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In the last week, a number of newspapers, including the Guardian, the Times and the Telegraph have issued reports raising concerns about a potential outbreak of measles in London. These articles have followed the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) modelling which suggests that, unless MMR vaccination rates improve, London could see a measles outbreak with potentially tens of thousands of cases. 

MMR vaccine hesitancy in the UK arose in the early 2000s following the release of Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent and discredited 1998 Lancet paper which implied a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and a “new syndrome” of autism and bowel disease.  More than two decades on, lingering suspicion of the MMR vaccine has undoubtedly been compounded by similar conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine fed by social media, hyper-partisan broadcasters and right-wing populism, who have leveraged the erosion of trust in science, medicine, and key institutions in order to advance a particularly virulent form of vaccine scepticism. 

Between 1 January and 30 June this year there have been 128 cases of measles, compared to 54 cases in the whole of 2022, with 66 per cent of the cases detected in London. Whilst the risk of a pandemic level outbreak is low, in recent years the UK has fallen significantly below WHO target of 95% vaccination uptake for herd immunity at a community level, with uptake for the first dose of the MMR vaccine in children aged two years in England at 85.6%.  

In the boroughs nearest our office in Tottenham, vaccination rates remain close to or below the 75% average uptake in London. In Haringey and Enfield, coverage of the first MMR dose at two years of age is at only 74% and 72%. Waltham Forrest, Hackney and Islington have also seen a significant drop in vaccination rates to 79%, 65% and 75% respectively. 

Vaccine take-up is also likely to be particularly acute for a portion of our client base born abroad where access to adequate healthcare may have been compounded by racial, ethnic, religious, national, or political forms of persecution. A significant portion of our client base also hail from countries that have experienced protracted armed conflicts, where public healthcare and social care has been decimated. The global measles immunisation rates are unsurprisingly particularly low in areas affected by ongoing humanitarian crises, including Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq, where national immunisation rates are all below 75. 

Low MMR vaccination rates are also a matter of real concern in light the swingeing cuts to NHS and social care funding over the past 13 years, compounded by inadequate resources and unsustainable workloads for many local GPs.  At Wilsons we remain committed to protecting our clients and communities from falling through the gaps in public health provision and challenging vaccine hesitancy in all its forms. 

If you would like to instruct Felicity to help you with a family law case, please contact family department secretary, Mavis, for an appointment on 0202 8885 7986.

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