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Friday, February 27, 1998 Published at 16:53 GMT


Government reassurance on MMR vaccine
image: [ Children should continue to get vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, says government ]
Children should continue to get vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, says government

Parents have been advised to continue having their children immunised with a vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), after new research suggested a possible link with autism and bowel disease.

The UK Department of Health said that it still advised that children should be immunised with a single dose of the MMR vaccine.

"Our advice remains to have your child immunised. Measles, mumps and rubella can kill and cause serious illness," said a spokesman.

The BBC's Health Correspondent, Fergus Walsh reports (0' 58")
Fears were raised following the publication of a study by doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in London, which suggested a link between autism and a newly identified bowel disease found in some children after having the MMR vaccination.

[ image: Dr Wakefield: urges more research]
Dr Wakefield: urges more research
The head of the research team, Dr Andrew Wakefield, believes that the combination of the three virus strains may overload the body's immune system and cause the bowel disorder to develop.

"This is a genuinely new syndrome, and urgent further research is needed to determine whether MMR may give rise to this complication in a small number of people," he said.

"For the vast majority of children the MMR vaccine is fine, but I believe there are sufficient anxieties for a case to be made to administer the three vacations separately."

Parents told to be wary of findings

The Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association urged parents to treat the research with extreme caution.

The Association's Professional Officer, Sue Botes, said: "These studies must be looked at in a wide context.

[ image: 250m doses of MMR have been given in Western Europe]
250m doses of MMR have been given in Western Europe
"The research is partly based on studies of a small sample of sick children suffering from specific diseases, which may or may not be linked to the vaccines.

"We should concentrate on the benefits of the eradication of life-threatening diseases."

But Prof Arie Zucherman, dean of the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, warned that the link with MMR was not proven, and if parents failed to bring their children forward for vaccination, measles could return and young people would die.

He said: "Measles is the eighth most common cause of death in the world today, and 250 million doses of MMR have been given in Western Europe.

"The MMR campaign has been shown to be safe and effective."

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