U.K. Doctors' Children Avoid MMR
by Jenny Hope, Daily Mail, femail.co.uk - 6th May 2003
Two out of five children being given single vaccines instead of the MMR jab have parents who are medically trained, a survey has revealed.
Critics claim it shows that doctors and nurses are more worried about the possible health risks of the triple vaccination than they are prepared to admit in public.
Their action also flies in the face of Government policy and official attempts to persuade parents to allow their children to have the MMR injection.
The report by private healthcare group Direct Health 2000 analyzed data for 58,000 children who have completed courses of single vaccines since 1999.
Of these, almost 23,000 had at least one parent who is medically trained, including GPs, hospital and practice nurses, health visitors and even consultants.
Official statistics show that uptake of the MMR injection is at its lowest level in over a decade. One in five two-year-olds have not been given the jab combining vaccinations against measles, mumps and rubella.
Sarah Dean, Direct Health 2000 chief executive, said: "These statistics indicate the strong pro-MMR stance adopted by the Health Department is not believed by a large proportion of those who have to promote it.
"It also weakens the perception that the debate about MMR is simply the medical profession versus concerned parents when a lot of those concerned parents are from the medical profession."
Miss Dean, an ex-NHS nurse, added: "One GP told us that he felt extremely guilty about bringing his son to us on a Saturday when he had been advising patients to choose the combined MMR jab all week."
The company is the UK's largest provider of single vaccines and the survey figures are drawn from its London clinic.
However, patterns at its other permanent and outreach clinics around the UK are similar. In South Wales, the figure for the number of medically trained parents is nearer 50 per cent.
The Government will not offer single jabs on the NHS, despite pressure from campaigners, forcing those parents who want them to pay.
"The Department of Health has shown itself to be contemptuous of the wishes of 'ordinary' parents in denying them a vaccination choice" said Miss Dean.
"Perhaps it will be less pigheaded now it knows that a lot of the people it
pays are actively against its policy on MMR."
A survey in the British Medical Journal two years ago found that one in three nurses working in GP surgeries believed the triple jab might be linked to serious side- effects, such as Crohn's disease and autism.
It found that nearly half of family doctors and nurses were worried about giving children their second dose of MMR.
Many parents have rejected MMR since it was linked to the development of bowel disease and autism in controversial research findings by Dr Andrew Wakefield.
However, the Department of Health and its medical advisers insist major studies around the world have failed to find a link.
MMR coverage is so far below the 95 per cent recommended by the World Health Organization that doctors say outbreaks of measles are a serious threat.
Immunization rates in England and Wales fell from 84 per cent early last year to 80 per cent in December. In London, the uptake is even lower, with just under 73 per cent of two year-olds vaccinated.
But problems with the supply of single jabs at private clinics mean that some of the estimated 120,000 toddlers who have not had MMR may be left with no protection.