by Gillian McDade
CAUTION is still being exercised by parents in the Cookstown and Magherafelt areas with regard to the controversial MMR jab being administered to their children.
In the period October to December 2012, the percentage of children in the Northern Area, which covers the two district councils, having received the first measles, mumps and rubella vaccine by the age of two was 96.6 per cent. This is in contrast to October to December 2011 when the uptake rate was just 93.4 per cent.
From January to March 2011 the percentage of children in the area who had received the MMR by the age of five was 97.4 for the first vaccine and 94.4 for the second. By October to December of 2012 the figure had dropped to 97.4 per cent and 92.2 per cent respectively.
The statistics on the rates of uptake throughout Northern Ireland are available on the Public Health Agency’s website.
A measles outbreak was declared in Belfast in December 2012 with four cases confirmed and this prompted the Public Health Agency to advise getting children vaccinated with the MMR.
However there has been controversy over the years about whether the MMR vaccine can cause autism. This row followed a study published in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield. In his paper for The Lancet medical journal, Dr Wakefield claimed there was a link between the MMR vaccine and children developing autism or bowel disease.
Single vaccines are not routinely given and are not available on the NHS because there is a risk that fewer children would receive all the necessary injections, increasing the levels of measles, mumps and rubella.
Furthermore, the delay in receiving six separate injections would also put more children at risk of developing the conditions, as well as increasing the amount of work for those administering the vaccines.
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