The NHS is reaching out to a predicted half a million students who may have missed getting their MMR vaccination.
Many parents shunned the jab, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German Measles) after the now-discredited NHS doctor Andrew Wakefield publicised a study claiming that the vaccine was linked to autism.
The anti-vaccine activist’s study triggered a mass health scare which prompted thousands of parents to skip the triple jab.
According to the Daily Mail, Measles cases have trebled across England and Wales in the last 12 months, with 991 infections reported. Two-thirds of all cases are amongst the 15 – 24 age group.
Masters student Emily Woodward, 25 is one of those students who never received her immunisation.
She said: “My mum told me that I didn’t have the MMR jab because members of my family have autism and this was at that time when there was a really big scare around it causing autism.
“My mum really didn’t want to risk it at all. She actually got advised by her nurse at the time that it wasn’t a good idea.
“I’ve never thought about having the jab but if I got offered it now, I probably would go for it. Obviously there’s been so much more research done now to show it doesn’t cause anything and to show it’s completely safe.”
Mel Mountford, a nurse at the Royal Stoke University Hospital in Newcastle-under-Lyme remembers the scare around the vaccination but recalls that, as a trained medical professional, she was able to read between the lines of the study.
However, she thinks it is understandable why so many parents were in fear of the jab.
Mel told StaffsLive: “For me, I think it’s really important to get the immunisations – purely because the more people that get immunised, the less likely people are going to be susceptible to catching it in the event of an outbreak.
“We’ve seen numbers rise nationally – and internationally. As a nurse, I’ve unfortunately seen the side effects of measles and mumps, in cases of things like meningitis and cephalitis.
“They have resulted in critical care admissions and being on life support. For a small number of people it’s left them with quite significant brain injuries and brain damage afterwards, as a result of their infection.
“It’s had a massively disastrous effect on them and their families. A simple jab as a child would have saved so much heartache and illness for them all.”
Born in 1950, the MMR vaccination was yet to be invented and released when Neil Alcock was born. When he was just nine-years-old Neil, from the Staffordshire Moorlands, contracted measles and has been partially deaf ever since. He said: “I had measles very, very bad.
“There was no such thing as the MMR jab in those days so we had nothing to protect us. I remember being at school and the teacher was talking to me and I was not answering because I could not hear her – that’s how they found out I was deaf.
“I remember my mother being so frightened for me. I had such a high temperature and fever and the hallucinations were awful: I imagined things chasing me.
“I have had a very difficult life being deaf, especially when I was at school. When I was training to be a chef as a young adult, I had to learn by watching and tasting.”
NHS England and Public Health England estimate that at least 25,000 Freshers students have not received their immunisation. With recent outbreaks at several universities across the country, the NHS is pleading with students to check if they have had the vaccine by speaking to their GP.
You can find out more about the MMR vaccination via the NHS website.