THE UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the NHS are calling on parents and guardians to ensure their children are up to date with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and all other routine childhood immunisations.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, there has been a significant drop in the numbers getting their children vaccinated against MMR and other childhood vaccines at the right time.

Children are offered two doses of the MMR vaccine by their registered GP surgery, the first when they turn 1 and the second at around 3 years and 4 months, before they start school.

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Dominic Mellon, deputy director for UKHSA South West said: “The MMR vaccine offers the best protection from measles, mumps and rubella which is why we’re calling on parents and carers to make sure their children are up to date with their two doses.

“Prior to the COVID pandemic we saw a slight increase in cases of measles and outbreaks in local communities, so we know the effect that even a small drop in vaccine coverage can have in terms of local population immunity levels.

“We also know that the pandemic will have made it difficult for parents to keep on top of child vaccinations due to home schooling, lockdowns and generally caring for families during a very challenging period.

"As things settle, we would urge parents to check if their children are up to date with their MMR vaccines and if not to get them booked in as soon as they are able. It’s never too late to catch-up."

Dr Julie Yates, lead consultant for screening and immunisation, NHS England and Improvement South West said: "Measles is an important childhood disease which can cause serious illness and even death.

"Whilst there have been very few cases of infectious diseases such as measles over the past couple of years mostly as a result of social distancing, mask wearing and other precautions introduced to prevent the spread of COVID19.

"As these restrictions lift and people start travelling again, we know that these diseases will start to come back and spread amongst those who are not immune.

"Parents who are unsure if their child is up to date with all their routine vaccinations, should check their child’s Red Book (personal child health record) in the first instance. If you are still not sure, or if you need to bring your child up to date with their vaccines, contact your GP practice to check and book an appointment."