NHS urges London’s young people to get vaccinated amid rise in measles cases


As measles cases continue to rise in London, NHS London is today calling on young people across the capital to ensure they have their vaccinations.

UK Health Security Agency statistics reveal there have been 733 confirmed cases of measles since October 2023, with 112 (15%) of those being in London, making the capital one of England’s worst affected areas. While the majority (63%) of cases were in children under the age of 10, 29.5% (216) were found in young people and adults over the age of 15.

From this week, the NHS will contact all young people aged 19-25 in London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester who are missing an MMR jab, encouraging them to contact their GP for a vaccination. This follows on from 16-19 year olds in the same areas being sent NHS reminders last week to get their jab and invites to parents and carers of 6-16-year-olds in London and the West Midlands in February.

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Missing vaccinations leaves people vulnerable to measles, which people can catch at any age.

Assad from Lewisham was 17 in 2008 when measles struck. Assad’s family moved to the UK from Kenya several years before, meaning that he missed the chance to get an MMR jab.

As he was preparing for college and a new phase of his life, Assad was suddenly left bed-ridden with an illness that turned out to be measles.

“I remember it was the summer before the first year of college and I remember being excited about that, and then just suddenly getting really sick. I was so sick that I couldn’t move out of bed and ended up staying at home for the whole summer, just in case anyone caught it from me.”

Recovering from the immediate symptoms of measles was just the start of Assad’s journey: “In terms of the recovery, I would say I lost confidence in myself. I’d been doing a lot of exercise and getting quite fit, just getting ready for college, and falling ill with measles meant I lost all of that progress I’d made.”

Now aged 32, Assad is doing everything he can to protect his own children.

“It goes without saying you don’t want that to happen to your kids. Nowadays my wife keeps track of the immunisations and I often go with them for the blood tests or jabs just so I can make sure that I can be with them and everything’s okay.”

London GP Dr Oge Ilozue said:

“When we think of measles, we often think of it as something which only affects young children. The truth is, however, that the consequences of missing childhood vaccinations can strike at any age, and lead to serious illness.

“It’s vital that people protect their children, their loved ones and themselves by ensuring they’re vaccinated. It’s never too late to get protected.”

Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious illnesses that can easily spread between unvaccinated people.

Complications from measles, mumps and rubella can be potentially life changing including blindness, deafness and swelling of the brain (encephalitis).

Estimates show that one person infected with measles can pass the disease on to around 15 other unvaccinated people, making it one of the most infectious diseases worldwide; and more infectious than COVID-19. Meanwhile, one in five people with measles will need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.

Parents and carers can find out more about the different vaccines they and their child should have and when by visiting www.nhs.uk and searching for ‘NHS vaccinations and when to have them’.