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UK MMR uptake 'one of the worst in Europe'

By Lilian Anekwe

The UK has one of the worst levels of uptake of the MMR vaccine in Europe, according to the findings of a major study of 32 European countries.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that coverage needs to be at a minimum of 95% with two doses of vaccine in order to achieve the WHO's goal of effectively wiping out the disease in Europe by 2010.

However as a result of the poor uptake of the MMR vaccine in the UK, as a result of lingering fears over the safety of the vaccine, coverage was less than 85% in children at two years of age between 2002 and 2005. The number of cases reported in the UK also jumped from 773 to 1004 between 2006 and 2007.

The vast majority of the 12,132 recorded cases recorded in the study occurred in the UK, Romania, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.

Nearly half of the measles cases recorded in 2007 were in children aged 5 to 19 years old, 80% of whom were not vaccinated, which the authors said was evidence that ‘measles cannot be regarded solely as a childhood disease.'

Lead researcher Dr Mark Muscat, from the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, concluded: ‘The continued emergence of outbreaks and persistently high incidence in some European countries have indicated suboptimum vaccination coverage, which will threaten the success of the measles elimination plan for the region by 2010.'

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Jacques Kremer, from the WHO regional reference laboratory for measles and rubella in Luxembourg, said ‘the UK is only slowly recovering from its unsubstantiated scare that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination was linked to increased risk of autism'.

A spokesman for the Department of Health insisted GPs were working hard to improve MMR uptake:‘Since we announced the MMR catch-up programme in August, we have provided extra resources, sourced additional supplies of vaccine, and made available software to help GPs identify children who have not received MMR.'

MMR vaccine uptake in UK is among the worst in Europe MMR vaccine uptake in UK is among the worst in Europe

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