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GPs urged to audit MMR as measles susceptibility soars

By Daniel Cressey

The RCGP is urging GPs to audit their patient records for all those without full MMR protection after the latest dire warning over the threat of measles.

A new Health Protection Scotland study found children were more vulnerable than ever to a measles epidemic, with susceptibility rising despite recent slight rises in MMR uptake.

The research, published online by the Archives of Disease in Childhood and reported in part by Pulse last June, came after a surge in measles cases and the first death from the disease in more than a decade.

The research team identified a 'concerning' eight-fold increase in the number of Scottish postcode districts with greater than 20 per cent susceptibility to measles among nursery children, up from three in 1998 to 25 in 2003.

The researchers found parents in deprived areas tended to delay having their children vaccinated, whereas in more affluent areas children were vaccinated immediately or not at all.

They warned that susceptibility was set to increase further as uptake had still not recovered to the levels before the MMR scare (see graph).

Study leader Dr Claire Cameron, immunisation epidemiologist at Health Protection Scotland, told Pulse: 'Among nursery school children we have already seen an increased susceptibility to measles. Among primary school children we're going to see more children susceptible to measles as the low uptake cohort ages.'

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesperson and a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire, called on the Government to lead a new campaign to drive up vaccination in collaboration with the medical colleges.

Dr Kassianos said: 'We have not achieved 95 per cent MMR immunisation rates ­ only when we do that can we relax.

'We should review all adolescents and see if they have had two doses. Those who haven't should be called in to have two doses. Those who had MR should be called in for two doses of MMR three months apart.'

The researchers studied one million children in Scotland born between 1987 and 2004.

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