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GPs are more confident in the MMR vaccine but knowledge gaps remain over side-effects and contraindications, a Department of Health survey


In 2004, a fifth of GPs expressed concerns over vaccines used in the routine programme, a return to levels seen in earlier years after a rise to 32 per cent in 2003.

The influential survey on the views of health professionals on vaccination also found 90 per cent of GPs would advise undecided parents to choose MMR, up 5 per cent on the previous year.

But the survey, which polled the views of 302 GPs, 482 health visitors and 499 practice nurses, uncovered continuing evidence of a knowledge gap on rare side-

effects of MMR and confusion over contraindications.

Only 34 per cent of GPs were aware that MMR could cause arthropathy and 28 per cent that thrombocytopaenia was a possible side-effect.

A third of GPs wrongly thought subacute sclerosing panencephalitis could be caus-ed by MMR, compared with one in 10 health visitors and practice nurses, while 18 per cent of GPs would not advise MMR for a child with a close family history of autism.

Less than two-thirds of

GPs were aware of having

access to immunisation training and 71 per cent of those aware of training had not taken any courses in the last two years.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, said there were some 'encouraging improvements' in GPs' advice to parents.

Dr Mary Flynn, a GP in Brighton, who has carried out research on MMR uptake, said: 'If [confidence] is

improving that has to be good, as we are getting lots of cases of mumps locally in teenagers.'

She added: 'You can't keep every bit of knowledge in your head, but I'm surprised many GPs are not aware SSPE is a complication of measles not a side-effect of the vaccine.'

Dr Nick Raithatha, honorary senior lecturer in primary care at the University of East Anglia, who researches risk perception, said: 'The scientific basis for MMR's safety is much more secure. Several studies have reconfirmed the safety and none has highlighted the risks.'

By Nerys Hairon

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