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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
'Significant' drop in MMR uptake
The government aims for 95% MMR uptake
The proportion of infants being vaccinated against mumps, measles and rubella has dropped "significantly" in recent months, official figures reveal.

Statistics from the Public Health Laboratory Service show just 70% of 16 month-olds received MMR vaccinations in March - down 6% since the end of last year and well below the government's target of 95%.

Officials said the downturn was linked to the adverse publicity which surrounded the three-in-one vaccine earlier this year, after researchers raised fresh safety concerns.

Although this is a significant dip in uptake, the majority of parents are still having their children immunised

Dr Mary Ramsay, PHLS
MMR has been linked to autism and Crohn's disease, but health officials say there is no proof of a connection.

The Department of Health recommends that all infants receive MMR but has resisted demands for the vaccine to be made available in three separate doses.

Children are scheduled to receive their first dose of MMR at between 12 and 15 months. A booster is given at between three and five years.

Slight upturn

While the PHLS figures showed a sharp drop in the first few months of the year, uptake improved in April when 72% of 16-month-olds were vaccinated.

Dr Mary Ramsay of the PHLS said those statistics suggested parents were now "catching up".

"We frequently see falls in vaccine uptake associated with periods of adverse publicity, but the falls are usually temporary and followed by a degree of recovery.

"This appears to have been the case over recent months and now many parents are catching up with the vaccination schedule.

She added: "Although this is a significant dip in uptake, the majority of parents are still having their children immunised."

Dr Ramsay urged parents to have their children vaccinated, saying there was increasing evidence to show that it was safe.

"There is a huge amount of evidence on the safety of this vaccine and there is now an overwhelming body of evidence from around the world supporting the use of MMR.

"Over the last year or so there has been no new work questioning the safety of the vaccine and yet further evidence of its safety and effectiveness.

"By contrast, there is no good evidence on the safety and effectiveness of using single vaccines as some are suggesting."

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