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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Confidence 'returning in MMR jab'
MMR protects against measles, mumps and rubella
Doctors believe confidence in the MMR vaccine is returning after the second yearly rise in uptake of the jab.

The number of two-year-olds given the vaccine was 84% in 2005-6, up from 81% the year before, the government's Information Centre said.

It is still short of the 95% needed for herd immunity, but represents a rise after uptake fell to 80% following the jab being linked to autism in 1998.

Campaigners said parents were being forced into accepting the jab.

Parents are being forced into having the vaccine so it is not clear confidence is returning
Jackie Fletcher, of Jabs
The combined mumps, measles and rubella vaccine was linked to the behavioural disorder in a scientific paper published in the Lancet medical journal, but the findings have since been discredited.

The subsequent drop in uptake of the jab led to fears children would be vulnerable and there have been several reports in recent years of measles outbreaks.

But Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, said the figures suggested that confidence in MMR was improving.

"It's a tribute to the hard work of GPs and their staff to encourage parents to have children immunised against these potentially life-threatening conditions," he said.


Rates of immunisations were broadly similar across the country, with the exception of London where the rate stood at below 80% - however data was missing from a third of the local health bodies because of computer glitches.

Jackie Fletcher, of the Jabs campaign group, said: "We still get a lot of parents coming to us concerned about autism.

"It is appalling the government does not allow parents the choice of having single vaccinations instead of the combined one.

"Parents are being forced into having the vaccine so it is not clear confidence is returning."

Some people believe that giving the measles component of the MMR jab as a separate vaccines reduces the risk of side effects.

But a spokesperson for Sense, the rubella charity said: "Sense works with people who were born deafblind as a result of rubella. MMR has been the most successful vaccination programme against rubella in the UK.

"In the 70s single vaccines were offered after a DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine scare and resulted in a collapse in vaccination rates. It is important we don¿t forget the effects of rubella."

Statistics from the Information Centre also showed uptake of the flu jab among the over 65 age group had risen to 75% up from 71%.

Immunisation rates for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, Hib and whooping cough - now given in a combined jab - are holding steady at 94%.

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