Measles will become endemic in Britain within 30 years unless vaccinations are made compulsory for school children, academics have suggested.

A new study predicts current efforts will be insufficient to keep the disease at bay.

Last year, 3.7 per cent of the population was believed to be susceptible to measles, comfortably below the 7.5 per cent needed for "herd immunity", the threshold below which outbreaks of measles tend not to spread.

However, the computer model analysis found that merely continuing with current practices will not be sufficient to suppress the tide of vaccine scepticism, meaning the proportion will break the 7.5 per cent barrier by 2050 at the latest.

Advertisement

The study found that compulsory vaccination upon entering school would "strongly benefit" the struggle to fight the disease, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The research will add to the clamour for a mandatory approach.

Last month Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, said he could not rule out the possibility that unvaccinated children would be sent home unless the immunisation rate improves.

France and Italy have already introduced compulsory vaccination in schools. Dr. Stefano Merler, from the Bruno Kessler Foundation, Italy: "Our results suggest that most of the countries we have studied would strongly benefit from the introduction of compulsory vaccination at school entry in addition to current immunisation programmes.

"In particular, we found that this strategy would allow the UK, Ireland and the US to reach stable herd immunity levels in the next decades, which means that a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease to avoid future outbreaks.

"To be effective, mandatory vaccination at school entry would need to cover more than 40 per cent of the population."

In the UK, measles vaccination comes as part of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, which is offered as two injections, the first within a month of a child's first birthday and the second usually at three years and four months.

Last month figures showed that more than half a million British children are now unvaccinated against measles, first-jab coverage among children reaching their second birthday in England now at 91 per cent.

The researchers focused their analysis on countries with a routine two-dose measles vaccination programme and a high primary school involvement rate, but with different demographics and vaccination histories.

The aim was to evaluate the effect of possible adjustments to existing immunisation strategies, and to estimate the proportion of people who may remain susceptible to measles in high-income countries over time.

The projections up until 2050 suggest that if current vaccination policies remain unchanged, the proportion of the population susceptible to measles would only remain below 7.5 per cent in Singapore and South Korea, two countries which had high vaccination coverage in the past.

Last night some British experts criticised the new study, which is published in the journal BMC Medicine, arguing that compulsory vaccination might exclude children whose families object from education.

The study is published in the journal BMC Medicine.