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Sunday, 7 July, 2002, 19:13 GMT 20:13 UK
Single jab blow in MMR row
Child being vaccinated
Pressure groups say parents should have a choice over MMR
The UK's only supplier of a single dose rubella vaccine is to stop making it - sparking fresh controversy in the row over the MMR triple vaccine.

Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline said it would stop producing rubella vaccines at its factory in Belgium.

It cited a worldwide drop in demand for single vaccines with the increasing take-up rate of the triple measles, mumps and rubella jab.


The scientific community believe this is the right way to vaccinate

GlaxoSmithKline

Campaigners believe the move will put families under more pressure to use the triple jab, as stocks of single vaccines diminish.

Many parents have refused to allow their children to be given the three-in-one vaccine after a study suggested it may be linked to autism.

GlaxoSmithKline said it would continue to supply the NHS with rubella vaccines until its contract ran out in January 2004, but said the stocks it had left would be "made available to non-immune women of child-bearing age".

'Difficult'

"Ninety countries worldwide are now using the MMR vaccine and the scientific community believe this is the right way to vaccinate," said a spokesman.

"No country is recommending the use of single vaccines over MMR."


This can only be a cynical coercive attempt to undermine parental choice

Jackie Fletcher, Jabs
Jackie Fletcher, from the campaign group Justice Awareness and Basic Support (Jabs), said GPs had been told they could not re-order new rubella jabs from GlaxoSmithKline because supplies were low.

"This can only be a cynical coercive attempt to undermine parental choice and force families down the single jab route," she said.

"Parents all over the UK are clamouring to vaccinate their children. Having the rubella jab on the NHS was a legitimate route where family doctors could give it first, then the other jabs.

"This closes off that avenue. It's going to make it more difficult for parents to protect their children. It seems to go against common sense."

Compulsory

Mrs Fletcher called on the Health Secretary Alan Milburn to explain why production of single vaccines was being reduced despite "growing demand", and to consider finding another manufacturer.

A Department of Health spokesman said single rubella vaccines would continue to be provided to women of child-bearing age - but not to children - on the NHS.

"As far as we're concerned, we have our own supplies of the rubella vaccine. We are currently tendering for more for next year but that is not going to be with GlaxoSmithKline."

Statistics from the Public Health Laboratory Service, published last month, 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%.

Some doctors believe the UK should follow the example of other countries by making MMR vaccination compulsory.


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