Adults across the UK have been urged to check if they’ve received the complete measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), particularly if they plan to travel abroad.
Between 1 January 2018 and 18 June 2018 there were 643 confirmed measles cases in England, Public Health England (PHE) has warned, with more across the rest of Europe.
“We often think about what travel-related vaccines we might need before going on holiday, but it’s also important to check that we are up to date with routine vaccinations like MMR,” Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said.
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The current MMR vaccine is free for adults and children on the NHS and protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) in a single injection, but requires two doses to be effective.
If you’re unsure whether you’ve had the full course of MMR, PHE recommends checking with your GP, where it should be on your records. If there’s any doubt, you should go ahead and have the injections anyway, according to the NHS.
“Even if you’ve had it before, it won’t harm you to have a second, or even third, course of the vaccination,” the website explains.
Checking whether you’ve received the full dose of MMR is particularly important if you’re planning to get pregnant, as rubella infection in pregnancy can lead to birth defects and miscarriage. However, the MMR vaccine is not suitable for women who are already pregnant and the NHS says you should avoid getting pregnant for one month after having the vaccine.
Some adults may not have received full protection because of changes in the MMR vaccine. Anyone born between 1980 and 1990 may not have received a mumps vaccine, and anyone born between 1970 and 1979 may have only had a measles vaccine. If you fall into one of these groups, you’re advised to ask your GP for the MMR vaccination.
While vaccine uptake levels in the UK in young children are currently very high, coverage levels dipped to a low of 80% in 2003. This means that there are significant numbers of unprotected teenagers and young adults who could catch measles both in England, particularly in environments of close mixing such as summer festivals, and when they travel abroad for the summer holidays, PHE said.
“Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can sometimes lead to serious complications and can be fatal in very rare cases so getting protected by taking up the offer of vaccination is crucial,” it added.
Parents are also urged to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children at one years old and as a pre-school booster at three years and four months old.