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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 November, 2003, 12:17 GMT
MMR 'does not increase autism risk'
Child receives an injection
Parents should have their children vaccinated, says Dr Reid
Children given the MMR jab are at no greater risk of autism than those receiving other jabs or none at all, according to Health Secretary John Reid.

But he warned the failure to carry out a widespread immunisation programme would increase the risk of children catching measles, rubella and mumps.

Urging parents to accept the MMR vaccine, Dr Reid said: "By any standard of evidence it is the way to protect our individual children and the nation as a whole."

Speaking on GMTV's The Sunday Programme, he also said the prospect of Michael Howard being made Tory leader showed the party was becoming "more extreme, more unfair and more backward looking".

'Simple message'

The Health Secretary's warning on MMR came after expert Dr Simon Murch said a huge drop in the number of children having the vaccination had left the UK on the verge of a major measles outbreak.

Dr Reid denied there was any danger of an impending epidemic, but said there had been outbreaks in Holland and Ireland, where the uptake of the vaccine was lower.

"The simple message is that if MMR is not given to children then they are at greater risk of illness and serious illness than if MMR is not administered," he said.

Similar "unfounded concern" about the whooping cough vaccine 30 years ago led to an increase in cases of the disease and the deaths of some children, the health secretary added.

'More investment'

Dr Reid said the next general election would see marked differences between the health policies of the Labour and Conservative parties.

He said: "We are putting money in, more doctors, more nurses, more building, to get choice to the 95% of people through giving more investment in the National Health Service.

"They are taking money away, up to 2m, to give more choice to the 5% of people who can afford to pay the other half of a 20,000 bill for a heart bypass operation."

Turning to the prospect of Michael Howard leading the Tories, Dr Reid said: "This is the leader, remember, when he was employment secretary presided over a million rise in unemployment, the man who was the biggest advocate of the most unfair tax, the poll tax, ever introduced in this country, and who was the biggest opponent of the minimum wage."




SEE ALSO:
MMR row expert urges jab take-up
31 Oct 03  |  Health
Increase in MMR reports
30 Oct 03  |  Scotland
MMR uptake falls to record low
26 Sep 03  |  Health
How do you sell MMR?
26 Sep 03  |  Health
Howard 'would cut taxes' as PM
02 Nov 03  |  Politics


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