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CPHVA Calls For Parents To Support MMR Vaccine

Health visitors understand that the recent spate of publicity about the MMR vaccine has caused concern amongst parents about whether they have their children to be immunised.

The Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association has weighed the arguments that have circulated with great care. And given all the evidence the CPHVA still strongly believes that all parents should have their children vaccinated with MMR.

There are four main reasons for this:

  • Measles, mumps and rubella are serious diseases which can cause death or chronic health problems.

  • Vaccination is the only defence against these diseases – and other diseases, such as diphtheria and polio, that have wreaked havoc within living memory. Since the introduction of MMR, congenital rubella syndrome has been virtually eliminated.

  • The recent paper by Dr Andrew Wakefield, the consultant gastroenterololist at the Royal Free Hospital, London, which has fuelled the latest media frenzy, has been described as "flawed" by Stephen Evans, a member of the Medicines Control Agency. DR Wakefield admitted in a Sunday Telegraph interview that the researchers have yet to prove their theory.

  • A single vaccination programme would mean a greater delay in immunising children against these three individual diseases – the time lapse would increase the risk of infection.

One of the problems has been the perception of MMR - not the facts. The CPHVA warmly welcomes the Ł3 million advertising campaign that has been launched by the government to reinforce the message to parents and healthcare professionals that MMR is safe and effective. Knowledge is the key to greater understanding.

The CPHVA, which represents 18,000 health visitors and community nurses, is satisfied, at this moment in time, that there is no link between MMR and serious adverse reactions.

n the current debate, new – and reassuring - research from Finland has almost been overlooked. Why? Because it gives reassurance – and does not make a slick headline. The research covering a 14-year period between 1982-96, has shown that three million vaccine doses of MMR only produced a possible incidence of serious adverse reactions linked with the MMR vaccination of 3.2 per 100,000 doses. The CPHVA believes that the length of the study and the numbers vaccinated made a convincing case that the chances of an adverse reaction in the UK are "infinitesimal". There is no research currently available to suggest that having the injections by single dose vaccines is less of a risk than having the combined MMR vaccination. In Japan, where the single vaccine is available, there have been a number of death from measles.

But what we do know is that there is a risk that parents would not bring their children for all of the single dose injections. The delay between single dose injections would give a longer period of time when children would be unprotected against these disea

Support for MMR has been forthcoming from not just the CPHVA, but also The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The Royal College of General Practitioners, The Royal College of Nursing and The Faculty of Public Health Medicine which all agree with the statement of the Chairmen of the Joint Committee on Immunisation and Vaccination and the Committee on Safety of Medicine, namely that DR Wakefield’s paper adds little to current knowledge. The CPHVA’s professional confidence in the MMR vaccine, its safety and effectiveness remains fully justified.

The specific suggestions that MMR causes either inflammatory bowel disease or autism have been well researched in recent years by independent scientists and no association has been found.

Healthcare professionals are committed to parents receiving the facts so that they can make an informed decision and act in the best interests of their children.

25 January 2001