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Measles jab advice 'getting through' in Swansea

media captionSome hospitals will hold drop-in vaccination clinics on Saturday

Health officials say they have seen an upsurge in the number of people being vaccinated against measles after more than 500 people were diagnosed with the disease in a south Wales outbreak.

Public Health Wales said although there had been a significant increase in people getting the MMR jab cases of measles continued to rise.

Latest stats show 541 cases in the outbreak which centres on Swansea.

An aim to eradicate measles in Europe by 2015 may not be met, experts fear.

Latest figures show the number of measles cases have gone up by more than 100 in a week, taking the total to 541.

Public Health Wales (PHW) said that cases continue to be reported across Wales, with the majority in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Powys and Hywel Dda health board areas.

Dr Marion Lyons, director of health protection for PHW, said the rise was to be expected given the scale of the epidemic.

But she added: "What I am pleased about is that parents do seem to be going to the GP asking for their children to be vaccinated or protected and we have seen a significant increase in children being vaccinated last week."

She had previously spoken of her disappointment that a very low proportion of susceptible children were being vaccinated in the outbreak area.

Dr Roland Salmon, a consultant epidemiologist from PHW, said that in particular GPs were seeing a lot of children aged between 10 and 15.

He said they would have been the babies who missed out on the vaccine following the now-discredited 1998 report linking the MMR jab and autism.

But he said there was still a long way to go to ensure everyone who needed the MMR vaccine gets it.

image captionHealth officials say there is still a lot of work to be done to vaccinate all those who need the MMR jab

"I think the message is getting through but in terms of people vaccinating, we're starting from rather a low base," he told BBC Radio Wales on Thursday.

"So there's still quite a lot of progress to be made."

Meanwhile, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has told BBC Wales that Europe is at risk of missing its deadline for eliminating measles entirely by 2015.

In its table of measles cases across the continent from last year, Romania and the UK had the most cases of the disease - Romania had 3,843 and the UK had 1,902. The total in Europe was 8,230.

Those figures do not include the number of cases during this year's Swansea epidemic.

Dr Salmon said he was not surprised that the deadline might be missed, adding: "I do think it's regrettable because measles is an eminently eliminatable disease."

Serious complications

PHW has warned that the risk of unvaccinated children coming into contact with those already infected with measles is "increasing every day".

It added that it was "just a matter of time" before a child was left with serious and permanent complications, such as eye disorders, deafness or brain damage, or even dies.

It has also taken the more unusual step of allowing babies as young as six months old to have an MMR jab, if the children live or travel to the epidemic 'hotspots' of Swansea or Neath Port Talbot.

In some cases it would mean children getting three doses of MMR instead of the usual two, which are recommended for children aged around 13 months and then three years four months.

Drop in MMR vaccination clinics will also be held at the following locations between 10:00 BST and 16:00 BST on Saturday: Morriston and Singleton Hospitals in Swansea; Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend; and Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

More on this story

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  • MMR 'is answer to outbreak'