A Solihull GP has issued a sobering message to families as measles cases “rise every day” in the West Midlands. Reports of the “almost entirely preventable” disease continue to rise across parts of the nation – with vaccine hesitancy blamed for the recent outbreak.
The West Midlands has been hit hardest, in particular Birmingham. But Solihull GP Dr Tara Shah has warned that MMR vaccine rates are “lower than they should be in Solihull” and the borough could soon see rates similar to those in East Birmingham.
Dr Shah, a GP at Bosworth Medical Practice in Chelmsley Wood and clinical director for North Solihull PCN, said vaccine hesitancy and the fact measles is “incredibly infectious” is causing the uptick – and could see it “spread like wildfire.” And she even said clinical staff are calling vaccine hesitant homes to see if they can address concerns.
‘Something like this is inevitable’
Dr Shah told BirminghamLive: “The uptake [of the vaccine] is not where it should be. Something like this is inevitable.” She added that incidents of measles in Solihull are “small” compared to the hotspot of East Birmingham.
When we asked what would happen if a child picked up measles at school, Dr Shah explained: “Measles is incredibly infectious, far more than Covid, it will spread like wildfire. That child is then at home with other children.”
She explained there is “poor uptake in vaccination numbers”, and that vaccine rates have been impacted by patients who come from abroad or don’t have an understanding of keeping up with shots.
Almost 100% of people who have had both doses of the MMR vaccine are immune for life – but Solihull clinical staff have had to take drastic measures to reach patients. “Some patients who have a negative view point of vaccines, we will continually call those patients” said Dr Shah.
“Vaccine rates are lower than they should be in Solihull, [there is a] risk to newborn babies, pregnant ladies. One dose will give you 95% protection.
“It is a really effective vaccine” she explained. Dr Shah explained you need to contact your GP if you are worried about someone in your family having measles, as they are best set up to provide support alongside Public Health.
71 suspected measles cases in Birmingham
The latest figures show 1,603 suspected cases of measles in England and Wales were reported to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in 2023. That is more than double the 735 cases in 2022 and more than quadruple the 360 suspected cases reported in 2021.
Cases have continued to surge into 2024, with 64 suspected cases in the first week of January alone. Of recent cases, the West Midlands has been hit hardest, in particular Birmingham.
The UKHSA says cases are “rising every day in the West Midlands”. The most recent data shows that 27 of 64 cases reported to the UKHSA so far this month were traced to the West Midlands, the majority (22) to Birmingham.
Between the start of last year and the end of the first week of 2024, the UKHSA received 71 notifications of suspected cases of measles in Birmingham, more than anywhere else in England and Wales. That is nearly double the number of infections in Hillingdon, London, the area with the next highest number of suspected cases (40).
‘Most children in Solihull are vaccinated’
Cllr Ian Courts, head of Solihull Council warned: “The number of measles cases across the West Midlands is continuing to increase. Most of the cases are in Birmingham, but we are also seeing cases in Solihull too. It hasn’t really been around for many years so some people may have forgotten, but it really is a nasty illness, particularly for children with quite a few cases needing hospital care.”
Cllr Courts added: “Most children in Solihull are fully vaccinated but if you have children or grandchildren over the age of 1 who are not, please do contact your local GP Practice. All GP practices will have a version of the vaccine that doesn’t contain pork products if required.”
More information on the vaccine can be found at Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care System website, as well as the NHS England website.