With the on its doorstep, officials in London are particularly concerned at the prospect of further outbreaks in the UK as the number of young people travelling between France and Britain increases during the summer months.
Mary Ramsey, head of immunisation at the UK’s Health Protection Agency, told BBC radio that teenagers should consider being vaccinated whether they are planning to visit continental Europe or not.
The UK has had 300 new cases this year, which she said is not historically a very high number, but represents a 10-fold increase on last year. France, meanwhile, has recorded thousands of new cases.
“It’s not too late. If you haven’t been vaccinated and haven’t had the measles you will still be at risk. There’s no age limit. Two doses are needed for full protection,” Dr Ramsey said.
BBC television has also run a series of news stories highlighting the risk of not being vaccinated. One such report focuses on the guilt of parents who decided against vaccination, only for their child to develop a serious case of measles.
Focus on vaccination rates
It reveals stark geographic differences in MMR uptake, but also major disparities in the numbers vaccinated against measles compared with the much higher immunisation rate for polio.
Brent, in London, has the worst immunisation rates for MMR with just 34% of children have had both jabs by their fifth birthday. Other London boroughs – Hackney, Haringey and Barking – are the next lowest.
By contrast, 91.5% of five-year-olds in Barnsley, Yorkshire, have had their two doses of MMR vaccine.
While the MMR figures are worrying at a time when measles is on the rise, vaccine coverage is much better for other diseases. First vaccinations for Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio are consistently over 90% across the UK.