New bid to give all kids MMR jabIt follows a rise in the number of measles cases

07 August 2008

Injection into child's arm

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The government is renewing its efforts to ensure children up to the age of 18 receive the MMR jab.

The Department of Health is making extra doses of the vaccine available and pledging more cash to help NHS trusts vaccinate youngsters in their area.

Uptake rates of the jab vary across England but are particularly low in London.

Trusts in the capital will receive an extra £60,000 while those outside London will get £30,000.

Controversial jab

The last time a similar campaign was launched was in 1994.

The MMR jab, which is designed to protect against measles, mumps and rubella, has proved controversial.

In 1998, a study published in the respected medical journal The Lancet suggested a link between the jab, autism and bowel disease.

News of the possible link led to coverage rates falling to an all-time low as parents refrained from giving their children the jab.

Measles epidemic

Lead author Dr Andrew Wakefield is currently appearing before the General Medical Council (GMC) on charges relating to the research.

Today, chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has written to all primary care trusts (PCTs) asking them to help cut the risk of a measles epidemic.

He wants PCTs to urge parents to get their unprotected children immunised.

Across the country, the number of cases of measles is on the rise.

Missed dose

There were 1,726 confirmed cases in England and Wales in 2006 and 2007 - more than the previous decade put together.

From 1996 to 2005, there was a total of 1,621 confirmed cases.

Estimates suggest that around three million children and young people aged between 18 months and 18 have missed either their first or second dose of the MMR jab.

After the first dose, between 5% and 10% of children are not protected against the diseases. After two doses of MMR, this falls to less than 1%.

The first dose is given to children at around 13 months of age, with a booster dose given before they start school (usually between the ages of three and five).

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