30,000 children in Wales 'still need measles jab'

AMs have been reviewing the Swansea outbreak which saw more than 1,200 cases

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Fears have been raised that up to 30,000 children in Wales still need urgent protection against measles despite a large outbreak around Swansea being brought under control.

The Welsh assembly's health committee said there could be "no room for complacency between outbreaks".

The committee has been reviewing the Swansea outbreak, which saw more than 1,200 cases of disease.

It found the epidemic had been handled effectively and decisively.

But the assembly members heard from Public Health Wales that with tens of thousands of children not having had both doses of the MMR jab, there was "absolutely no guarantee" that it could not happen again.

Start Quote

... there is no room for complacency now that this particular incident has been contained”

End Quote David Rees, AM

In a letter to Health Minister Mark Drakeford, the AMs said co-ordination of information-technology systems and staff training should be re-examined in the wake of the outbreak.

They added it was crucial that heightened public awareness of MMR was not allowed to diminish.

The Welsh government and its agencies should also look to provide increased opportunities for people to receive MMR jabs, possibly at the same time as they received other vaccinations at secondary school, the AMs said.

The government has a target of 95% of people having had both MMR vaccinations. The committee said health boards' vaccination and immunisation plans should focus on MMR until take-up levels had reached at least that figure.

MEASLES OUTBREAK

  • Began in November 2012
  • There have been no laboratory-confirmed cases in the affected area since May when the outbreak was cleared over
  • Some 75,868 unscheduled vaccinations were given to people around Wales who had not been immunised to control the epidemic
  • In the outbreak area more than 30,000 doses of the MMR vaccine were given
  • GP surgeries administered 16,500 and drop-in clinics have given more than 8,500
  • School and occupational health clinics administered more than 5,300 jabs
Double MMR doses

Committee chair David Rees said: "The recent measles outbreak showed the danger of being complacent about the need to achieve and maintain the highest rates of vaccination among the general public.

"It is a timely reminder that vaccinations at an early age are vital and that people must be made aware of the possible consequences of not having them.

"While we commend the positive action that the Welsh government, Public Health Wales, other health services and partner organisations took once the outbreak was confirmed, the committee is adamant that there is no room for complacency now that this particular incident has been contained.

"We were told that there are still approximately 30,000 children in Wales in need of both doses of the MMR jab and we urge the Welsh government and Public Health Wales to address that statistic with urgency."

The first cases of measles around the Swansea area were reported in the middle of November 2012.

It spread rapidly and by the time the outbreak was declared over six months later, it had resulted in 1,219 notifications of measles cases in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Hywel Dda and Powys health board areas.

Some 88 people visited a hospital due to measles during the outbreak.

Gareth Colfer-Williams, 25, from Swansea, died from pneumonia after contracting measles at the height of the epidemic.

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