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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 17:43 GMT
Scottish measles cases confirmed
More information is to be provided about MMR
Two cases of measles have been confirmed in Scotland as new figures show a continuing drop in the uptake of the three-in-one MMR vaccine.

Two children from Fife - one pre-school, the other primary school age - became ill in mid to late February.

Dr Charles Saunders, consultant in public health medicine at Fife NHS Board, said: "We are investigating this possible outbreak as a matter of urgency.

"We haven't yet been able to establish whether these two children caught measles from the same source."

For many parents in the current climate, this is a courageous decision and one which is good for their child and those around them

Dr Mac Armstrong
Chief medical officer
The primary school child had been immunised with one dose of MMR vaccine, the other had not been given the inoculation.

Uptake of the vaccine has reached its lowest level since 1995 - but the rate of decrease appears to be slowing down, say NHS statistics.

The proportion of children vaccinated in 2001 was 89%, a 4% drop on the previous year's figure.

During the year 2000, the take-up rate for the MMR vaccination fell in each quarter.

But by the end of last year, the quarterly figure had fallen by only a small amount - to 86.6%, from 86.9% in the previous quarter.

Extra information

The three-in-one injections, giving immunisation against measles, mumps and rubella, have been blamed by some parents for a rise in the number of cases of autism.

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Mac Armstrong praised parents who had chosen to use the vaccine but warned that failure to do so could result in a potentially fatal disease.

He said: "Mumps, measles and rubella are serious illnesses which can cause deafness, blindness, and in some cases, death.

Dr Mac Armstrong
Dr Mac Armstrong: "Use the vaccine"
"For many parents in the current climate, this is a courageous decision and one which is good for their child and those around them."

Dr Armstrong said he understood the needs of parents who wanted to be well informed about their children's health.

He added: "We have already made information available to GPs to help them offer advice to parents and we are looking at how we can provide more information about MMR to help parents make an informed decision."

Health authorities in the Highlands have warned of a possible outbreak of measles in the area where MMR uptake levels are 70%, the lowest in Scotland.

Expert group

The Scottish Executive has set up an expert group to consider the issues raised by MMR vaccinations. It is expected to report back by the end of March.

However, the Scottish Tories have called for the introduction of single vaccines on the NHS.

The party's deputy health spokesman Ben Wallace said the public had more trust in doctors than it had in politicians.

"The government should therefore offer single vaccines alongside the triple vaccine.

"This will encourage parents to visit their GP, who can then offer the best medical advice.

"This, in turn, should lead to a greater take-up of the MMR vaccine, thanks to GPs reassuring concerned parents," he said.

'Worrying trend'

Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said: "This is an extremely worrying trend and only confirms that growing numbers of parents are deeply concerned about MMR."

She agreed that single vaccines should be made available because an increasing minority of parents were voting with their feet.

"The debate then ceases to be about whether or not MMR is a better option than single vaccines and instead becomes one about whether or not single vaccines are better than no vaccines for children whose parents will not consent to MMR," she said.

Political correspondent Kirsten Campbell reports
"Parents remain concerned that the triple jab is linked with autism"
See also:

20 Feb 02 | Health
Parents vote for single jabs
07 Feb 02 | Scotland
Health expert backs single jabs
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