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Sunday, 11 February, 2001, 00:06 GMT
MMR uptake figures steady
MMR vaccine
The vaccine has produced different views
The number of parents taking their children for the controversial MMR jab has stopped falling.

Health experts say nearly nine out of 10 UK parents now take their children for the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab.

The latest data from the Public Health Services Laboratory Services (PHLS), shows that the take-up for the jab fell sharply in 1996 after Dr Andrew Wakefield published his first controversial paper linking it to autism and bowel disease.

The rate dropped then from 92.5% to an all-time low of 87.6%.

Almost nine in 10 parents in this country are having their children vaccinated and that is important in bear in mind

A spokesman for the PHLS

But current figures show that the vaccination rates have now stabilised at 88%.

A spokesman for the PHLS said they were delighted by the figures and hoped public confidence would continue to grow as more and more data pointed to the safety of the jab.

Stable figures

"There was a fall after the initial criticisms, but for the last two years the vaccine uptake has been basically stable.

"Obviously what we are now hoping is that we will be able to build on that and we are hoping we will get the uptake levels up to 92-95%," he said.

"Almost nine in 10 parents in this country are having their children vaccinated and that is important in bear in mind," he said.

A major study, published in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal by Dr Hershel Jick, of Boston University, shows there appears to be no link between MMR and autism.

This is expected to encourage even more parents to take their children for the jab.

Doctors are also showing more confidence in the drug - linking fewer cases of the drug to autism.

Rise in adverse reactions

The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) monitors all drugs under its yellow card system.

Doctors spotting problems with a particular drug report them to the MCA on a yellow card and the data is held centrally to highlight any problems.

Latest data from the MCA shows that there was just one yellow card report last year of autism following MMR compared to 15 reports in 1997.

There have been no yellow cards over the last three years linking the MMR jab to bowel disease.

But the MCA reports an increase in adverse drug reactions linked to the MMR and a rise in the number of reactions classed as serious.

Publicity influence

Since the jab was introduced in the UK in 1988 there have been 3,453 reports of adverse reaction, including 42 of autism; 17 of autistic behaviour and three of bowel disease.

The Department of Health confirmed the figures, but said it was important to remember that the MCA threshold for "serious" was very low and included fainting and swollen glands as symptoms.

A DoH spokeswoman said: "Adverse drug reactions can include things such as rise in temperature, fainting and swollen glands.

"Rates of reporting have risen, but they are influenced by publicity."

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See also:

09 Feb 01 | Health
MMR 'cleared' of autism link
10 Apr 00 | Health
Fresh MMR autism link rejected
12 Jan 01 | Health
Controversy over measles vaccine
21 Jan 01 | Health
Doctor renews MMR safety doubts
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