Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

MMR Jabs Crisis 'Creating Risk of London Epidemic'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

MMR Jabs Crisis 'Creating Risk of London Epidemic'

Article excerpt

Byline: ROSS LYDALL;ELAINE GALLOWAY

A WARNING about the high risk of serious childhood illnesses spreading across London is issued today.

Parents are failing to get their children inoculated against a host of diseases because of the scare sparked by the MMR crisis.

Initially, children were not given the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine because of fears it was linked to autism and bowel disease.

Now families are also failing to ensure their two-year-olds are protected against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and a strain of flu that can cause meningitis.

Experts say the consequences are "grave" because high levels of immunisation have to be maintained to prevent any outbreak spreading.

The warning comes today from the London Assembly's health committee, which has spent months investigating the effects of the MMR crisis on infant immunisation in the capital.

Its report, which makes nine recommendations for government action, says that affluent areas are most at risk because they have led the opposition to the MMR vaccine.

Parents have chosen single vaccines over the MMR triple dose - often outside the NHS - or have opted to avoid immunisation altogether.

Other factors relating to the general fall in immunisation are a highly mobile population, which leaves doctors unable to track children, deprivation and ethnic diversity.

These combine to make London the worst city in England for immunising two-year-olds - and the gap between the capital and the national average is widening.

Only 73 per cent of the city's 94,000 two-year-olds have had the MMR vaccine, compared with the national figure of 85 per cent.

London also compares poorly with Paris, Amsterdam and New York over the range of vaccines.

The report says: "Unless this decline is reversed, London is likely to face many years of low levels of coverage for serious childhood illnesses, and a high risk of serious outbreaks and increased risks of epidemics."

It points to an outbreak of measles in south London over the winter of 2001-2. Then, of the 133 confirmed cases, most were from affluent neighbourhoods and had not had the MMR vaccine. …

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