Vaccinations called for after rise in confirmed British measles cases

The first six months of 2012 have seen almost twice as many confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales compared to the same period in 2011, according to figures published on Friday.

There have been 964 cases confirmed this year, while 2011 only saw 497 confirmed cases for the first half of the year. In 2011 1,086 cases were reported compared to a total of 380 reported cases in 2010, the Health Protection Agency reports.

Additionally, reported cases of rubella in the first six months of this year exceeded annual totals for the previous nine years. The rise is associated with travel to other European countries.

Measles cases have also been associated with travel, as ongoing outbreaks have been seen in Merseyside and Sussex and various traveling communities across England.

The uptake of doses of the MMR vaccination in England is 93 percent for the first dose and 87 percent for the second dose. The uptake of MMR vaccine in Wales is 95 percent for the first dose and 88 percent for the second dose. There has been a dramatic rise in coverage since 2002 when coverage for the first dose was below 80 percent. It is suspected that some older children may not have been protected and may now be contributing to the increasing numbers of reported cases.

"It's extremely concerning that measles cases are continuing to rise. Measles can be very serious and parents should understand the risks associated with the infection, which in severe cases can result in death," Dr. Mary Ramsay, the head of immunization at the HPA, said. "Although uptake of the MMR has improved in recent years some children do not get vaccinated on time and some older children, who missed out when uptake was lower, have not had a chance to catch-up. Therefore, there are still enough people who are not protected to allow some large outbreaks to occur among unvaccinated individuals.