Shetland outbreak sparked ‘rapid uptake’ in measles vaccination – but yet to reach herd immunity

Shetland has seen a “rapid uptake” in measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations since an outbreak last year, the health board has reported. 

A report presented to NHS Shetland’s board meeting today (Tuesday) showed that nine out of every ten two-year-olds had received the jab – an increase of 13 per cent since January. 

It follows an outbreak of measles last October, which sparked a public health alert. 

NHS Shetland’s chief executive said the outbreak had required significant work for contact tracing teams.

“It’s good to see that people are taking the issue very seriously,” he added. 

Ian Sandilands, chairman of the area partnership forum, questioned why people had not been taking the vaccination, prior to the campaign. 

At one point, just 76 per cent of youngsters had been vaccinated – far less than the required proportion for herd immunity. 

 Kathleen Carolan, director of nursing and acute services, said the issue had been discussed regularly at control of infection committees. 

“With MMR vaccination uptake, it tends to be certain families that are electing to not vaccinate their children,” she said.

“That skews the numbers.

“I wouldn’t say that there’s a universal challenge.

“It’s about targeting individual families and talking about the the benefits of vaccination for their children specifically. 

“We’ve had a couple of measles outbreaks in Scotland and that’s very much brought it to the attention of parents and made them consider whether their children should get vaccinated. “

The board report highlighted a  Scotland MMR catch up programme, which started to be implemented at the beginning of the year, but was overtaken by Covid -19. 

“This had already seen some success in increasing uptake to nearly 91 per cent but we have not yet reached the target of 95 per cent for herd immunity,” the report stated. 

“Our remobilisation plan contains increased capacity for delivery of vaccine programmes.”

Vaccination rates have been falling across the UK, partially due to misinformation about the dangers of routines jabs. 


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