Mobile service to boost MMR uptake

A CONTROVERSIAL vaccine is to be given to children in north east Essex through a groundbreaking mobile service.

Elliot Furniss

A CONTROVERSIAL vaccine is to be given to children in north east Essex through a groundbreaking mobile service.

The MMR jab was at the centre of a national debate in 1998 when it was linked to causing autism by the research of Dr Andrew Wakefield.

Although the link was later disproved, take-up is still low in certain north east Essex communities and the new bus service will soon be rolling into these areas to try to reverse the trend.

Yesterday the scheme was given the official go-ahead by members of the East Essex Area Forum at a meeting at the Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester, the new home of the town's football team.

Forum chairman Mick Page thanked all those who had been involved in the working group that researched the project, which will see the bus visit a different town or village in the area from Monday to Saturday for eight weeks.

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It will be staffed by trained nurses and will offer a range of other vaccines and information, as well as the MMR jab, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

Mr Page said: “In east Essex there are approximately 9,000 children who have not received the MMR and approximately 6,000 who have received only partial vaccinations.

“It's been quite hard for the group because we never realised it was such a big issue and I feel very proud because we have led the country in doing what we are doing now.

“I believe we can take this out and make sure Colchester and Tendring are safe as far as MMR is concerned because it's a real worry.

“Let's hope we have success and bring the MMR rate up so all our children are safeguarded for the future.”

Also at the meeting was Mr Page's fellow working group member Debbie Saban, North East Essex PCT's health improvement specialist and lead for screening and immunisation.

She said she was keen to get the service up and running and making contact with parents, who had provided feedback to the working group about a lack of access to health visitors to gain support and information for parents.

She said: “Initially, concern about vaccination safety was a big issue of mine. What we found through the community engagement was that was not their biggest concern - which pleased me.

“(The main issue) was about where they get their information from - the opportunity to speak to health visitors.”

She said the service would be publicised in advance but would also be easily identifiable.

She added: “We have a rather large mobile unit and it will have a big visual impact. The locations have been predominantly selected as areas of low uptake of the MMR vaccination.”

Every primary school pupil in the area will be given a leaflet promoting the initiative and the bus will be parked at locations close to school runs or in supermarket car parks.

Other long-term measures to improve MMR uptake will also be implemented and the success of the scheme will be reviewed in six months' time.

The bus visits begin on Monday February 9 at Tesco car park in Tiptree before further stops at Essex University in Wivenhoe on February 10, Alresford Village Hall on February 11 and Venture Centre 2000 in Manningtree on Thursday February 12.

The bus will roll into Harwich on Friday February 13 at the Park pavilion and the first week will finish with a stop at the Hythe Tesco store in Colchester on Saturday February 14.