10:30 - 03 May 2003

Single shot alternatives to the controversial MMR vaccine will soon be available in Gloucester.

A private London healthcare company run by NHS doctors and nurses is coming to the city to offer families the chance to vaccinate their children against measles, mumps and rubella in a single jab form. Choice Healthcare says its Harley Street office in London has received more than 100 calls in the past two months from anxious Gloucestershire parents eager to get their hands on the separate jabs.

Now it plans to set up a surgery at the Gloucester Natural Therapies Clinic in Kingsholm, where it can offer the 85-a-time vaccines.

The team already has more than 30 patients booked in for appointments at its first clinic.

Mauva Williams, nurse consultant for Choice Healthcare, said their aim was to offer parents the option of giving their child single jabs

She said: "What we are doing is giving parents who are concerned about the risk of autism the choice to give their children single jabs. We are pro-vaccination - but why should you have to have all three together?

"Not everyone can cope with this."

Sharon Paterson, of Abbeydale, will be one of the first parents to take their child to the centre.

Her son Jaden is 14 months old, and Sharon says she is taking no chances when it comes to his health.

She said: "There has been so much bad publicity about the triple vaccine, I just don't feel comfortable about it. Jaden is my first child and I want the best for him."

Mauva and her team believe the controversy surrounding the alleged link between autism and inflammatory bowel disease with MMR has led to a growing interest in providing the single jab.

She said: "I personally believe the reason why Tony Blair refuses to say whether his son Leo has had the MMR jab or not is because he has had the single vaccines.

"Research has shown there is a risk in mixing the vaccines and some children cannot take all three into their body at once."

But the NHS has repeatedly denied claims the MMR jab is dangerous.

The Department of Health said: "The latest scientific evidence shows no link between MMR and long-term problems such as autism and inflammatory bowel disease, that separate vaccines are worse for children than MMR and that MMR remains the safest way to protect children against these three potentially serious diseases.

"It is on this basis that the Government recommends MMR and does not endorse separate vaccines - a choice which experts clearly believe will put children's health and lives at greater risk."

Choice Healthcare will hold its first clinic at Gloucester Natural Therapies Clinic on June 7 and 8, and will be there every 12 weeks from then onwards.

To find out more about the jabs or book an appointment, call Choice Healthcare on 0870 770 8545.