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Last Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007, 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK
MMR uptake still short of target
Child receiving vaccine
More children need to have the MMR to ensure herd immunity
Uptake of MMR has still not reached levels needed to ensure immunity in the community despite growing confidence in the vaccine, NHS figures show.

The number of children receiving the vaccine fell after research - since discredited - suggested a link between MMR and autism.

Latest statistics in England for 2006-7 show uptake has risen slightly to 85% but is still short of the 95% needed.

Health officials recently urged vaccination after a rise in measles.

The combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was linked to the behavioural disorder in a paper published in the Lancet medical journal in 1998.

Vaccine uptake, which had previously been very high dropped to 80%.

Many studies done since have concluded the MMR vaccine is safe and The Lancet publicly announced it should never have printed the study by Dr Andrew Wakefield as it had a serious conflict of interest and was flawed.

Slight rise

Confidence has slowly been returning in the past few years.

The NHS Information Centre said vaccine uptake in two-year olds went up by 1% in 2006-7.

And all areas in England saw a rise although no primary care trust reported a rise of more than 90%.

Uptake is lowest in London at under 80% - however officials said data collection in the capital had been problematic.

Imagine the whole population as a herd of animals
The vaccinated 'animals' who are directly protected against the disease shield those who haven't had the jab - such as babies under 12 months old and some ill children - from getting measles.
So the whole herd stays healthy
But this relies on healthy people assessing the risks and deciding that it is best to be immunised for the good of everyone as well as their own good.
In the case of MMR, 95% of children need to be immunised in order to provide 'herd immunity'

This summer, parents were warned to make sure their child received both doses of the vaccine after a high number of measles cases were reported.

The figures show only 73% of five-year olds have received both their first and second MMR dose.

Last year, cases of measles, hit a 10-year high.

Tim Straughan, acting chief executive of The Information Centre said: "Whilst it is encouraging to see that uptake of the MMR vaccine has risen slightly for the third successive year, more needs to be done to ensure we meet the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation."

The Health Protection Agency said uptake in Scotland and Northern Ireland was doing better with latest figures showing 92% coverage.

Professor Mike Catchpole, deputy director of the Centre for Infection said: "We are particularly pleased to see that two English regions - North East and East Midlands - have achieved 90% coverage for MMR at 24 months."

But he added 596 cases had been reported this year as of 21st Sept.

"It is important to remember that MMR is safe and effective and vital for children to be protected with two doses of the vaccine.

"Measles is a highly infectious and dangerous illness, and as there is increased close contact in schools, it can spread easily."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said they hoped to see the increases continue.

"About 19 out of every 20 children have completed their primary immunisations by one year of age.

"Research shows that parents' confidence in MMR vaccine is increasing, and this is usually a good indicator for future increases in vaccination uptake."

Measles 'surge' prompts warning
30 Aug 07 |  Health
Q&A: The MMR debate
16 Jul 07 |  Health

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