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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 20:35 GMT
'No media blitz on MMR'
A child receiving an MMR jab
Take-up of MMR has fallen sharply, sparking fears
Plans for a multi-million pound government advertising campaign to promote the controversial MMR jab have been scrapped.

Ministers are concerned parents have lost faith in the combined injection against measles, mumps and rubella, because of fears it can lead to autism.

The Department of Health last month said it was considering taking out newspaper, radio and television adverts to broadcast its message that the vaccine is safe.

Officials say there was never going to be a "media blitz" but front line medical staff will be used in an "education and information" campaign.

Tony Blair with his baby son Leo
Blair is keeping Leo's medical details private

The department insists the idea there would be a massive media campaign was a "misconception that gained common currency" and denials were not widely reported.

Originally, it had been mooted that Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson could make a "personal appeal" on national television urging parents to let their children have the jab.

Under the new plans, information packs are being sent to family doctors, nurses, health care workers and other medical professionals who see the public daily.

Who people trust

The department says this approach will get the safety message to parents in a "more measured, considered way" than via the national media.

In private, officials say people trust their doctors and would not necessarily listen to politicians, the department or Sir Liam.

The news came as Downing Street stuck to its refusal to say whether his son Leo has had the injection.

Tony Blair's official spokesman was challenged to deny fresh speculation by a newspaper reporter that Leo has had three separate injections in France rather than one combined MMR jab.

The prime minister was still determined to avoid getting into detailed discussion about the medical history of his children, said the spokesman.

Take-up fears

But Mr Blair would not ask anyone to have a treatment which he was not prepared to have given to his own children, he added.

Take-up of MMR has fallen sharply and fears that children's lives could be put at risk were aggravated by measles outbreaks in some areas.

The government has cited the long list of medical experts, including the World Health Organisation, that back the vaccine.

But opposition MPs and some patients groups want the NHS to offer the three single injections.

See also:

21 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blair should tell about MMR - Labour MP
20 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Milburn invoiced by pal over MMR
20 Feb 02 | Health
Parents vote for single jabs
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