Livingstone advises parents to shun MMR jabs

David Batty and agencies
Tuesday July 2, 2002,11098,748125,00.html

The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has called on the government to provide single jabs for measles, mumps and rubella, arguing that the controversial MMR vaccine was too risky to "inflict" on young children.

The mayor, whose partner Emma Beal is expecting their first child this year, said the triple vaccine was being promoted because it saved time and money.

Mr Livingstone told BBC Radio 5 Live that his own child would receive single jabs.

Some parents have claimed that MMR caused their children to develop autism or bowel disorders.

But the government has said there is no scientific evidence to support these claims and insists the triple vaccine is safe.

Commenting on the alleged risks posed by MMR, the mayor said: "There's no way I would inflict that risk on a child."

He said children as young as 14-months-old were "incredibly vulnerable" and it did not seem wise to "whack" all the vaccines into a child at once.

"I think the government should make single jabs available until you can show there is no risk."

Parents were wary of government advice over the safety of MMR after other health scares such as BSE, he added.

"This whole debate is about administrative convenience, rather than chasing them [parents] up separately, it is about saving time and money," said the mayor.

"It is not like you cannot have separate jabs - it is just that it is cheaper.

"My advice to all Londoners is that if you can, get it done separately. I do not think there is a risk."

Confusingly, a spokeswoman for the mayor denied that he had advised parents against inoculating their children with MMR.

She said: "The BBC report quite grossly misrepresents what he said. All he said was, whether the concern about the combined vaccine is real or not, that parents should have a choice.

"He was not recommending the single jabs over the triple vaccine but was stressing his personal opinion that parents should get their children vaccinated in some way."

The mayor's comments came after the British Medical Association conference warned that parents do not trust medical advice on the MMR jab because they know GPs are paid to recommend it.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, a GP from East Yorkshire, called for the abolition of the target payment system at the BMA's annual conference in Harrogate.

Currently GPs receive payments if they immunise 70% of the children on their patient list and the amount increases significantly if they achieve 90%.

Dr Meldrum, joint deputy chairman of the BMA's GP committee, said many parents were aware of the target payment system and in some cases it made them doubt their GP's advice.

"Colleagues have had patients say to them you are only giving this advice because there is money in it for you," he said.