Salford mum urges all parents to get their children fully vaccinated against measles

Following the launch of a campaign earlier in the month to drive up childhood vaccinations across the country amid concerns about a decline in uptake – a mum in Salford, whose 10-year-old daughter died from measles complications, has come forward to urge parents and guardians across Greater Manchester to make sure their children are fully vaccinated.

NHS Greater Manchester partnered with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), NHS England, Salford City Council and Liverpool City Council to launch a new multi-media marketing campaign across England on 4 March, to remind parents and guardians of the risk of their children missing out on protection against serious diseases that are re-emerging in the country.

This risk is something that Rebecca Archer, a mother from Salford, wants to make sure everyone fully understands – after losing her 10-year-old daughter, Renae, in September 2023 from problems caused by having measles as a baby.

Renae caught the infection at just five months old when she was too young to be vaccinated. She seemingly recovered after a few days of being poorly, but a decade later she developed a rare brain disease, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) caused by her previous measles infection which led to her death.

Rebecca said: “It’s like a nightmare, it’s still hard to believe that’s why Renae’s not here anymore. Because of having the measles ten years previous.

“She was poorly for a few days… after that, everything went back to normal – she was fit and healthy.”

But 10 years later, Renae’s school phoned to say she’d had a seizure. “She had one every week, and then I think it was the third seizure where they [did] an MRI, and then that’s when they discovered there was some swelling on her brain. Her motor functions started to deteriorate – she just slowly couldn’t speak or eat,” added Rebecca.

“[Renae hadn’t] had the MMR because she was under 12 months old. If there wasn’t an outbreak and more kids had their vaccinations, then she wouldn’t have got the measles in the first place. And it wouldn’t have ultimately ended her life.”

Measles is one of the world’s most infectious diseases with estimates showing that one infected adult or child can pass the disease onto around 15 other unvaccinated people. It spreads very easily among those who are unvaccinated, especially in nurseries, schools and universities.

Catching measles can lead to life changing issues for adults and children, such as blindness, deafness and swelling of the brain (encephalitis) – and those in certain groups, including babies, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity, are at increased risk of these complications. 

There is currently no medical treatment for measles, however, two doses of the MMR vaccine can give someone effective lifelong protection against becoming seriously unwell with the disease.

Dr Manisha Kumar, chief medical officer for NHS Greater Manchester said: “Rebecca’s story is one example of many, that illustrate why we need to urgently reverse the decline in the uptake of childhood vaccinations, in order to protect not only ourselves and our families, but our wider communities.

“We hope that through brave people like Rebecca coming forward with their personal stories, combined with the multi-media campaign, it will serve as a reminder that these diseases have not gone away and it will encourage parents and guardians to check their children’s vaccination status and book appointments if any immunisations have been missed.

“Two doses of the MMR vaccine are needed to get life-long protection against measles, mumps and rubella. Simply by ensuring you have both doses you not only protect you and your family against the illness, but also those who you come into contact with who may be vulnerable.”

In the United Kingdom, over 20 million cases of measles have been prevented since vaccination against the disease began during the 1980s, according to data from UKHSA. Data also shows that over 4,500 lives- 81 lives per year-across the United Kingdom have been saved as a result.

Find out more about NHS vaccinations at: NHS vaccinations and when to have them – NHS

Symptoms of measles appear 7 to 10 days after contact with the virus and include: 

  • cold-like symptoms such as runny or blocked nose, sneezing and cough 
  • red, sore, watery eyes 
  • high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40OC / 104O
  • a non-itchy, red-brown rash usually appears 3 to 5 days later (sometimes starts around the ears before spreading to rest of the body), spots may be raised and join to form blotchy patches – which may be harder to see on darker skin tones 
  • small white spots may appear inside cheeks and the back of lips (for a few days)

More information about the symptoms can be found here: Measles – NHS 

If you or a family member develops any symptoms of measles, contact your GP practice by phone. Please do not go to your GP practice, walk-in centre or any other healthcare setting without calling ahead, as measles is very infectious. 

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