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Friday, March 26, 1999 Published at 19:27 GMT


Parents ignore MMR scare

Most parents decided to give their children the MMR vaccine

Most parents have decided to innoculate their children with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) despite fears that it is unsafe, official figures suggest.

Medical experts were concerned that publicity surrounding a controversial scientific paper would dissuade many parents from giving their children the combined MMR vaccine - threatening a new epidemic of childhood diseases.

The paper, published in The Lancet medical journal last February, suggested the MMR vaccine was linked to autism and Crohn's disease.

But new figures from the Public Health Laboratory Service show that although MMR uptake fell in reaction to publicity about the scare, it subsequently levelled off.

The new data looks at children aged 24 months who were due to receive the MMR vaccine between October 1997 and April 1998.

It is the first set of routine vaccination figures covering the period when the Lancet paper was published.

The results confirm the trend suggested by early findings in January - that vaccine uptake for children aged 16 months fell between December 1997 and April 1998 and then stabilised.

MMR uptake for children aged 24 months was just over 88% between October and December last year and appeared not to be falling any more.

'Very encouraging'

[ image: MMR vaccine was linked to autism]
MMR vaccine was linked to autism
A PHLS spokesman said: "These data are very encouraging. However, it is still very important to improve the uptake if we are to prevent a resurgence of these infections.

"The World Health Organisation recommends vaccine uptake of 95% in order to achieve this."

He pointed out that an independent group of experts who reviewed the evidence ruled out any link between MMR and autism and Crohn's disease.

"We would urge all parents to have their children vaccinated with the MMR vaccine," said the spokesman.

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