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Martha Fairlie reports
"Her mum had no worries about taking her for an MMR jag as a baby"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 16:07 GMT
Parents' fears over MMR remain
Injection being given
Fears have been raised over a link with autism
Scotland's health chiefs have conceded they have failed to allay fears surrounding the link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Dr Mac Armstrong, Scotland's chief medical officer, said many parents "remain unconvinced" about whether giving their child the vaccine is safe.

His comments follow Health Minister Susan Deacon's move to ease growing public concern over the safety of the MMR vaccine.

Ms Deacon had organised a "clear the air" meeting with MSPs and medical experts in an effort to end the controversy surrounding the all-in-one jab.


"The evidence shows that to introduce a single vaccine programme would undoubtedly lead to a fall in the uptake of the vaccines as a whole"

Dr Mac Armstrong
But Dr Armstrong said: "Parents are particularly concerned with why their child has got autism and what we are going to do about it.

"They are particularly concerned with the possibility that something in a government's sponsored immunisation programme triggered the autism.

"I have to say they remain unconvinced. There is a great public scepticism about science, multi-national companies, the role of government and whether the Government is being open or not."

He added: "There were other questions they raised about studies done in America and elsewhere and we were able to show that the answer to the question about whether MMR caused autism was 'No'."

Dr Armstrong said all the evidence available suggested the MMR vaccine did not cause autism.

He said parents should have no fears about sending their child to receive the vaccine.

He said not to do so could result in future outbreaks of mumps, rubella and measles and in the worst cases could even lead to death.

Dr Armstrong added: "The messages from today are clear. The evidence in support of the MMR vaccine being safe is compelling both here and overseas.

'Confident'

"The suggestion of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism is not only unproven but the so-called truth is based on extremely unsound science.

"The evidence shows that to introduce a single vaccine programme would undoubtedly lead to a fall in the uptake of the vaccines as a whole.

"Thousands of children in Scotland would potentially be left unprotected and at the mercy of deadly and debilitating diseases."

Dr Armstrong was supported by Professor Michael Langman, chairman of the UK joint committee of vaccination and immunisation.

Professor Langman said: "The committee is confident that MMR is safe. There is abundant evidence from a variety of sources which is being collected that MMR is extremely unlikely to be a cause of autism.

"We are firmly of the opinion that MMR is safe, affective and appropriate."

Following a debate in the Scottish Parliament last week, 49 MSPs voted in favour of allowing single vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella to be made available.

However, the motion by Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan was defeated by 13 votes.

Susan Deacon
Susan Deacon attempted to reassure parents
He said single vaccines should be available on the National Health Service for at least five years, to allow a detailed study of possible links between a combined MMR jab and autism.

Deputy health minister Malcolm Chisholm rejected the argument, saying that medical experts had concluded there was no link between the MMR vaccination and the disease.

But these fears that the triple vaccine may be linked to autism and Crohn's Disease have caused a dramatic reduction in the number of children being immunised south of the Border.

The Department of Health has warned this could leave the UK exposed to the risk of a potentially fatal outbreak of measles.

Although immunisation levels in Scotland are still above 90%, there is concern that more parents are starting to question the safety of the MMR jab.

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See also:

09 Feb 01 | Health
MMR 'cleared' of autism link
08 Feb 01 | Scotland
Sheridan MMR reform defeat
08 Feb 01 | Scotland
Scots medics back MMR jab
03 Apr 00 | Health
Vaccine 'does not cause autism'
30 May 00 | Health
Measles outbreak feared
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