My 11-month-old son was rushed to hospital with measles – I want the MMR vaccine to be offered before the age of one

A mother whose eleven-month-old son was rushed to hospital with measles has called for the MMR vaccine to be made available to children before the age of one.

Kelly Smart, whose son Oscar was taken to Birmingham Children’s Hospital after showing symptoms of the highly contagious disease, said it was ‘frustrating’ that it was ‘not an option’ for him to have a first dose of not to be given the Measles. Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccination.

In Britain, children get the vaccination in two doses. The first is offered at one year of age, with a booster given at three years of age and four months.

Eleven-month-old Oscar would have received his dose the following month.

“It felt like every time he blinked, more dots appeared along his body,” Ms Smart told Sky News, referring to the telltale red rash that appears on those who have contracted the disease.

Kelly Smart and her son Oscar, who contracted measles.  Ms Smart calls for the MMR vaccine to be offered to children under the age of one

Kelly Smart and her son Oscar, who contracted measles. Ms Smart calls for the MMR vaccine to be offered to children under the age of one

The Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine, better known by its acronym MMR, is offered in two doses to children aged one and three years and four months

The Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine, better known by its acronym MMR, is offered in two doses to children aged one and three years and four months

Britain is currently struggling with a flurry of measles cases, concentrated in the West Midlands, after years of declining uptake of the MMR vaccine

Britain is currently struggling with a flurry of measles cases, concentrated in the West Midlands, after years of declining uptake of the MMR vaccine

When paramedics arrived, Oscar was ‘immediately’ taken to hospital and treated in an isolation ward. He had a high fever.

“He just looked awful, his eyes were swollen, his upper lip was swollen, he was pale,” Ms Smart recalled. Oscar is now recovering.

The United Kingdom is currently struggling with a measles outbreak that has concerned health workers.

The UK Health Safety Agency declared a national incident and last week warned of ‘further outbreaks’ without ‘urgent action taken to increase MMR uptake in areas at greatest risk.’

There were 216 confirmed cases of measles and 103 probable cases in the West Midlands between 1 October and 18 January. More than 80% were in Birmingham.

Around 3.4 million people under the age of 16 are thought to be at risk of measles, due to declining MMR vaccination uptake.

“We are at a point where there is a very large susceptible population of children,” Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization told The Guardian. He added that a vaccination rate of more than 95% was required ‘to keep measles away’.

The percentage of five-year-olds who had a full course of the MMR vaccination fell to 84.5%, according to health data, the lowest level in more than a decade.

In 2017, the World Health Organization declared the United Kingdom measles-free. This status was lifted within two years. The UN body recently warned of a thirty-fold increase in cases across Europe.

Debate over the particularly rapid rise in measles cases and falling vaccine uptake in the UK has drawn attention to logistical problems for parents, suspicion of vaccines in general, and NHS overstretch.

Uptake of MMR has shrunk to lowest levels in more than a decade, acknowledging concerns that babies born during the pandemic may have missed important medical windows

Uptake of MMR has shrunk to lowest levels in more than a decade, acknowledging concerns that babies born during the pandemic may have missed important medical windows

Oscar was rushed to Birmingham Children's Hospital, where around 50 children have needed treatment for the virus in the past month

Oscar was rushed to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where around 50 children have needed treatment for the virus in the past month

There are also concerns that children born during the pandemic may have missed their initial or second dose of MMR, requiring them to catch up.

Children born during the pandemic are now older than the standard age group seen by doctors for regular vaccinations.

In 2021, according to the UK Health Security Agency, there were only 360 reported cases of measles across the country. There were 1,603 in 2023. The majority of these cases were in children under the age of 10.

The NHS has introduced ‘pop-up’ vaccination centers in the areas most affected by measles.

Health Minister Victoria Atkins appealed to parents to take their children for vaccination.

“It’s completely safe,” she said. “There are two types of vaccination that can help people who may be concerned about pork products,” she added.

“We can absolutely help you get vaccinated to help the whole community.”