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Is the single jab selfish?
By BBC Health Correspondent Karen Allen

The argument over whether or not to offer single mumps, measles and rubella jabs is one the government simply cannot afford to lose.

Capitulating now would fatally undermine the MMR inoculation programme even if separate injections were offered just as a temporary measure.

By nailing its colours to the mast so firmly and insisting MMR is the only way to keep potentially fatal diseases at bay, the government has in effect backed itself into a corner.

What's more, the absence of compromise sits uncomfortably with Labour's mantra of extending patient choice.

This would all suggest that its intransigence is futile were it not for the scientific facts which have fallen by the wayside.

A vast body of research has failed to find a link between the triple jab; autism and bowel disease and almost all the leading international medical bodies have thrown their weight behind the MMR vaccination.

Too late to tell

That the Prime Minister has dodged the issue of whether his son Leo has received the MMR jab has only made matters worse.

Although he has now given the clearest hint yet that he has - it's probably too late.

The majority of parents are inoculating their kids with the MMR jab but some are just not sure.

They may not be totally persuaded by the disputed research that Dr Andrew Wakefield has produced, but there is a sense that in the light of the CJD scandal, politicians and their medical advisors just can't be trusted.

And we're seeing the results of that now. The numbers inoculated with the MMR jab have fallen from 91% in the mid 90's to just over 84% today. The World Health Organisation's recommend level is 95%.

But the argument that single jabs provide less protection is a difficult one to get across.

Parental responsibility

Especially to conscientious parents who adhere to the complicated timetable of vaccinations needed to give their offspring protection.

If more continue to shy away from the all in one jab, we are likely to see infection rates grow. At the moment the levels of confirmed measles cases are not unusually high.

However - within the fevered context of another MMR scare - they've assumed greater significance. The principle of vaccination is a utilitarian one. You need large numbers of people to co-operate if the levels of the virus in the population are to be kept down.

But with growing consumerism and scepticism about just who to believe - many find the government's refusal to give ground on the issue difficult to swallow.

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

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