Parents in England urged to protect against measles outbreak spreading

Health Minister Jeremy Hunt calls for parents to give children MMR vaccination

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Health Minister Jeremy Hunt was called upon today to respond to the measles outbreak in Wales, which has seen a dramatic rise both in the number of people affected, and the number of parents rushing to clinics to get their children vaccinated.

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Currently 91.2% of people are vaccinated in the UK. However, there were more than 2,000 cases of measles in England and Wales last year – the highest since 1994. The recent epidemic in Swansea has highlighted the importance of ensuring your child receives their jabs. Local health officials believe the outbreak is linked to a dip in uptake of the MMR vaccine after a report in 1998 incorrectly linked it to autism, a view Jeremy concurs with:

“Disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield’s discredited and inaccurate research [which linked the MMR jab to autism] caused great harm to the MMR vaccination programme and led to thousands of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children against measles, mumps and rubella,” Jeremy told the House of Commons.

Jeremy continued, “Today I am urging all parents, anywhere in England, who did not get their child vaccinated with two doses of MMR because of scare stories a decade ago, to contact their GP surgery and make an appointment.”

The Department of Health reveals that in the years following Andrew Wakefield’s study just 79.9% of under 2-year-olds had the first dose of the MMR vaccine (2003/4).

Latest figures show that in 2011/12, 91.2% of under two year olds had the first dose of the vaccine compared to 89.1% in 2010-11. This is the first time that coverage has exceeded 90% since 1997/98.

The Department of Health has never recommended single measles, mumps or rubella vaccines because there is no evidence to support the use of single vaccines or to suggest that they are in any way ‘safer’ than MMR. Having single vaccines leaves children at risk of catching measles, mumps or rubella in the gaps between the vaccines. No country in the world recommends single vaccines when MMR is available. 

Independent expert groups around the world (including the World Health Organization) supports the use of MMR, and none support the use of single vaccines.

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Find out more about measles, the vaccine and what to do if you do suspect your child may have contracted the virus.

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