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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 01:04 GMT
Women to be offered MMR vaccine
MMR
Women would be offered MMR as protection against rubella
New mothers and women hoping to become pregnant are to be offered the MMR jab because supplies of the single rubella vaccine have run out.

The measles, mumps and rubella vaccination would only be offered to women who had no other protection against the German measles virus.

Rubella can lead to babies being born with deaf, blind, or with heart problems.

Women who are already pregnant would not be offered the jab.

There are no potential adverse effects as a result of receiving the MMR vaccination when women are planning to become pregnant, or after childbirth
Dr Elizabeth Miller, Health Protection Agency
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the government, recommended the move.

It said MMR was an "appropriate alternative" to the single rubella vaccine for adult women.

Those women who did not receive either the MMR jab or the single rubella jab as children are likely to need to have the vaccination.

No bids

If a woman becomes infected with rubella in the early stages of pregnancy, it can cause serious harm to the foetus.

Babies can be born with congenital rubella syndrome, which includes conditions including mental disabilities, deafness and heart abnormalities.

Immunising against rubella has meant virtually no babies are now born with the syndrome.

But stocks of the single rubella vaccine ran out in September.

The Department of Health says that, while vaccine manufacturers were invited to bid to provide further supplies, none would do so because worldwide demand for rubella has declined as the use of MMR has become more widespread.

A woman cannot be vaccinated against rubella during pregnancy, but can be given the jab before or afterwards if she is not already immune.

Women are advised to avoid becoming pregnant for a month after being given MMR.

US experience

Giving the vaccination to children became controversial after some scientists suggested the jab may be linked to autism and bowel disease.

However, no research has ever proved a link, and the overwhelming majority of experts believe the vaccine is safe.

Dr Elizabeth Miller, of the Health Protection Agency, told BBC News Online: "There are no potential adverse effects as a result of receiving the MMR vaccination when women are planning to become pregnant, or after childbirth.

"The MMR vaccination has been used for a number of years in the US, and no problems have been identified."

Sense, the national deafblind and rubella association, supported the decision to offer women the MMR vaccine.

Spokesperson Joff McGill said: "If a woman catches rubella in the early stages of pregnancy it can be passed on to her unborn baby, causing damage to the eyes, ears, heart, brain and nervous system.

"MMR vaccine is widely used around the world and has an excellent safety record.

"It has been a huge success in reducing the number of children born with disabilities as a result of rubella."




SEE ALSO:
New mothers could be offered MMR
13 Aug 03  |  Health
Single jab blow in MMR row
07 Jul 02  |  Health
MMR fears raise rubella risk
19 Mar 99  |  Health


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