Page last updated at 12:08 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

MMR jab rates reach record levels

MMR vaccine and syringe
Vaccination rates dipped to 80% in parts of Scotland during the late 1990s

The number of children receiving at least one dose of the MMR jab by the age of five has reached 95% for the first time in Scotland.

It is thought 95% of the population needs to have the vaccine to prevent outbreaks of measles, mumps or rubella - the so-called "herd immunity."

Rates dipped to around 80% during the MMR scare in the late 1990's.

The research which suggested a link between MMR and bowel disease and autism has now been discredited.

ISD Scotland statistics, covering the three months to September 30 2008, show the target of having 95% of five-year-olds in Scotland immunised with at least one dose of the MMR vaccine has been surpassed for the first time since the target was introduced in September 2006.

The number of children who have had a second dose of the MMR by age five has also risen, from 81.1 % in the last quarter to 87.4 %.

Uptake rates for the majority of other childhood immunisations remained above 95%.

'Breakthrough'

Public Health Minister Shona Robison welcomed the figures.

She said: "Surpassing the 95% MMR uptake target for the first time is another major breakthrough for Scotland's childhood immunisations programme, which is one of the most successful in the world.

"The challenge now is to sustain this progress, and we will continue to work with health professionals to make sure parents have the facts they need to make informed decisions about MMR and other immunisations."

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns, also said the increase would lead to fewer serious illnesses.

He said: "The combined MMR vaccine has been used safely for nearly 30 years in more than 100 countries, with more than half a billion doses being administered.

"Some parents undoubtedly do still have concerns about MMR, but evidence shows that this is a safe vaccine.

"Exceeding the 95% uptake target for five-year-olds just starting school not only protects these children but means there will ultimately be fewer serious illnesses in circulation."

The MMR vaccine is given to a child soon after their first birthday when the natural immunity the baby receives from its mother fades.

It is given again when the child is aged three to five.

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