Measles cases make 'very concerning' surge in England as warning issued to parents

Vaccine being injected into arm

Measles cases have surged in England in 2023

Dan Falvey

By Dan Falvey

Published: 04/05/2023

- 11:58

Updated: 04/05/2023

- 12:58

Anyone in the UK can get the MMR vaccine for free on the NHS

England has seen a "very concerning" surge in measles cases this year, with health officials urging parents to make sure their children’s measles vaccinations are up-to-date.

So far in 2023 England has seen 49 cases of measles. It compares to 54 cases during the whole of 2022, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

It comes after the number of people getting the MMR vaccine in the uK dropped to its lowest level in a decade.

The World Health Organisation has a target of 95 per cent of two year olds to have been inoculated with a first dose. But the figure in the UK is currently 89 per cent.

Vaccine being administered

Parents are being urged to check the vaccination status of their children


Dr Vanessa Saliba, a consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA, said: "Measles spreads very easily and can lead to complications that require a stay in hospital and on rare occasions can cause lifelong disability or death, so it is very concerning to see cases starting to pick up this year."

"During the Covid-19 pandemic we saw a fall in uptake for the routine childhood vaccinations, including MMR which leaves us vulnerable to outbreaks, especially as people travel abroad for summer holidays to places where measles is more common.”

Dr Saliba added: “We are calling on all parents and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with their two MMR doses.

"It’s never too late to catch up, and you can get the MMR vaccine for free on the NHS whatever your age.

"Vaccines are our best line of defence against diseases like measles, mumps and rubella and help stop outbreaks occurring in the community."

Measles thought to have been eliminated in the UK in 2016 and 2017 but has since been re-established.

The new cases came following large epidemics of the virus across the whole of Europe.

Most of the cases so far this year have been in London, though they have cropped up in other regions and some cases are linked to travel abroad.

The UKHSA warned that measles is highly infectious and can lead to serious problems such as pneumonia and meningitis, and sometimes long-term disability or death.

It said it is particularly easy to catch in environments where people are in close contact, such as through increased mixing on holiday or at summer festivals.

NHS director of vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said: “The NHS has an inspiring history of successful vaccination programmes that have proven time and time again they are the best tool in our arsenal against the spread of highly infectious diseases and since vaccination for measles cases was introduced, over 4,500 lives have been saved.

“The MMR vaccine has helped prevent the development of potentially life-threatening illness among millions, and it is clear that when uptake falls, infections rise, so I strongly urge parents to review the status of their child’s vaccinations so they can keep them and others protected from measles, mumps and rubella.”

Parents can check their child’s red book for vaccination status or contact their GP practice.

You may like