when concern around the discredited link between autism and the vaccine was widespread.

After many years of low vaccination uptake, measles became re-established in 2007.

Dr Black added: “Young people aged 16 to 19 are more likely not to be immunised than other age groups. A lot of older people have probably had it as a child.”

“Now there are very few cases of measles, and people tend to get it when they are older, which can lead to complications if they have anything else with it, like asthma.”

She added that it was important that parents keep their child’s vaccination record up to date, so that children know what they are protected against in the future.

There have been no reported cases of measles in the borough this year and there was one reported case last year. But Elaine Greenway, acting associate director of Public Health in Havering, said: “We are not being complacent about it. If you have not had a chance to get your child vaccinated, now is the time to do so.

“And we would ask teenagers not to rely on their parents to get them immunised. Make sure you are immunised, especially if you are going to university or will be travelling overseas.”

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