HEALTH Measles ‘will run out of control unless jabs made compulsory’
By Henry Bodkin, Health Correspondent
MEASLES will become endemic in Britain within 30 years unless vaccinations are made compulsory for schoolchildren, academics have suggested.
A new study predicts current efforts will be insufficient to keep the disease at bay. Last year, 3.7 per cent of the population was believed to be susceptible to measles, comfortably below the 7.5 per cent needed for “herd immunity”, the threshold below which outbreaks of measles tend not to spread.
However, the computer model analysis found that continuing with current practices would not be sufficient to suppress the tide of vaccine scepticism and the proportion would break the 7.5 per cent barrier by 2050 at the latest.
The proportion of the population believed to be susceptible to measles, well below the 7.5 per cent needed for herd immunity
It found that compulsory vaccination on entering school would “strongly benefit” the fight against the disease.
Last month, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said he could not rule out the possibility that unvaccinated children would be sent home unless the immunisation rate improved.
Dr Stefano Merler, from the Bruno Kessler Foundation, Italy, said: “Our results suggest that most of the countries we have studied would strongly benefit from the introduction of compulsory vaccination at school entry in addition to current immunisation programmes.
“In particular, we found that this strategy would allow the UK, Ireland and the US to reach stable herd immunity levels in the next decades, which means that a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease to avoid future outbreaks. To be effective, mandatory vaccination at school entry would need to cover more than 40 per cent of the population.”
In the UK, measles vaccination comes as part of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, which is offered as two injections, the first within a month of a child’s first birthday and the second usually at three years and four months.
Last month, figures showed that more than half a million British children are now unvaccinated against measles, with first-jab coverage among children reaching their second birthday in England now at 91 per cent.
Last night, some British experts criticised the study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, arguing that compulsory vaccination might exclude children whose families reject mainstream education.