Global health officials are reporting that the United Kingdom has successfully eliminated measles.
Measles vaccinations saw a steep drop off in the years immediately following Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent reports, but have since been on the rise as more children receive the MMR vaccine.
Does an elimination mean the end of measles? Not exactly. When health officials report on the elimination of a disease, it means that a particular geographic area is free from that particular disease. In the UK, there have been no freely circulating measles cases in three years.
However, that doesn’t mean that measles can’t get a toehold in the UK. Because of the damage done by Andrew Wakefield, a sizeable portion of the population who were toddlers in the years immediately following his discredited report never received their MMR vaccine.
As in the US, most measles outbreaks in the UK are acquired abroad from countries that do not have a robust measles vaccination program. When those two populations encounter each other, such as at a music festival, outbreaks can still occur.
In order to keep the measles out, vaccination rates need to be 95%. It is recommended that everyone receive two doses of the MMR vaccine. Hopefully, our friends in the UK will have better luck keeping their elimination status than we did. The US achieved measles elimination in 2000 only for the disease to come back thanks to falling vaccination rates.
To learn more about how measles is spread, check out this infographic from the CDC: measles