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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Child vaccine warning
Parents are worried about MMR
Experts have warned that parents' refusal to get their children vaccinated could lead to a re-emergence of deadly diseases.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) says growing numbers of parents have been put off getting their children immunised because of fears over vaccine safety.

It would be truly appalling if we let complacency and scare stories put at risk the lives of children

Trevor Jones, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry

Most notably, the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine has been controversially linked to autism and bowel disorders - although most in the medical establishment believe no such risk exists.

The ABPI also believes that because some deadly diseases have been all but wiped out in the UK, some parents have become complacent about getting their children vaccinated.

The association has issued a report warning that if children are not vaccinated against serious disease, then it could lead to a serious public health problem.

The report, 'Prevention Is Better Than Cure', warns that vaccines for diseases such as measles and diphtheria can only be effective if given to a high proportion of children.

It says the risk of side effects is extremely low.

Warning of complacency

Dr Trevor Jones, director-general of the ABPI, said: "It would be truly appalling if we let complacency and scare stories put at risk the lives and well-being of the nation's children.

Complacency over any of these vaccines will result in epidemics of disease - that is guaranteed

Dr Nigel Higson, Primary Care Virology Group

"The development of modern vaccines has been one of the greatest successes of medical science, with many diseases effectively eradicated in Britain.

"It is vital that we do not squander the position we have reached."

The report stresses that the risks associated with vaccinations are minimal.

It says: "All vaccines are tested extensively by their manufacturers for quality, safety and efficacy before receiving a marketing authorisation.

"It is vital to emphasise that the risk of serious illness or death following natural infection far outweighs any possible risk as a result of vaccination."

Dr Nigel Higson, a Brighton GP and chairman of the Primary Care Virology Group, said the ABPI was right be putting out warnings.

He told BBC News Online: "The immunisation rate for MMR has dropped well below the necessary level."

The MMR vaccine has an efficiency rate of about 90%. This means that at the current rate of take-up, approximately 88%, around one in four children are not receiving immunity.

Dr Higson warned that could lead to the spread of measles - even to children who had been successfully immunised.

He said: "Complacency over any of these vaccines will result in epidemics of disease - that is guaranteed."

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See also:

11 Jun 99 | Health
MMR: anatomy of a scare
16 Sep 99 | Health
MMR: A needless dilemma?
10 Apr 00 | Health
Fresh MMR autism link rejected
30 May 00 | Health
Measles outbreak feared
03 Apr 00 | Health
Vaccine 'does not cause autism'
29 Aug 99 | Health
Measles and mumps vaccines banned
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