Public health experts in Bury say decreasing uptake of vaccines and treatment shortages could lead to "large" outbreaks of infectious disease, including measles, hepatitis A and scabies.

A recent report published by the Bury health and wellbeing board said "large outbreaks" of measles are increasingly likely as fewer children are vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella.

The board reported that the borough experienced a "near-miss" in April and May this year after five cases of measles were discovered and traced back to a child who was too young to be vaccinated and had travelled abroad on holiday.

No cases have been reported in the borough since.

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Figures show that uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine has been falling over the past decade.

NHS figures show 83.3 per cent of youngsters in Bury had both doses of the MMR vaccine by their fifth birthday in 2022-23 – below the 95 per cent target set by the World Health Organisation.

It was also a fall from 87.3 per cent coverage the year before. 

Across England, 84.5 per cent of five-year-olds had the second jab of the vaccine by 2022-23. It was the lowest level recorded since 2010-11.

In response, the local authority has been working with the Bury GP Federation to offer catch-up vaccinations to secondary school-aged children as well as setting up 28 catch-up clinics across the borough in which 429 people were vaccinated.

It plans to submit a funding bid to NHS Greater Manchester to allow it to continue this work, with a focus on offering the vaccine to those aged 19 to 30.

The council has also taken steps to address outbreaks of two other illnesses, hepatitis A and scabies.

The local authority says a small cluster of hepatitis A cases have been detected in the borough, linked to over-seas travel, including one case at a primary school. 

It says that the child's classmates and teachers were offered vaccination. Of 25 children offered vaccination, 20 were vaccinated in October 11, three parents did not give consent and two could not been vaccinated on the day. 

The Bury health and wellbeing board also reported that five cases of scabies, a skin condition causes by mites, have been detected in Bury this year, including three which under active surveillance. 

The council's infection prevention and control team are working closely with NHS GM Bury's Medicines Optimisation Team and the NHS trust to source treatment. 

However, due to a national shortage of scabies treatment, the council supplies have been insufficient to ensure timely treatment of close contacts within national guidance. 

Cllr Tamoor Tariq, cabinet member for adult care, health and wellbeing at the council, said: “There could be a number of reasons for the fall in vaccination rates.

“Because the UK has done well in the past in getting vaccination up, measles is relatively rare in the UK. This can make it feel like a distant threat or not serious, and make parents feel there’s less reason to vaccinate. 

“A small proportion of parents have firmly held anti-vaccine beliefs, while others have been misled by false claims that have linked the MMR vaccine to autism.

“Measles is highly contagious and, in some cases, can lead to serious illness, so we would urge everyone to get vaccinated and protect themselves and their families.”

Earlier this year, the NHS Greater Manchester Care Board urged parents to check their child was up to date their vaccines. 

In a recent statement, Dr Helen Wall, clinical director for population health, NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care, said: “It is worrying to see a decline in the number of children getting their vaccinations, with even small drops in the number of people coming forward for vaccination, it's possible for infectious diseases to quickly spread again.

"Indeed, we have had a confirmed case of measles in Greater Manchester earlier this month.

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“We want to take this opportunity to remind parents – vaccination is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves, our children and those around us against ill health. 

"If you think your child has missed a vaccination, please contact your GP to catch up.

“I understand that parents may hesitate to get their child vaccinated because they worry about the safety of the vaccine. I want to reassure those parents, that all vaccines are thoroughly tested to make sure they will not harm you or your child.

"Children may experience mild side effects such as the area where the needle goes in being sore or being a bit unwell for a couple of days, however, this far outweighs the risk of these, sometimes life-threatening, illnesses.”