A rise in measles cases in London has brought the capital in line with the number of cases recorded in the West Midlands – the initial hotspot for the virus.

This comes as the rise in cases appears to be plateauing across the country and as a national catch-up campaign has increased vaccination uptake over recent months.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced last week that measles cases in London accounted for 63 out of a national total of 190 cases recorded since 4 March.

The cases in London make up 33% of the total, while 35% (67) cases were recorded in the West Midlands and 11% (21 cases) in the East Midlands during the same time period.

Since 1 October 2023, 934 measles cases have been recorded in England. The number of cases had increased from 17 in October 2023 to 40 in November, to 153 in December, and to 269 in January 2024. In February, a slight decline was seen, with 231 cases recorded, and the latest figures for March saw 224 cases.

Between January and March 2024, over four times as many five- to 25-year-olds in England received a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination than had in the same period in 2023 – indicating the successful uptake of the national catch-up campaign.

In the first three months of 2024, 75,499 five- to 25-year-olds in England received an MMR vaccination, compared to 18,433 in the same period last year.

Since January, a campaign to encourage vaccine uptake has targeted children and young adults in London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.

And in some locations, including Cheshire and Merseyside, selected community pharmacies have been part of the catch-up campaign – although it is not clear whether the latest NHS England data include those delivered by community pharmacies.

Health minister Maria Caufield described the fourfold increase in vaccine uptake as ‘hugely welcome figures’ that ‘demonstrate the power of parents and clinicians coming together to protect our children’.

She added: ‘We must not be complacent – measles is a serious disease.’ And she urged those who were not yet fully vaccinated to come forward to receive their jabs.

In January, community pharmacy leaders and former pharmacy minister Steve Brine called for community pharmacies to become the ‘first port of call’ for vaccination programmes, following the publication of NHSE’s vaccination strategy.

PCN contract signals move to 'collaborative' vaccine delivery

Last week, our sister title Pulse suggested that the new contract for primary care networks (PCNs) signals a move towards practices delivering vaccinations ‘collaboratively’ across the network.

The PCN Network DES for 2024/25 includes a new clause which allows practices to administer vaccinations to patients from another practice within the PCN or from sites other than its own premises, Pulse reported.

The PCN contract also now makes explicit reference to integrated neighbourhood teams, saying PCNs should ‘collaborate with non-GP providers to provide better care’.

And it clarified that community pharmacies could form part of a PCN.

A specific agreement setting out how vaccines will be delivered collaboratively must be set up and signed by participants, and for any vaccination session delivered collaboratively, the PCN must ‘nominate a lead practice’ which will ‘be responsible for the operation of that session’ including ordering and holding the vaccines, the contract said.

For any vaccination session delivered collaboratively, the PCN must ‘nominate a lead practice’ which will ‘be responsible for the operation of that session’ including ordering and holding the vaccines.

This includes details of where the vaccination session will take place, how patients will be kept informed, organising any transportation of vaccines, and ensuring ‘appropriate staffing arrangements’.

The contract also said providers can decide their own arrangements for reporting vaccination data for income purposes, including the provision of reporting information to any practices that ‘may need to claim for payment for its registered patients’.

NHS England explained that the changes aim to allow more flexibility for vaccinations to take place conveniently, with the change requested by primary care organisations.

A version of this first appeared on our sister title Pulse, reported by Eliza Parr.