Private school pupils ‘at greatest measles risk’ and ‘could threaten rest of population’

Private school pupils are at greatest risk from the ongoing measles outbreak, one of Britain’s most senior doctors has warned. This is from the Telegraph…

Prof John Ashton, who represents the country’s public health doctors, said the combination of high numbers of middle-class children whose parents refused to have them vaccinated, plus overseas pupils with unknown health records, meant such schools could form “reservoirs of disease”, threatening the wider population.

He said their pupils could pose a health threat to the rest of the population similar to that from groups such as gipsies and travellers, who have previously spread the infectious disease.

He said Britain’s 600,000 children in private education were now at far greater risk from measles outbreaks than those in the state sector.

Prof Ashton, who is soon to become president of the Faculty of Public Health, representing all public health doctors, said such children were falling victim to a number of combined risks. “You’ve got a lot of middle-class, well-off parents, large numbers of whom did not have their children immunised because of the Wakefield scare — which was a very middle-class phenomenon,” he said.

“Layered on top of that you have got a lot of children from abroad, especially from the Far East, from countries such as Hong Kong and China, and there are few checks being done to establish their immunisation records.”

Prof Ashton issued the warning as the NHS embarks on a “catch-up” MMR campaign targeting about a million children who have not been vaccinated, especially those aged between 10 and 16, who missed jabs a decade ago following now discredited research linking the jab with autism.

Latest figures show the disease is at its highest level for almost two decades across England, with 587 cases, and in Wales, where more than 900 people have now been infected.

Prof Ashton, who was director of public health in Cumbria until last year, said pupils and local communities were being put at risk from infectious diseases because independent schools were a “law unto themselves” and did not have proper policies to protect children.

He said that state schools had closer links with the NHS, and worked together to promote vaccination campaigns, while private schools tended to be left to their own devices.

He added that private schools were bad at keeping complete records showing the immunisation status of pupils sent to this country from abroad.

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