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Measles concern sparks MMR move

7th August 2008

Concerns about a measles epidemic in England have promoted the government to launch a campaign to increase MMR vaccination rates.

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It comes as the cases of measles in England have been rising after 10 years of lower vaccine uptake following a controversial study – later dismissed – that the vaccine raised the risk of autism.

Extra MMR vaccine supplies – which protect against measles, mumps and rubella - are being made available to Primary Care Trusts, which have been asked by the Department of Health to offer the immunisation to all children up to the age of 18.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson has written to PCTs asking them to urge parents to get their children immunised. Most PCTs will receive £30,000 to finance the campaign though in London that will rise to £60,000 because of more unvaccinated children.

In 2006 and 2007 there were 1,726 confirmed cases in England and Wales, compared with 1,621 between 1996 and 2005.

Experts say the MMR vaccine is safe, whilst an epidemic of measles could have fatal consequences.

The Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency suggests vaccination levels need to be increased as a matter of urgency with a target of 95% of the population needing to be vaccinated to protect against widespread outbreaks of measles. At present the rate is about 85%.

Dr Patricia Hamilton, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "We cannot stress too strongly that all children and young people should have the MMR vaccine. Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that it is safe."

 

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