Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Vaccines 'should be encouraged'

MMR vaccine
Parents are urged to ensure their children get the MMR jab

Parents should not be forced to have their children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, the Isle of Man's director of public health says.

Dr Parameshwaran Kishore was reacting to the 36% rise in cases in England and Wales last year, attributed to a poor uptake of the MMR vaccine in the 1990s.

Some countries, such as the United States and Canada, bar unvaccinated children from schools.

But Dr Kishore said health workers should instead encourage take-up.

Research discredited

"What we should do is provide information and convince people - and that's what we have done," said Dr Kishore.

"For instance in the Isle of Man we, working with health visitors and GPs, try to explain these things to parents.

"They have the freedom. This is a free society.

"I was surprised at some parents, it's not that they have any worries particularly about MMR, but they are generally against vaccination."

Officials from the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the rise in cases was a legacy of the fears over the safety of the MMR vaccine which emerged in the 1990s.

Public confidence dipped following research - since discredited - which raised the possibility that the jab may be linked to an increased risk of autism.

But officials said that confidence in the vaccine was continuing to grow.

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