Thirty leading paediatricians have warned that more children will die unless a line is drawn under health scares that link the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.
The number of children protected by the vaccine has slumped, and England is now in the grip of the biggest measles outbreak for 20 years. Earlier this year, a child in Britain died from measles – the first such death since 1992.
Confidence in the MMR jab fell in 1998 when a research paper suggested it might be linked to the development of autism. Recently, the suggestion was repeated in the press following another study in the US, despite its researchers denying a proven link.
In an open letter to politicians, health professionals and the media, the 30 child heath experts said parents had been ‘confused and dangerously misled’ over the risks associated with the triple jab.
They wrote: ‘It is not too late to avert this predictable tragedy. It is time that due weight is given to the overwhelming body of scientific evidence in favour of the vaccine.’
The immunisation rate must be 95 per cent for the vaccine to be effective, but last year MMR uptake across the UK was only 83 per cent. The experts warn that if these low levels continue, more children will become ill and die.
The letter, from some of Britain’s top paediatricians and childhood vaccination experts, was issued through the Science Media Centre, which presents the views of scientists to the media.
The letter continued: ‘We are now faced with a potentially serious situation. Years of low uptake mean large numbers of unprotected children are now entering school. Unless this is rectified urgently, and children are immunised, there will be further outbreaks and more unnecessary deaths.’
In 2003, experts on a Which? sister publication, the ‘doctors’ bible’ Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB), reviewed available research and cleared the vaccine.
DTB experts studied research that had caused concern and concluded that the MMR was the most effective and safest way of protecting children from measles, mumps and rubella.