Letters: Risking epidemics

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The Independent Culture
Sir: As a GP with responsibility for child health, I read with concern your leading article (1 September) about measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine and parents' right to choose.

Since the paper suggesting a link between MMR and autism was published in The Lancet earlier this year there has been a significant reduction in the uptake of vaccines in general, and particularly of MMR. In my practice population the uptake is as low as 75 per cent. To prevent epidemics of an illness we need approximately 90 per cent of children immunised. Clearly my area is at risk of an epidemic. I believe that irresponsible media reporting is responsible for this.

The decline in immunisation is among the "chattering classes". They do not have the benefit of assessing the paper themselves, but rely on the reporting of medical information by people such as yourselves. The paper has since been severely criticised by peer review. Also, the "advice" to have the vaccines separately was made as a suggestion by only one of the paper's authors.

I feel that the implication that Department of Health guidelines in favour of MMR are based on financial indications alone is misguided. Giving the vaccines individually over three years delays a child's chance of being protected. Having to undergo six injections rather than two means three times the risk of a reaction such as a fever.

Although I fully support a parent's right to choose, the choice should be based on full information.