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BSI response to news of a measles outbreak in Liverpool and Leeds

Measles virus. 3D illustration showing structure of measles virus with surface glycoprotein spikes heamagglutinin-neuraminidase and fusion proteinFriday 24 November 2017

There are reports in the press around a potential outbreak of measles in Liverpool and Leeds.  In response to this news, the British Society for Immunology has released the following statement:

Professor Peter Openshaw, President of the British Society for Immunology said:

“News of any measles outbreak is always concerning. Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can lead to extremely serious complications for those affected.  Since 1968, there has been a vaccine available to protect against measles, which has revolutionised the health of our children, with the number of cases dropping from almost half a million per year before the vaccine was introduced to numbers in the low hundreds each year now.

“However, more still needs to be done to ensure that new measles outbreaks do not occur. Children should routinely receive two vaccines against measles as part of the MMR vaccine, at ages 1 and 3 years, 4 months. England’s coverage currently stands at 92% of children receiving the first MMR vaccine by their second birthday, with 88% receiving the second vaccine by their fifth birthday.  This is substantially lower than the World Health Organization recommended levels of 95% coverage at these time points to ensure outbreaks do not occur. 

“The UK is a world leader in vaccine research and we need to ensure that this excellence is reflected in the provision of vaccines to our children to prevent disease, with Government, NHS and local authorities working together to achieve this.  This not only protects the children themselves, but also people in our communities who are vulnerable because of health problems.

“If your child has missed a vaccine, they can still catch up and receive it. Parents who are concerned should talk to their GP in the first instance.”

*NHS Digital 2017 Childhood Vaccination Coverage Statistics for England 2016-17

You can download a copy of the British Society for Immunology’s  'Guide to childhood vaccinations'.  This guide is designed to answer common questions that parents have around how vaccinations work and why they are important.

For more information, please contact:

Jennie Evans, Communications Manager

Tel: +44(0) 203 019 5912; Mob: +44(0) 7703 807 444



The British Society for Immunology is the UK organisation representing scientists and clinicians who study the immune system.