KIDS must be forced to have measles jabs before starting school if a nationwide outbreak is to be avoided, a study suggests.
Researchers warn voluntary uptake of the MMR vaccine has fallen too low to keep the deadly virus under control.
They found a critically high number of Brits will soon lack immunity, making it easier for measles to take hold and spread.
The boffins, from Bruno Kessler Foundation in Italy, analysed vaccine data in developed countries, including the UK.
They found 3.7 per cent of Brits are susceptible to measles and expect this to hit 8 per cent by 2050 on current trends.
Crucially, this is above the 7.5 per cent threshold at which outbreaks are thought to be more likely.
‘Make jabs compulsory’
Study leader Dr Stefano Merler said introducing compulsory jabs in the UK, as in France and Italy, would keep the figure low.
He added: “Our results suggest that most of the countries we have studied would strongly benefit from compulsory vaccination at school entry in addition to current immunisation programmes.
“In particular, we found this strategy would allow the UK, Ireland and the US to reach stable herd immunity levels in the next decades.
“This means that a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease to avoid future outbreaks.”
Measles cases increase four-fold
British experts said it would be better to inform parents of the benefits of jabs and offer more appointments.
Dr David Elliman, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “Compulsion may work in some countries, but it is not for us.
“Introducing compulsory vaccination in this country might reduce the very high level of trust that people have in the NHS and prove counterproductive.”
Cases of measles have increased almost four-fold in England over the past year following a fall in vaccination rates.
Health chiefs believe this has been fuelled by vaccine scare stories spread on the likes of YouTube and Facebook.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he is “particularly worried” about the fake posts and has refused to rule out compulsory jabs.
In 1998 Dr Andrew Wakefield claimed there was a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism.
His research has been discredited and he has been struck off in the UK. Subsequent studies have found no link but people still spread fake scare stories.
Children should have two doses of the MMR jab to be protected, with the World Health Organisation setting a target of 95 per cent coverage.
Uptake of both jabs by the age of five has fallen in England for four years in a row, from 88.6 per cent in 2014/15 to 87.2 per cent in 2017/18.
MORE ON VACCINATIONS
Charity Unicef says over half a million children in the UK were unvaccinated against measles between 2010 and 2017.
There were 259 measles cases in England in 2017, rising to 966 in 2018.
The findings were published in the journal BMC Medicine.
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