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BSI response to WHO report on measles cases in Europe in 2018

Measles virus. 3D illustration showing structure of measles virus with surface glycoprotein spikes heamagglutinin-neuraminidase and fusion protein7 February 2019

The World Health Organization have announced that the number of people who contracted measles in Europe in 2018 hit a record high with 82,596 cases reported and 72 deaths.  In response to this news, the British Society for Immunology have issued the following statement:


Professor Arne Akbar, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“The measles case figures for 2018 for Europe, released by the World Health Organization today, are extremely concerning, particularly given the fact we have a safe and effective vaccine at hand that can protect people from contracting this disease. Although the report shows that efforts are being undertaken to increase the vaccination rate, it is evident that we need to step up efforts to protect our communities from measles.

“Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that can lead to very serious complications, including death. Because the measles virus spreads so easily between individuals, it’s vital that a high percentage of population is vaccinated to block this spread – the WHO state we need 95% coverage.

“In the UK, we have also seen a steep rise in measles cases in 2018, particularly in teenagers and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine when they were younger – this trend needs to be reversed. In the last annual statistics, vaccination coverage for England was 91% of children receiving the first MMR vaccine by their second birthday, with 87% receiving the second vaccine by their fifth birthday. We should be doing better to protect our communities, with Government, NHS and local authorities working together to achieve this.

“Parents who are concerned should talk to their GP in the first instance. If you or your child has missed out on the benefits of vaccination, it’s not too late. Get vaccinated. Don’t regret it by waiting to catch one of these diseases.”


For more information on the figures released, please visit the World Health Organization website.  For annual vaccination statistics for England for 2017-18 can be found on the NHS Digital website