FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

NHS conducts catch-up MMR immunization campaign in U.K.

The United Kingdom-based National Health Service announced on Thursday that it will conduct a national catch-up immunization campaign for all schoolchildren between 10 and 16 years old with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

The MMR vaccination campaign will target one million children in an effort to prevent further outbreaks of measles. The campaign comes on the heels of recent measles outbreaks in Wales.

"(The outbreaks in Wales had been) a wake-up call for parents," David Salisbury, the director of immunization at the Department of Health, said. "What is happening in Swansea could happen anywhere in England."

The goal of the campaign is to protect children born between 1997 and 2003 who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated against measles. Low levels of vaccination occurred in this generation of children because of an unsubstantiated scare about the MMR vaccine based on a discredited study claiming that the MMR vaccine could trigger autism.

Andrew Wakefield, the author of the research was removed from the medical register for acting irresponsibly and dishonestly. The study caused a drop in coverage rates. In the first quarter of 2013, there were 587 cases of measles in England.

"Measles is not a mild illness - it is very unpleasant and can lead to serious complications as we have seen with more than 100 children in England being hospitalized so far this year," Mary Ramsey, an immunization expert, said.

Measles complications include epilepsy, hearing loss, learning difficulties, cerebral palsy and vision loss.