Health experts warn of measles epidemic

SUFFOLK could be gripped by a measles epidemic in the future unless more parents opt for the controversial MMR vaccine, health experts warn.

Elliot Furniss

SUFFOLK could be gripped by a measles epidemic in the future unless more parents opt for the controversial MMR vaccine, health experts warn.

Uptake of the first measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, given to children at 24 months, was 84% last year - a slight increase on 2007's 83% but still not enough say advisers.

Doubts were cast over the vaccine's safety and its link with autism in 1998 in a paper but the allegation has since been discredited.


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Now the NHS advises that all children have the jab but the worryingly low uptake is revealed in the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Health Protection Unit's annual report on communicable diseases in Suffolk.

Dr Torbjorn Sundkvist , consultant in communicable disease control for the unit's Suffolk office's, said the rate of immunisations needed to go up by 10% in order to prevent a potential measles epidemic “and the consequences that come with it”.

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He said: “The problem we always have is the uptake of other vaccines is very good - 95% - but for MMR it seems that people are health conscious. They bring their kids to the practice and then they make a decision which is completely wrong and misinformed.

“There are misconceptions. I think people understand more that measles is a nasty disease. Why can't we stop it before we have a bigger problem?”

Dr Sundkvist said more parents choosing not to take up the jab could lead to “pockets” of vulnerable people emerging, posing a risk of an epidemic.

He added: “We will have pockets of people who will be susceptible and it can grow - and in teenagers it can be quite nasty.”

The Strategic Health Authority for the East of England has set a target of a 90% in Suffolk uptake for 2009/10 and 95% for the following year.

Dr Sundkvist said the target was a “challenge” but he was confident that it could be met, with all new parents being sent letters about the jab.

For more information about MMR visit www.immunisation.nhs.uk/vaccines/mmr.

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