UCL News


Health experts call for MMR action

28 June 2006

Six UCL academics are among the 30 child health experts warning that children may unnecessarily become ill and even die because parents have been "dangerously misled" over the risks of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Dr Helen Bedford, Dr E Graham Davis, Professor Carol Dezateux, Professor David Goldblatt and Dr Vas Novelli of the UCL Institute of Child Health, and Professor Brent Taylor of UCL Paediatrics & Child Health are among the experts in child care and immunisation who have signed an open letter to media, politicians and health professionals, to call for an end to "any association between MMR and autism."

A 1998 study published in medical journal 'The Lancet' claimed that there could be an increased risk of children developing autism or bowel disease if they had received the MMR vaccine. Since then, many large and small-scale studies have been conducted showing no link between MMR and autism or bowel disease, but public confidence is still low.

Fears are growing about the dramatic increase of measles cases in 2006, with the first death from measles since 1992 reported in March. The Health Protection Agency has reported 449 cases of measles so far this year - compared to the 438 reported cases in the whole of 2003. The World Health Organisation recommends that 95 per cent of the population should be immunised for the safety of the whole community. UK figures for MMR immunisation currently stand at 83 per cent.

The letter states: "We are now faced with a potentially serious situation. Years of low uptake mean large numbers of unprotected children are now entering school. Unless this is rectified urgently, and children are immunised, there will be further outbreaks and more unnecessary deaths."

"It is not too late to avert this predictable tragedy. It is time that due weight be given to the overwhelming body of scientific evidence in favour of the vaccine. Misguided concepts of 'balance' have confused and potentially misled parents. We, all media, politicians and health professionals, have a responsibility to protect the health of our children."