Parents can now get their children vaccinated against measles on the high street amid a worrying outbreak of the contagious bug.
Superdrug today announced it was offering the MMR vaccination service at some of its stores – costing £110 for the recommended two doses.
Health officials have repeatedly urged parents to ensure their youngsters have been given the jab, as cases of measles in the UK continue to spiral.
Public Health England last week warned cases in some parts of the country this year have soared and are now at a level greater than cases reported for the whole of 2017.
This year there have been at least 250 confirmed measles cases in London alone.
Unprotected holidaymakers going to Europe, where a large outbreak rages on, have taken the brunt of the blame as vaccine rates continue to decline.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) claims fear over the safety of the MMR vaccines and their discredited links to autism, along with complacency, means potentially thousands are unprotected.
Superdrug today announced it was offering the MMR vaccination service at some of its stores – costing £110 for the recommended two doses
When is the MMR vaccine given?
The NHS already offers the MMR vaccine to infants, who get their first dose at 13 months and a top-up before they turn five. It is also offered to anyone who hasn’t already been given it.
The first dose offers protection to the majority of patients, while the second dose helps to cover the remaining and increase the length it works. The NHS states a completed MMR vaccine works for around 20 years.
However, the number of children getting the life-saving jab has declined in recent years, according to NHS immunisation figures.
This means, in theory, potentially thousands of adults have not been given the MMR jab because of the reluctance of their parents.
Currently, the MMR vaccination is advised for travel to the majority of Asia, Africa, India and South America.
The Department of Health also recommends that students should have certain vaccinations prior to attending university, including MMR.
The decision by parents not to vaccinate their children could be attributed to the views of disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. He was behind a study in 1995, now retracted for being ‘fundamentally flawed’, that linked the MMR vaccine to autism and bowel disease.
Nonetheless, vaccination rates plummeted in the UK, where rates went from being more than 90 per cent to below 70 per cent. The US was also affected.
The most recent NHS data shows 91.6 per cent of two-year-olds were given the jab between 2016 and 2017 – but this is still lower than the recommended 95 per cent.
WHAT IS MEASLES, WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS AND HOW CAN YOU CATCH IT?
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily from an injected person by coughing, sneezing or even just breathing. Symptoms develop between six and 19 days after infection, and include a runny nose, cough, sore eyes, a fever and a rash.
The rash appears as red and blotchy marks on the hairline that travel down over several days, turning brown and eventually fading. Some children complain of disliking bright lights or develop white spots with red backgrounds on their tongue.
In one in 15 cases, measles can cause life-threatening complications including pneumonia, convulsions and encephalitis.
Dr Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society told MailOnline: ‘Measles can be very serious.
‘[It] can cause encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain.
‘Encephalitis can result in death or disability.’
Treatment focuses on staying hydrated, resting and taking painkillers, if necessary.
Measles can be prevented by receiving two vaccinations, the first at 13 months old and the second at three years and four months to five years old.
Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital
An alert to holidaymakers
Public Health England has repeatedly warned unvaccinated holidaymakers about the risk of contracting measles.
Government figures show that more than 250 cases of the contagious infection have been reported in London since the start of 2018.
In comparison, just 243 were recorded in the whole of 2017, according to a report by Dr Yvonne Doyle, regional director of PHE’s London office.
The outbreak of measles comes after global health leaders declared an ‘elimination’ of the contagious bug in the UK.
This was nearly achieved in the 1990s – but Dr Wakefield’s controversial research set the home nations off course.
Measles in Europe
Officials believe the rise in cases is being triggered by travellers, who are returning to the UK, where it is being spread among unvaccinated groups.
Romania, Italy, Germany, Greece and France are all experiencing unprecedented cases of the highly infectious, life-threatening condition.
Figures in February revealed the number of measles cases in Europe rose by 400 per cent in 2017 compared to the previous year.
Measles struck 21,315 people last year, resulting in 35 fatalities. This came after a record low of just 5,273 incidences in 2016.
Vaccine will be available at nearly 50 stores
Superdrug customers can now get the MMR jab as part of the firm’s travel health service, which offers a range of vaccines, such as typhoid.
It comes after the high-street retailer, which has 339 stores across the UK, became the first to offer the chickenpox vaccine last July.
A Superdrug spokesperson said it made the decision to offer the MMR vaccine ‘in response to customer demand’. The jab will be available in 48 clinics.
They added: ‘More people are choosing to travel and work abroad and want to be protected especially at a time when there are outbreaks of measles appearing among some of the most popular destinations for UK travellers.
‘MMR vaccination is available free on the NHS but only to children and certain “at risk” adults.
‘There is, however, a proportion of the population whose parents may have chosen not to have them vaccinated when they were children and who are now left vulnerable to MMR.’
IS ANDREW WAKEFIELD’S DISCREDITED AUTISM RESEARCH TO BLAME FOR LOW MEASLES VACCINATION RATES?
In 1995, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.
He speculated that being injected with a ‘dead’ form of the measles virus via vaccination causes disruption to intestinal tissue, leading to both of the disorders.
After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said: ‘The risk of this particular syndrome [what Wakefield termed ‘autistic enterocolitis’] developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.’
At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.
Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK plummeted, until, in 2004 the then-editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton described Wakefield’s research as ‘fundamentally flawed’, adding he was paid by attorneys seeking lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.
The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.
Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practicing medicine in Britain, stating his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.
On January 6 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had autistic symptoms post vaccination, rather than the eight he claimed.
At least two of the children also had developmental delays before they were vaccinated, yet Wakefield’s paper claimed they were all ‘previously normal’.
Further findings revealed none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, yet the study claimed six of the participants suffered all three.