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Parents debate safety of MMR vaccine

THE big question on many parents minds at the moment is will they or won't they be having their child vaccinated against MMR.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Controversy currently surrounds the jab for children against measles, mumps and rubella, with parents worrying about their child being given the triple vaccine.

Parents doubts arose just over two years ago as the result of a report suggesting that the MMR vaccine may be associated with the development of autism.

The report was based on research carried out by doctors at the Royal Free Hospital, led by Dr Andrew Wakefield. However, the department of health have investigated these claims through two expert committees, the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) and the CSM (Committee on Safety of Medicines).

Based on all the evidence available, and other research from around the world, (including the UK, USA, Sweden and Finland), the committees have agreed that there is no link between MMR and autism.

Unfortunately, for parents, the seeds of doubt had been sown in their minds, and recent media coverage has only added fuel to the fire.

Sally Swift from North End in Bucks has a daughter, Lily, aged 10 months.

Lily would not be due to have the MMR vaccine for another 3 months or so.

Sally says: "At first I was very definite that Lily should have every immunisation possible, but the recent bad press about MMR has put some doubts in my head.

Now I will always have the worry at the back of my mind, and if anything happened to her after the vaccination I would never forgive myself, it would be awful."

Having said that, Sally still feels that when the time comes, she will have Lily vaccinated with the MMR jab.

She says: "At the moment, I can't see any solid evidence against having Lily vaccinated, so unless that evidence comes to light, I will go ahead and make sure my child is protected."

Lisa Farrow, from High Wycombe agrees with Sally. She has a seven-month-old daughter, Rosie.

Lisa says: "To be honest I feel so confused about the MMR vaccine, even more so since the recent publicity.

"My husband, Sean, is dead against Rosie having it, although she is not old enough yet anyway.

I think that when the time comes I will be willing for her to go ahead and have it, but I know I will still be worrying if I am doing the right thing."

Alyson Smith, Nurse Consultant for the Public Health Department at Bucks Health Authority explains that the MMR vaccine is still the safest way to protect children against these childhood diseases.

She says: "Measles is a very nasty disease. Children can be very very poorly with measles, ending up in intensive care, and really feeling incredibly unwell, but it can also be fatal"

Alyson explains that the MMR is given to children in two doses the first at around 13 to 15 months old, and the second, a pre-school booster, is given around the age of four-and-a-half to five years.

Alyson says: "The World Health Organisation recommend a 95 per cent target of effective immunity that means that if 95 per cent of the population are effectively vaccinated, the background immunity should be high enough, and we are less likely to get an outbreak of measles."

Alyson explains that we had been achieving this target of 95 per cent until the Wakefield paper first came out. The latest figures available are for the final quarter of 2000, and these show that immunisation has dropped to just 88.2% across Bucks.

Alyson says: "A single vaccine is not actually licensed in this country, and no country in the world currently recommends a single vaccine, all support the MMR as safe and effective. France does have a policy that all children entering nursery school at around eight or nine months old are given a single measles vaccine, but this is always followed up in addition with two MMR vaccinations at the correct ages.

"There has been no proven link between the vaccine and autism, and the MMR vaccine is still the safest way to protect children from these diseases."

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