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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 08:11 GMT 09:11 UK
BMA rejects compulsory jabs
The BMA says children should be vaccinated against disease
Parents should not be forced to have their children vaccinated against diseases like mumps, measles and rubella, according to the British Medical Association.

It carried out a year-long study to see if the UK should follow countries like Canada, Italy and the United States, which require children to be vaccinated against certain diseases before they can start school.

The BMA has concluded that this policy would not be right for the UK and that parents should continue to be able to choose not to have their children vaccinated.

But the report says doctors should encourage parents to vaccinate their children.

Vaccines 'are safe'

It insists that all vaccines currently used in the UK are safe and that vaccination "is the safest and most effective way of preventing infectious diseases".

The review was prompted by calls from some doctors at last year's BMA annual conference to make vaccinations compulsory.

In our view the benefits of getting children immunised are immense
Dr Vivienne Nathanson,
BMA

It followed concerns about the falling uptake of the MMR vaccine and a rise in measles cases.

Many parents have been refusing to have their children vaccinated against mumps, measles and rubella because of concerns over the safety of the three-in-one vaccine.

Studies have suggested the jab may be linked to autism and bowel disease. However, these claims have been dismissed by doctors and the government, who all insist it is safe.

In its report, the BMA insisted there was no evidence to support the claims.

MMA row

"The overwhelming evidence is that there is no proven link between MMR vaccine and autism or inflammatory bowel disease," it states.

Many parents have opted for single vaccines against mumps, measles and rubella instead.

The overwhelming evidence is that there is no proven link between MMR vaccine and autism or inflammatory bowel disease
BMA report

However, the BMA said this put children at risk of disease and said the three-in-one vaccine was the best way of protecting children.

"The BMA does not believe that single vaccines are the solution as this would leave more children unprotected for extended periods and raise the likelihood of epidemics," the report says.

Nevertheless, the report concludes that parents should not be forced to have their children vaccinated against these or other diseases.

"We note with interest that some other countries operate immunisation policies where there is some degree of compulsion.

"We do not believe that compulsory immunisation is in any way appropriate for the UK but that healthcare professionals should strive to inform, educate and advise the public about the overwhelming benefits of vaccination for their children and society in general."

Careful consideration

BMA chairman Dr Ian Bogle said: "We think it is far preferable for doctors to inform and educate parents about the overwhelming benefits of vaccination, not only for their children but for society in general.

"The doctor-patient relationship is based on trust, choice and openness and we think introducing compulsory vaccination may be harmful about this."

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of ethics and science, said: "At the end of the day, it is up to parents to balance the risks and benefits of vaccination.

"In our view the benefits of getting children immunised are immense."

The Department of Health has repeatedly said it has no plans to introduce compulsory vaccination.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Dr Evan Harris backed the BMA's decision.

"Doctors are absolutely right to reject compulsory vaccination which would be wholly unethical and counterproductive," he said.

The report is published ahead of the start of this year's BMA annual conference in Torquay on Monday.


SEE ALSO:
'Compulsory MMR' rumour denied
12 Mar 03  |  Health
MMR 'should be compulsory'
03 Jul 02  |  BMA Conference
Q&A: MMR and the single vaccine
04 Jan 01  |  Health


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