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MMR vaccines to be given out in schools across Cardiff and Vale as measles threat intensifies

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Children who missed out on two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine could soon receive them in school following concerns over the threat of measles across Cardiff and the Vale.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s immunisation team is visiting more than 60 primary and secondary schools – where uptake of MMR is less than 90% – over the next few weeks to administer the safe and effective vaccine.

Parents will be sent correspondence from their child’s school with a link or QR code to an electronic consent form to complete and submit.

One dose of the MMR vaccine is routinely given to children at 12 months old and a second a three years and four months. However, there remain hundreds of children over the age of five across Cardiff and the Vale who are yet to receive a single dose which puts them at risk.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can cause severe complications, including heart and nervous system problems, sight loss and meningitis. In the worst-case scenario, people can even lose their lives.

A measles outbreak was declared in Cardiff in November 2023, and there have been more confirmed cases in the West Midlands, London, Yorkshire, the Humber and East Midlands more recently.

Claire Beynon, the new Executive Director of Public Health at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: “I’m really worried that we will have another measles outbreak in Cardiff and the Vale. That’s my highest priority at the moment. Currently, 83% of children aged five in Cardiff and Vale have had all their routine childhood vaccinations, but that still leaves us with a significant proportion of children who aren’t fully up to date.

“We also know people in more affluent areas have higher rates of vaccination. We need to work harder to reach those people that might find it more challenging to get their children vaccinated. That’s why we are working closely with schools to address this, and I thank the headteachers and staff in schools for their continued support.”

According to the UK Health Security Agency, in a completely non-immune population a person with measles would, on average, infect 15 others. To put that into perspective, flu stands at around 1.7 others, 2.1 for COVID-19, 4.3 for norovirus and 8 for the common cold. It means within a very short period of time, measles can spread very rapidly.

If a nursery or school has a confirmed case of measles, anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated will have to isolate for three weeks (21 days) if they’re a close contact.

The measles infection, which is most commonly found in children, usually clears in around 7 to 10 days. The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after an individual is infected. These can include:

·    cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough

·    sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light

·    a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C

·    small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks.

A few days later, a red-brown blotchy rash will appear. This usually starts on the head or upper neck before spreading outwards to the rest of the body.

Claire Beynon added: “Having the MMR vaccine is the best way to protect your child and others around them. Millions of doses of the vaccine have been given worldwide for over 30 years. A version of the vaccine that does not contain gelatine is also available.”

If you live in Cardiff and the Vale and are unsure if your child has had the MMR vaccine, you are encouraged to check their personal child health record (red book) in the first instance. If you remain unsure, other options include:

·    Contacting the Local Child Health Team on 02921 836926 or 02921 836929

·    Contacting your GP Practice, avoiding peak times such as early mornings where possible

Other options for MMR vaccination include:

·    Your GP Practice

·    Your local Mass Vaccination Centre. Call 02921 841234. Phone lines are open Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

If you would like to discuss anything regarding the vaccine, please contact the School Nursing Immunisation Team on 02921847661/664 or email [email protected]

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