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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 05:58 GMT
Drop in MMR jab uptake
MMR
Experts insist MMR is safe
More than half of GP's surgeries who responded to a BBC Radio 5 Live survey say uptake of the MMR vaccine has fallen in the last few months.

Following media coverage of controversial claims that MMR may be linked with autism, 48% of family doctors reported parents were less willing to let their children have the vaccine.


The media coverage definitely led parents to be confused

Dr Pamela Ashton
The survey reveals that parental confidence in the MMR vaccine has been shaken by recent events although most are still agreeing to have their child immunised.

Researchers contacted more than 300 surgeries around the UK of which 51% reported a drop in take-up of the jab.

The doctors said more parents were asking about the single measles vaccine.

Most were able to persuade them to accept MMR - but 39% of practices said there had been a small drop in the take up of MMR and 11% said there had been a significant drop.

Private jabs

Some parents may have had their children immunised privately with the single measles jab but the drop in MMR coverage will increase the risk of measles outbreaks as well as cases of rubella and mumps.

The good news for the government is that most parents do still seem to be accepting professional advice that the vaccine is safe.

Nearly seven out of ten practices reported MMR take up levels exceeding 90%.

Just three in 100 said take up was below 70%.

Ministers will hope that over the next few months they can begin to build up the numbers of children receiving MMR again.

However, if this does not happen pressure to bring in single jabs is likely to grow even though there is no evidence they are safer than the triple vaccine.

Confusion

Dr Pamela Ashton, a GP in London, said: "The media coverage definitely led parents to be confused.

"In one day I had six telephone conversations about it taking about one hour of my time.

"Personally I fell the way forward is to lay the attention to rest.

"The media have definitely caused more work for health professionals over this. Parents find it difficult to know who to believe."

Figures published by the Public Health Laboratory Service on Thursday for the final quarter of 2001 show that uptake figures for MMR were holding steady.

However, this pre-dated a blitz of publicity surrounding an apparent increase in the number of cases of measles that were recorded in the first months of 2002.

The safety of the triple jab was first brought into question by consultant Dr Andrew Wakefield, who suggested a link between MMR, bowel disease and autism.

He claimed the Government should allow worried parents to opt for single jabs for their children.

But the overwhelming majority of medical opinion is convinced that there is no link between MMR and autism.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Niall Dickson
"This drop in the take up of the jab has left some GPs very concerned"
See also:

20 Feb 02 | Health
Parents vote for single jabs
23 Mar 02 | Health
GPs unite in support of MMR
13 Mar 02 | UK Politics
'No media blitz on MMR'
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