UK measles warning - Major outbreaks likely this winter if uptake of MMR vaccine does not increase

October 30, 2003

Major measles outbreaks are likely in the UK this winter as a result of low MMR vaccine uptake, warns a senior childhood physician in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

Writing in response to recent correspondence (Lancet 2003; 362: 832) which highlighted how vaccine uptake as low as 61% has been recorded recently, Simon Murch from the Royal Free Hospital, London, UK-one of the authors of the 1998 Lancet research suggesting a possible link between MMR and autism, and the senior author on several subsequent publications-clearly states that there is now unequivocal evidence supporting the safety of the MMR vaccine. He states how no vaccine has been the subject of so much scrutiny, and that any causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism is false.

Simon Murch comments: "MMR immunisation, which should be an easy decision [for physicians and parents], has become a worrying issue for many British parents. Although this situation reflects in part a broader mistrust of official pronouncements, and has been fuelled by media campaigning, it is founded on the misinformed perception that there is ongoing scientific uncertainty. There is now unequivocal evidence that MMR is not a risk factor for autism-this statement is not spin or medical conspiracy, but reflects an unprecedented volume of medical study on a worldwide basis. By any rational standards of risk/benefit calculation, it is an illogical and potentially dangerous mistake for parents to be prepared to take their children in a car on the motorway or in an aeroplane on holiday, but not to protect them with the MMR vaccine. An unprotected child is not only at personal danger, but represents a potential hazard to others, including unborn children. Unless vaccine uptake improves rapidly, major measles epidemics are likely in the UK this winter."

Contact: Press Office, Royal Free Hospital (Thursday 30 October onwards):
T) 44-207-830-2963;

Sue Hampson, PA to Dr Simon Murch, Centre for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Royal Free Campus, London NW3 2PF, UK;
T) 44-207-830-2780/2779;
F) 44-207-830-2146;


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