Don’t want to vaccinate your children against measles? Four mothers whose virus-stricken kids either died or were left gravely ill are begging you to think again as they share their stories which will terrify every parent…

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Gemma Larkman-Jones (right), has urged parents to get their children vaccinated against measles as soon as possible after her son Samuel (left) died from a compilation of the infection

Measles is tearing through the UK, spooking health chiefs and parents alike.

Parts of the country are battling their biggest outbreaks since the 1990s, with cases nationwide up seven-fold on this time last year.

But the illness itself – caused by an extremely contagious virus which triggers cold-like symptoms before developing into a tell-tale rash – can be prevented through MMR vaccine. 

Yet uptake has slumped to a decade-low, sparking a national plea for parents to get their children jabbed in a bid to prevent the crisis escalating. 

In light of the growing fears, MailOnline has collated the heartbreaking tales of four mothers who are begging parents of unvaccinated kids to reconsider.

Their children either died or were left gravely ill from a little-known complication of measles that can strike years later.  

Gemma Larkman-Jones (right), has urged parents to get their children vaccinated against measles as soon as possible after her son Samuel (left) died from a compilation of the infection

Samuel, from Brixton in south London, caught measles in 2014, aged two. While he recovered at the time, he was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in London in February 2019 after Ms Larkman-Jones, 45, noticed he was losing his balance when walking

Samuel, from Brixton in south London, caught measles in 2014, aged two. While he recovered at the time, he was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London in February 2019 after Ms Larkman-Jones, 45, noticed he was losing his balance when walking

Samuel (right, pictured with brother Freddie) eventually lost the ability to eat, swallow, walk and talk, falling into a 'vegetative state' in March that year before dying on April 30

Samuel (right, pictured with brother Freddie) eventually lost the ability to eat, swallow, walk and talk, falling into a ‘vegetative state’ in March that year before dying on April 30

Davina Barrett believed her three-month-old son was just suffering from a cold — but it turned out to be measles.

The 28-year-old, from Walsall in the West Midlands, said Ezra developed cold and flu symptoms earlier this month, which she mistook for a seasonal bug.

The mental health therapist, who lives with her husband Karl and one-year-old son Noah, said: ‘We’d all been unwell with cold and flu symptoms for about two weeks prior, so we just thought he was dealing with the usual winter cough and cold.’

But when he developed a rash all over his body, she rushed him to A&E in early January, despite thinking it may just have been a reaction to a new brand of milk.

However, doctors diagnosed Ezra with measles. The infection typically starts with cold-like symptoms, with a tell-tale rash developing a few days later. It usually starts on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body.

What is subacute sclerosing panencephalitis?

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) — slow-progressing inflammation of the brain caused by the measles virus, which appears up to eight years after the initial infection.

The reaction occurs in around one per every 50,000 measles cases. 

Symptoms are caused by the destruction of infected brain cells, which are initially subtle — such as untidy handwriting, difficulties with daily tasks and changes in speech. 

There is no treatment or cure. 

However, people who have had MMR vaccine and then catch measles are protected against SSPE.

Ezra spent a week in hospital, where he was put on oxygen for four days to make it easier for him to breathe.

He had to have a lumbar puncture — a needle into the spine to collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid — to check if he had developed meningitis, an infection of the protective membranes around the brain, which is a complication of measles. 

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Ezra was also given vitamin A supplements to prevent eye damage and blindness — another potential side effect of the virus. 

He went on to test positive for Covid, develop pneumonia and suffered from diarrhoea throughout his illness. 

Ezra was eventually discharged from hospital on January 15.

While his brother Noah has already had his first MMR jab, Ezra is still too young to receive it. 

The MMR vaccine is offered in two doses. The first is given at one-year-old and the second at three years and four months.

After both doses, around 99 per cent of people are protected against measles.

However, the virus, one of the most contagious on the planet, is so infectious that nine in 10 unvaccinated people will catch it if they’ve had close contact with an infected person. 

At least 95 per cent of the population needs to have had both doses of the MMR vaccine to stop measles from spreading in the population. 

However, the UK has never hit this target and latest figures show that just 84.5 per cent of five-year-olds are fully-jabbed — the lowest figure in a decade. 

Ms Barrett urged parents across the country to vaccinate their children against measles as soon as possible. 

Another mother, Sophie Dale, has told how her 11-month-old son nearly died from measles just days before his MMR vaccination appointment

Another mother, Sophie Dale, has told how her 11-month-old son nearly died from measles just days before his MMR vaccination appointment

The 27-year-old, from Chesham, Buckinghamshire, was 'nervous' to vaccinate Levi because of posts on TikTok and Facebook linking the jab to autism ¿ a theory that has been entirely debunked

The 27-year-old, from Chesham, Buckinghamshire, was ‘nervous’ to vaccinate Levi because of posts on TikTok and Facebook linking the jab to autism — a theory that has been entirely debunked

Levi caught measles in November 2018, before he was vaccinated. He developed a fever and then the tell-tale rash (pictured) Levi caught measles in November 2018, before he was vaccinated. He developed a fever and then the tell-tale rash (pictured)

Levi caught measles in November 2018, before he was vaccinated. He developed a fever and then the tell-tale rash (pictured)

She told the Mirror: ‘I just want parents to be aware of the complications if their children were to get measles. I know a lot of people who don’t vaccinate think that their child will get measles and then they’ll just recover and be fine. 

