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Study sparks fear over effectiveness of MMR schedule

The Health Protection Agency is investigating whether two doses of MMR are sufficient to protect against mumps after its researchers found a 'concerning' lack of immunity in vaccinated children.

A new study found a third of children in cohorts who should have had a single dose of MMR, and 15 per cent of those who should have had two doses, had low levels of mumps antibodies.

The Government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation told Pulse it would be considering the implications of the new research for the vaccine programme.

But the RCGP is already calling for the MMR schedule to change in light of the results, with the second dose brought forward to shorten the period when children are protected with just one dose.

Dr Richard Pebody, a researcher on the study and consultant epidemiologist at the HPA's Centre for Infections, said the agency was undertaking further work assessing the effectiveness of two doses, which was a 'priority' given the current mumps outbreaks.

'There's an issue about what the recommendations would be. Probably one dose isn't enough. We can see there is an impact of the second dose, but we need to study what the effectiveness of the vaccine is.'

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesman, said the effectiveness of the mumps component of the MMR vaccine 'may be lower than we previously thought' and that there should be a change in policy.

He said: 'It is my view that the second dose of the MMR vaccine in our childhood immunisation programme should be transferred nearer to the second year of life.

'We should not be waiting until pre-school age to give the second dose.'

Dr David Baxter, consultant in communicable disease control in Stockport, said moving the second MMR dose was 'not a bad idea' but further research was needed before any change in policy.

The research, published early online by the Journal of Epidemiology and Infection, analysed serum samples from 3,445 patients aged from one to 69.

In those born between 1986 and 1990 who should have received one dose of MMR as part of routine vaccination, 34 per cent had low antibody levels, suggesting they might not be protected.

Of those born between 1991 and 1995, who should have had two doses, 15 per cent had low antibody levels.

ewilkinson@cmpi.biz

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