Festivalgoers urged to get MMR jab as measles infection rate soars

Festivalgoers who missed the MMR vaccination 20 years ago have been urged to get the jab before the European festival season, after infection rates in England tripled in a year.

It has been 20 years since the controversy surrounding the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, which falsely linked the jab to autism and resulted in a significant drop in its uptake. The health concerns of MMR were widely discredited and Andrew Wakefield, the doctor behind the research paper which made the claim, was struck off the medical register.

The Royal College of Nursing has warned of an increased number of outbreaks of measles in parts of southern Europe. Young adults who may have missed the injection owing to scare stories in the late 90s are particularly at risk. This is because they are highly likely to be going on city breaks or visiting large European festivals such as Benicassim in Spain, which starts this weekend.

While travellers to Europe do not often consider the need for vaccinations, since the beginning of 2018 there have been more than 757 cases of measles reported across England. This compares with 274 confirmed cases last year.

The outbreaks are often associated with travel to European countries including Greece, Romania, Italy and France, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Measles, a highly infectious viral illness, is spread easily though airborne or droplet transmission, particularly in crowded places. Symptoms can last up to 10 days, and in few cases, can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis. The MMR vaccine is available for free.

Helen Donovan, professional lead for public health nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Measles is extremely infectious, especially where large crowds of people gather such as at festivals or in towns. Thanks to vaccination it’s become increasingly rare in the UK, but recent increases in infection rates shows we can’t be complacent.

“Before you go on holiday this summer, make sure you are up to date with your vaccinations. Getting immunised is quick and simple – an appointment with your practice nurse will only take a few minutes. The MMR vaccine is free and will help prevent the spread of a particularly infectious and unpleasant disease.”

In May, Public Health England said music festivals “pose an ideal opportunity for [measles] to spread quickly” and that “close-mixing environments such as festivals are more at risk” of the disease spreading.


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