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GPs are finally reversing the damaging slump in MMR uptake, reveal three new sets of Government figures

By Emma Wilkinson

GPs finally appear to be winning the battle to persuade parents of the benefits of MMR.

Three new sets of figures provide the first evidence that uptake is rising again after nearly a decade of damaging falls.

Latest COVER data from the Health Protection Agency shows uptake in two-year-olds jumped by 1.3 per cent to 83 per cent between April and June.

The HPA said its sentinel surveillance data, recorded at 16 months, indicated uptake would continue to rise into next year.

The new figures came as the Department of Health announ-ced a 1 per cent rise in MMR uptake for 2004/5 – the first annual increase in eight years.

The HPA welcomed the increase but warned uptake was still well short of the 95 per cent required for proper protection.

Dr Natasha Crowcroft, consultant epidemiologist at the agency, said: ‘We're going in the right direction. I think everyone's got a bit bored with the story, which is good news for GPs. But we still need to aim for 95 per cent uptake. If you are below that eventually you will reach a stage where you have got too many kids who aren't covered.'

Dr Crowcroft urged PCTs to consider following London's lead in implementing catch-up campaigns. ‘We've recommended the whole country considers, if they haven't had a catch-up campaign, checking year 10s when having their school leaving booster so they don't leave unimmunised,' she said.

GPs welcomed the increase in uptake as a sign that parents were being won over.

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesperson, said: ‘It's now clear parents who underwent the single vaccine route are coming round.

‘GPs and their teams have put enormous effort into patient/parent education and the evidence and facts were and are on our side. We need to go on and on promoting MMR, which is one of the safest and most scrutinised vaccines we've had.'

A department spokesperson said: ‘We welcome this increase. We've tried to communicate the benefits of MMR to parents and have wanted them to be confident that getting their child vaccinated is the right thing to do.'

But a new study, published online in Vaccine, concluded GPs should be left to promote MMR themselves, as Government interventions could prove ‘counterproductive'.

The survey of nearly 1,000 parents found a ‘high level of concern' even among those whose children had had MMR – largely because of distrust of authorities.

ewilkinson@cmpinformation.com

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