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Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to reduce the incidence of measles in (a) England, (b) the North East, (c) Teesside and (d) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency. (257540)

The way to reduce the number of confirmed cases of measles recorded each year is to increase the number of children vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

In addition to the routine MMR vaccination programme, on 6 August 2008 the Department launched a national MMR vaccine catch-up campaign. The aim of the campaign is to immunise all children between one and 18 years of age who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated with MMR vaccine.

To support the campaign the Department has provided extra funding to primary care trusts (PCTs) with PCTs outside London having their funding limits increased by £30,000 and London PCTs’ funding limits increased by £60,000. The Department has also sourced additional supplies of vaccine, provided technical support to general practitioners to help them identify children who have not received the MMR vaccine and provided additional online reports to PCTs to help them monitor the effectiveness of their catch-up programmes. The Department has also sent all general practitioner surgeries new measles leaflets and posters.

The Department has held meetings with both strategic health authorities and PCT immunisation co-ordinators, regional directors of public health and directors of performance to emphasise the importance of reducing measles cases through improving vaccination uptake.

A public relations campaign will be rolled out from March 2009. Key messages will include how serious and infectious measles is and how it's never too late to have the MMR vaccine.

Middlesbrough PCT, Redcar and Cleveland PCT and Stockton-on Tees Teaching PCT are implementing the national MMR vaccine catch-up campaign and have three key strategies:

a local service level agreement with GPs to help with the catch-up plan especially with pre-school age children;

sending a letter to all parents of school leavers offering an MMR vaccine booster for those who have not received two MMR vaccine doses; and

a local radio advertising campaign promoting MMR vaccinations.