By Ciaran McCauley
Cases of measles are falling and uptake of the MMR vaccination is on the rise in Lewisham, it has been revealed this week. The unpopularity of the MMR jab had led to sky-rocketing levels of measles in recent years, with Lewisham one of the worst affected areas.
However, recent statistics indicate that the borough is reversing that trend. Four cases of the disease have been reported locally in the last fortnight – a startling contrast to the 30 or 40 cases diagnosed weekly at the height of the measles explosion that has afflicted the borough over the last two years.
While local medical authorities welcomed the new statistics, they insist that the public must remain vigilant against the virus that “can spread like wildfire.”
“It seems we have turned the corner but we must continue our efforts,” said Michael Corr, immunization co-coordinator at Lewisham PCT. “I liken measles to a heat-seeking missile – it will find anyone who isn’t immunised.”
According to the PCT representative, most at risk are the under-5’s and 11-15 year olds. This group was “most affected” by the media furore that surrounded the controversial study ten years ago suggesting a link between MMR and autism, leading less parents to immunise their children.
While Lewisham is catching up with the London average, it still has one of the lowest uptake rates in the capital. “It is up, but it’s still not ideal. We need to get it up to round 90-95 per cent because it is so infectious,” Corr said. “The London rate is still way behind the rest of the country and the only logical reason is apathy,” he said.