‘But the complications are so serious.’

Ms Barrett added: ‘The complications are too extreme to not take the vaccine. The reasons that some people give to avoid the vaccine, for example, they think that their child is going to get autism. 

‘They really need to research and see that those things aren’t true.’ 

The downward trend in MMR jab uptake has been blamed on a now-debunked study by the discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield, who has since been struck off the medical register. He falsely linked the MMR injection to autism in the 90s.

MMR uptake in England was about 91 per cent prior to his paper but plunged to 80 per cent in the following years. His study, published in The Lancet has since been retracted.

Interruptions to routine vaccinations during the pandemic, difficulties accessing GP appointments and a rise of anti-vaxx beliefs in the wake of Covid may have also fuelled the crisis, experts say.  

While Ezra has recovered well and now ‘completely fine’, Ms Barrett said she has been left feeling that her children are safer at home than mixing with other children.

‘I definitely have to build back that confidence around taking the boys out again,’ she added.

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It comes as another mother, Gemma Larkman-Jones, has urged parents to get their children vaccinated against measles as soon as possible after her son died from a compilation of the infection. 

Samuel, from Brixton in south London, caught measles in 2014, aged two.

While he recovered at the time, he was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London in February 2019 after Ms Larkman-Jones, 45, noticed he was losing his balance when walking.

A lumbar puncture and MRI test revealed he had subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) — slow-progressing inflammation of the brain caused by the measles virus, which appears up to eight years after the initial infection.

The reaction occurs in around one per every 50,000 measles cases. 

Symptoms are caused by the destruction of infected brain cells, which are initially subtle — such as untidy handwriting, difficulties with daily tasks and changes in speech. 

Doctors at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury diagnosed him with sepsis ¿ one of the potential complications of a measles infection. One in 15 infected children suffer from side effects from the infection, which can be fatal

Doctors at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury diagnosed him with sepsis — one of the potential complications of a measles infection. One in 15 infected children suffer from side effects from the infection, which can be fatal

Levi spent six days in hospital fighting for his life. Ms Dale said: 'I didn't realise how serious it was at the timE' Levi spent six days in hospital fighting for his life. Ms Dale said: 'I didn't realise how serious it was at the timE'

Levi spent six days in hospital fighting for his life. Ms Dale said: ‘I didn’t realise how serious it was at the timE’

Ms Dale now advocates for the vaccine, encouraging other parents to make sure their children have had both doses of the MMR vaccine

Ms Dale now advocates for the vaccine, encouraging other parents to make sure their children have had both doses of the MMR vaccine

There is no treatment or cure. However, people who have had MMR vaccine and then catch measles are protected against SSPE.

Samuel eventually lost the ability to eat, swallow, walk and talk, falling into a ‘vegetative state’ in March that year before dying on April 30. 

Ms Larkman-Jones believes that his death would have been avoided if had received the MMR vaccine. 

However, Samuel’s vaccination was repeatedly delayed because he had repeated chest infections and fevers when he was supposed to be jabbed. The NHS advises that jabs should be postponed if a child has a high temperature.

It is unclear if he later had the MMR jabs. 

WHAT JABS SHOULD I HAVE HAD BY AGE 18?

Vaccinations for various unpleasant and deadly diseases are given free on the NHS to children and teenagers.

Here is a list of all the jabs someone should have by the age of 18 to make sure they and others across the country are protected:

Eight weeks old

  • 6-in-1 vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B.
  • Pneumococcal (PCV)
  • Rotavirus
  • Meningitis B 

12 weeks old

  • Second doses of 6-in-1 and Rotavirus 

16 weeks old

  • Third dose of 6-in-1
  • Second doses of PCV and men. B 

One year old 

  • Hib/meningitis C
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Third dose of PCV and meningitis B 

Two to eight years old

  • Annual children’s flu vaccine

Three years, four months old

  • Second dose of MMR
  • 4-in-1 pre-school booster for diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough

12-13 years old (girls)

  • HPV (two doses within a year)

14 years old

  • 3-in-1 teenage booster for diphtheria, tetanus and polio
  • MenACWY  

 Source: NHS Choices

But Ms Larkman-Jones believes if enough other children were vaccinated against measles, Samuel may not have been exposed to the virus in the first place.

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Ms Larkman-Jones said: ‘I honestly do believe that people just think that measles, like chickenpox, is part of being a child and it’s so not.

‘Samuel didn’t need to die and that’s the guilt I carry every day with me.’

She said people assume measles just causes ‘a bit of a temperature’ and have forgotten that it can cause people to go blind, deaf and neurological disorders. 

She added: ‘If people knew that this was a possibility, they would vaccinate more.

