As the Nation settles again following the funeral of the late Baroness Thatcher, one of the many remembrances of her long political life is her famous statement about ‘this lady is not for turning’. The same, fortunately, cannot be said of a significant sector of the country she once led. The measles epidemic in Wales has seen to that.
Measles is a highly infectious, very unpleasant disease that can lead to serious complications such as blindness and death. Fortunately, the incidence of measles in this country has been kept low owing to our vaccination programme. However, the value of a vaccination programme is best when what is called the ‘herd immunity’ is high. Essentially it means that, if the majority of the population are immune, then those who are not immune (for example, they are too young to have the vaccine) are protected as they are unlikely to come into contact with someone with measles. Sadly, there was a drop in vaccination rates in 1998 owing to misleading reports connecting the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine with autism. The result has been a fall in our herd immunity, with the sad and concerning result now being seen in Wales.
The good news is that it is never too late to catch up with the vaccinations, and that is now what a considerable portion of the population is doing. The sudden harsh reality of the importance of vaccination is bringing worried parents into surgeries with the request that their children are vaccinated. This is one of the best forms of U-turns I can think of. At present, there are no plans in North Lincolnshire to vaccinate children any earlier than the usual age of 13 months. However, if your child is over 13 months and has never been vaccinated, or has only had one MMR injection and missed having the second (usually given between 3-5 years), then please do discuss the situation with your doctor. The likelihood is that you will be encouraged to bring your child’s vaccinations up to date.
In respect to adults, the Health Protection Agency is currently offering the following advice: ‘Anyone born between 1980 and 1990 may not have received a mumps vaccine, and anyone born between 1970 and 1979 may have only had a measles vaccine. If you fall into one of these groups ask your GP for the MMR vaccination. Anyone who is travelling to an area that is known to have had outbreaks of measles, mumps or rubella should ensure that they are fully immunised.’ For adults, the two injections can be given one month apart.
The second U-turn of the past fortnight has been the weather. The sudden change from cold and snow has already brought sightings of shorts and t-shirts. However, whilst exposing bodies to the sun is good for topping up vitamin D levels, don’t forget to protect your skin. Even spring sunshine can be powerful and, although I am yet to see a swallow this year, I have already seen my first case of sunburn. As Baroness Thatcher also said, ‘It’s a funny old world.’
First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, 25 April 2013
© Copyright Robert M Jaggs-Fowler 2013