Measles and rubella elimination strategy

15 January 2019

Article: 53/0201

A new measles and rubella elimination strategy maps out how the UK can achieve a future that is free of measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). The strategy, developed by Public Health England (PHE) and partners including Health Protection Scotland (HPS), builds on the experience and success of 50 years of measles vaccination and 30 years of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisation programme.

New analysis conducted by PHE shows that immunity levels within some age groups, especially young people aged 15 to 20 years, are well below the levels needed to prevent measles from spreading. Measles is one of the most infectious known diseases, so it can take only one infected person in an area with lower vaccination rates to cause an outbreak. Anyone who has not received two doses of MMR vaccine, which ensures full protection from measles, is at risk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that the UK eliminated rubella in 2015 and measles in 2016. Whilst elimination means that measles and rubella are no longer native to the UK, it does not mean that these diseases have been completely eradicated. Measles and rubella remain endemic in many countries and with recent measles outbreaks across Europe, imported infections pose a very real threat to the UK’s achievements.

The strategy focuses on four core components required to maintain elimination of measles and rubella:

  • achieve and sustain over 95% coverage with two doses of MMR vaccine in the routine childhood immunisation
  • achieve over 95% coverage with two doses of MMR vaccine in older age groups
  • strengthen measles and rubella monitoring
  • ensure easy access to high-quality, evidence-based information for health professionals and the public

The strategy is available to view on the PHE website. 

Source: PHE, 9 January 2019