‘Even if it just makes one parent question, how many lives could that one child being vaccinated save? I don’t want any other parent to go through this.’

Becky Walker has urged other parents to ensure that their children have the MMR vaccine after her daughter died aged 10 from the long-term measles complication SSPE.

Renae, from Salford, became infected with the virus at just five months old, when she was too young to be vaccinated against it.

Renae seemed to recover from the infection and was later given both doses of the MMR jab as part of her routine childhood vaccinations.

Ms Walker said Renae was ‘cheeky but really well behaved’, ‘brilliant at school’ and her ‘right arm’.

However, 10 years later, she began to suffer from seizures, hallucinations and difficulties speaking and moving.

Ms Walker said Renae lost more control of her functions every day, to the point that she couldn’t eat, keep her eyes open or speak. 

Doctors diagnosed her with SSPE and told her family that there was no way to treat her and her condition was fatal. She was put on life support and died in September 2023 — nine days before her 11th birthday.

Ms Walker believes Renae wouldn’t have been infected with measles if more children had been vaccinated against it when she was a baby.

She told ITV News: ‘I wouldn’t want another family to go through this.

‘The more kids that are vaccinated, it’ll lessen the spread of measles. Obviously, she was too young when she got ill to prevent what’s happened.

‘Preventing her getting the measles in the first place could’ve saved her life.’

Another mother, Sophie Dale, has told how her 11-month-old son nearly died from measles just days before his MMR vaccination appointment.

The 27-year-old, from Chesham, Buckinghamshire, was ‘nervous’ to vaccinate Levi because of posts on TikTok and Facebook linking the jab to autism — a theory that has been entirely debunked.

However, Ms Dale booked him in for his first MMR jab despite being worried about anti-vaxx conspiracy theories.

Cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough and a runny or blocked nose, are usually the first signal of measles. A few days later, some people develop small white spots on the inside of their cheeks and the back of their lips. The tell-tale measles rash also develops, usually starting on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body

Cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough and a runny or blocked nose, are usually the first signal of measles. A few days later, some people develop small white spots on the inside of their cheeks and the back of their lips. The tell-tale measles rash also develops, usually starting on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body

In England, 89.3 per cent of two-year-olds received their first dose of the MMR vaccine in the year to March 2023 (blue line), up from 89.2 per cent the previous year. Meanwhile, 88.7 per cent of two-year-olds had both doses, down from 89 per cent a year earlier

In England, 89.3 per cent of two-year-olds received their first dose of the MMR vaccine in the year to March 2023 (blue line), up from 89.2 per cent the previous year. Meanwhile, 88.7 per cent of two-year-olds had both doses, down from 89 per cent a year earlier

Ms Dale said: ‘I was a bit nervous when I was deciding to vaccinate Levi. I was in two minds but decided to go for it — then he got ill before he had chance.’

Levi caught measles in November 2018, before he was vaccinated. 

He developed a fever and then the tell-tale rash.

Despite seeming to recover from the illness, he took a turn for the worse the day before his first birthday party.

Ms Dale said: ‘I was stood in Sainsbury’s and my mum called me screaming that he was seizing. I rushed home and his temperature was crazy.

‘When we arrived at the hospital a team of what looked like 20 people took him away.

‘It was so scary — I remember thinking “this is what you see on 24 Hours in A&E”.

‘I couldn’t watch but I could hear his screams.’

Doctors at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury diagnosed him with sepsis — one of the potential complications of a measles infection. One in 15 infected children suffer from side effects from the infection, which can be fatal.

Levi spent six days in hospital fighting for his life.

Ms Dale said: ‘I didn’t realise how serious it was at the time.

‘But I was told the measles had basically destroyed his immune system, and he developed sepsis while fighting it.

‘By the grace of God he is now a-ok but sometimes I look back at the hospital pictures and I can’t believe it.’

Five years on, he is now an ‘insanely clever little ball of energy’ and an older brother to sister Winnie, one. 

Ms Dale said: ‘Seeing him ill, the hardest part was he had always been such a happy little boy.

‘He couldn’t understand why his mum was allowing them to prod and poke him — even though they were saving his life I just wanted to ask them to stop hurting him.’

Ms Dale now advocates for the vaccine, encouraging other parents to make sure their children have had both doses of the MMR vaccine.

She now finds it ‘frustrating’ to see people not vaccinating their babies, because she has seen first-hand how dangerous the conditions can be.

Ms Dale said: ‘There’s a lot of misinformation out there so I know how hard it is.

‘But after seeing Levi in that way, I could never have forgiven myself if that had been because of a decision I had made.’

She added: ‘Even after what happened to Levi, with my second child, I was still nervous to get her vaccinations done because of the scaremongering.

‘But I knew I had to do it. I get the fear around vaccinations but this is what happened to my son.

‘If you’re nervous and scared about vaccinating, it’s so easy just to say you won’t do it. But do your research and make an educated decision — ask the doctors questions and talk it through with people.’

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Source: tit.edu.vn

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