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Website for parents ‘most cost-effective’ way to optimise MMR uptake

Giving parents access to a website on the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was the most cost-effective way of increasing uptake of the jab, according to Leeds academics.

Their research, published today in the British Journal of General Practice, showed the website cost less than a leaflet to inform parents, but resulted in better uptake of the vaccine.

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research, and included 179 first-time parents whose children were offered the MMR vaccine for the first time at 3-12 months of age.

Parents were divided into three groups – one where they were given log-on details to the website by post, one where they were given an information leaflet and one where they just received the usual service provided by their GP practice.

MMR uptake was 100% in the group that were given the website information, 92% in the group given the leaflet and 98% in the control group who received usual practice information only. Yet the website approach cost the NHS £7.17 less on average per vaccination than the leaflet, and £9.20 less than usual practice, once all the costs of health care service use – including telephone calls to the GP – were taken into account.

As a result, the website approach was the most cost-effective option for increasing vaccination uptake.

Co-author Dr Sandy Tubeuf, a health economist at Leeds University, said: ‘This research offers a really simple solution that would make a real difference to vaccination uptake and to the NHS budget. This research has shown considerable cost effectiveness to the NHS, and is much more convenient for parents who need more information about the safety of the MMR vaccine for their children.’

Despite improvements in childhood MMR uptake in recent years, coverage is still below the 95% target for population immunity, with latest official figures showing 93% uptake for the first dose by two years of age and 89% for the second dose by five years.

Br J Gen Pr 2014; available online 28 July


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