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Friday, 26 January, 2001, 20:13 GMT
GP offers single measles jab on NHS
The government is launching a campaign backing MMR
The government is launching a campaign backing MMR
A GP is offering a single-dose measles jab on the NHS to children whose parents will not let them have the controversial MMR vaccine because of fears of a link with autism.

Dr Richard Halvorsen told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that giving the single jab was the only way he could ensure some children were protected.

London GP Dr Halvorsen is believed to be the first GP to offer single jabs on the NHS, flouting NHS guidelines that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination should be used.

I can't just do what I am told if I don't believe it is in their best interests

Dr Richard Halvorsen

Earlier this week, the chief medical officer Liam Donaldson held a summit where the government and the medical profession backed the triple jab.

A 3m campaign is being launched to promote the vaccine.

Dr Halvorsen said he will still give the MMR.

"I am not refusing to immunise my patients with MMR.

"Those parents who come in with concerns and anxieties about the MMR, I am discussing with them the different options available.

"If these parents decide not to have the MMR and are therefore leaving their children open to the possibility of measles, I then offer them the measles antigen instead," he said.

Mr Halvorsen said his chief concern is the health of the child.

"I am doing what I think is in the best interests of my patients, which is what I have to do as a doctor.

"I can't just do what I am told if I don't believe it is in their best interests," he said.

Single dose

Three children are due to be vaccinated with the measles only jab next week at Dr Halvorsen's surgery.

In order to be able to get the single-dose vaccines, which are not licensed for general use in the UK, Dr Halvorsen has to supply the names of each individual child to the Department of Health along with a medical reason as to why they cannot have the MMR.

Dr Halvorsen said he favours the use of three vaccines over yearly intervals.

"We think that the risk from MMR is because it involves giving three live viruses into the body at the same time, something that's never been done before with any vaccine.

"In order to minimise the effects of interaction between these different vaccines, we think a large gap, maybe of about a year, needs to be left.

"Even doctors who do not agree that there is an association between MMR and autism who are in charge of immunisation policies around the country are saying that single antigens should be available to help protect against a measles epidemic," he said.

But a spokesman for the Department of Health told BBC News Online: "GPs can only make the single dose available on the NHS to older children, aged between six and 15 who have not been immunised previously."

Dr Richard Halvorsen
"I am doing what I think is in the best interests of my patients."
See also:

22 Jan 01 | Health
3m to promote MMR vaccine
23 Jan 01 | UK
Papers fuel MMR debate
21 Jan 01 | Health
Doctor renews MMR safety doubts
24 Mar 98 | Sci/Tech
'No link' between vaccine and autism
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