NHS MMR catch up campaign successfully boosts uptake

New operational figures published today show the success of the NHS MMR catch-up campaign, with tens of thousands more vaccinations delivered in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2023.

The most significant increase in vaccinations was for those aged five to 25 years old, with four times as many vaccinations – 75,499 – in the first three months of 2024 than 18,433 in the same period last year.

Since January, the NHS, UKHSA and local authorities have been urging millions of parents and carers to book their children in for missed measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccinations to protect children and young people from becoming seriously unwell.

Between 1 Jan and 24 March 2024, there were a total of 360,964 MMR vaccinations delivered, up almost a quarter (23%) from 293,847 in 2023. This included 187,737 first doses and 171,635 second doses.

More than a million parents and carers of six- to 11-year-olds were sent emails, letters and texts inviting them to book an appointment with their child’s GP practice for their missed MMR vaccine.

Throughout February and March over a million children and young adults aged 11 to 25 years living in London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester were also encouraged to book an appointment, with these areas most at risk due to the number of people not up to date on their MMR vaccinations.

The NHS is also working with UKHSA on a continued campaign encouraging parents and carers of pre-school children to make sure their children are up to date with all their routine vaccinations, including the MMR vaccine.

The latest figures from UKHSA show there have been 934 confirmed cases of measles in England since 1 October 2023.

Steve Russell, NHS national director for vaccinations and screening, said:  “It is excellent news that since the NHS launched our MMR catch-up campaign, thousands more people than last year have come forward to get vaccinated, with a four-fold increase in the number of five- to 25-year-olds getting that all-important protection.

“Measles is a very serious illness and so it is vital that everyone who is still unprotected comes forward to get their two doses as soon as possible, by contacting their GP surgery or visiting one of the pop-up vaccination clinics running in some of the most at-risk areas.”

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “The big increase in people, especially children, getting their MMR vaccine following our recent marketing campaign on missed immunisations is fantastic to see.

“We would like to thank the public and parents who have come forward to check their and their children’s vaccination status and subsequently booked appointments where required. This goes a long way towards helping manage the ongoing measles outbreak and protecting people across the country.

“However, we are still seeing rising measles cases in London and other parts of the country, particularly in children under 10 years old. Don’t wait for measles to be in your area before you check that you and your children are up to date for MMR.

“If anyone remains unsure about their or their child’s vaccination status or have questions about the vaccination, they should get in touch with their GP practice as soon as possible. People should also respond if the NHS contacts them to catch up.”

Professor Thomas Waite, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England said: “The MMR vaccine is a life saver – after two doses it gives lasting protection to 99% of people against measles and rubella and 88% against mumps.

“It is really positive that uptake has increased. If your child is due a dose, please book them in or if you think your child or you have missed a dose, please get in touch with your GP to check.”

Health Minister Maria Caufield said: “These are hugely welcome figures that demonstrate the power of parents and clinicians coming together to protect our children.

“We must not be complacent – measles is a serious disease. The MMR vaccine is proven to be safe and offers lifelong protection.

“I urge anyone whose child is not yet fully vaccinated to come forward and help stop this highly preventable disease in its tracks.”

Unvaccinated six to 25 years olds can get their MMR jabs via their GP surgery, with some areas also running pop-up vaccination clinics in libraries, university campuses, sports clubs, and other convenient places.

Catching measles can lead to life changing issues for adults and children, such as blindness, deafness and swelling of the brain (encephalitis).

Measles can also have a serious impact on pregnant women, potentially leading to premature birth, low birth weight and still birth. Health chiefs are urging anyone thinking about becoming pregnant to ensure their MMR vaccination status is up to date because the vaccine can’t be given during pregnancy.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine are needed for maximum life-long protection, with the first dose given around a person’s first birthday, and the second dose given at around three years and four months.

However, anyone can catch up at any age on any missed doses and it’s never too late to protect yourself. The vaccine doses are typically given via a single injection into the muscle of the thigh or upper arm and are usually delivered with their other one year and preschool vaccinations.

New operational data showing the number of MMR vaccinations administered in the first 12 weeks of 2023 and 2024 is available here: Statistics » Supplementary information