As many as 40,000 teenagers and children in Birmingham are not protected properly from catching measles, new figures have revealed.
The statistics show that in Birmingham and the Black Country a total of more than 11,000 children from the ages of six to ten have never received the MMR jab.
A further 40,446 are not recorded as having had the second booster dose in Birmingham alone, which could put them at higher risk of catching the potentially lethal disease.
Health bosses told the Post this meant there was now a chance an outbreak of measles in the region.
The figures are based on those who received vaccinations between the ages of two and five – the recommended age for the jab.
The Government has launched a big push to get at least a million youngsters vaccinated against the disease because many parents didn’t have their children immunised during the MMR-autism scare in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
It is hoped that around a million young people will now get the jabs in the new £20 million campaign which follows a huge rise in cases in South Wales, where 83 people have needed hospital treatment. One man also died at his home in Swansea while suffering from measles.
But health bosses here admitted they were concerned at the low take-up rate in the region.
Nicola Benge, screening and immunisation lead for West Midlands health protection team, said: “There has been low uptake of the MMR vaccine among children across Birmingham and the Black Country and this includes children having one or both doses.
“Our figures show that there are just over 11,000 children aged between six and 10-ears-old that have never received the MMR jab – the likelihood of a community outbreak cannot therefore be discounted.
“For this reason, from now until September we aim to ensure that at least 95 per cent of children in this critical age range receive at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.
“We will be working to support GPs, schools and community health professionals to do all we can to protect children across the West Midlands from measles.”
Ms Benge said that those who hadn’t had the booster jab were at risk of catching measles as well.
She said: “The issue is that although children may have had one dose of MMR – that should give 90 per cent effectiveness, the problem is that in Birmingham and other areas across the urban conurbation there are some areas where as few as 85 per cent have received primary immunisation for MMR, therefore it is much more likely that measles will be circulating in the community, particularly schools, and therefore we are much greater risk of an outbreak.”
Last week it was revealed that the number of measles cases had tripled in the West Midlands in the last 12 months, from 41 in 2011 to 118 last year, according to Public Health England (PHE).
The figure includes Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.
Some parts of Birmingham have a vaccine uptake of as low as 86.7 per cent – almost ten per cent below the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended rate.
The aim now is to increase the rate to 95 per cent for the first jab in order to create “herd immunity”.
In Swansea the rate was 90 per cent for the first dose and 73 per cent for the second.
Further figures from PHE show there were 587 confirmed measles cases in England in the first three months of this year, more than three times the 168 cases in the same period of 2012. Experts predict England’s total this year will exceed the 1,920 cases confirmed in 2012.