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Rubella screening in pregnancy to end in England

28 January, 2016

Rubella screening in pregnancy to end in England

Public Health England has announced that rubella susceptibility screening in pregnancy will end in England on 1 April 2016.

The decision to stop screening follows a review of evidence by the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) in 2003 and 2012.

The high levels of vaccination rates achieved through the MMR immunisation programme have made the decision possible.

The UK NSC found that screening for rubella susceptibility during pregnancy no longer met the criteria for a screening programme, because infection levels in the UK are so low they are defined as eliminated by the World Health Organization, and rubella infection in pregnancy is very rare.

Figures in England during 2014 and 2015 show that 91.5% of children aged up to two years had received at least one MMR vaccination, with 94.5% having received at least one dose of MMR by five years.

PHE director of screening programmes Dr Anne Mackie said: ‘The decision to end rubella susceptibility screening in pregnancy in England is based on a rigorous assessment of the evidence and expert clinical advice.

‘A major factor is that high uptake of the MMR vaccine in children means that rubella infection is considered to be eliminated in the UK by the World Health Organization. The change will free up busy midwives, so they can spend more time looking after a new mother and her baby.

‘Screening for rubella in pregnancy does not give any protection to the unborn baby in that pregnancy. The best preventative measure a woman can take to protect herself from rubella is to ensure she is immunised with the MMR vaccine before she gets pregnant.’

PHE head of immunization Dr Mary Ramsay added that appropriate training and education will be given to increase the knowledge of professional healthcare workers, which will enable them to encourage pregnant women to be ‘rash aware’ and to seek urgent medical attention if there is any concern.

Women who are not immune are advised to avoid contact with the virus and offered the MMR vaccination after the birth of the baby, before any further pregnancies.

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