Child-vaccine setback for worried parents

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The Independent Online
PARENTS demanding single vaccines for their children because of fears about the safety of the combined MMR jab against measles mumps and rubella are being told that stocks are exhausted and there are no plans to provide more.

A study last week which suggested a possible link between MMR vaccination and bowel disease and autism has triggered hundreds of calls to vaccine- damage support groups. Dr Andrew Wakefield, the chief author of the study, published in the Lancet last week, advised parents to administer the three vaccines one at a time - with at least a year's gap between each - to reduce the impact on the immune system, although other members of the research team said use of the combined vaccine should continue.

Yesterday, Pasteur Merieux, makers of MMR, said most of their measles vaccine was used to make the combined MMR to satisfy the worldwide demand and they only kept "a few hundred doses" of the single vaccine. It was currently out of stock and new supplies would not be available until June.

A spokesman said over 250 million doses of MMR had been given worldwide over 26 years. "If there was a problem with MMR I think we would be aware of it by now."

Jackie Fletcher of the parents support group, Jabs, said:"We have had hundreds of calls from families reporting similar problems linked to MMR vaccination which they had raised with their doctors and which had been dismissed ... We are not anti-vaccine, we are anti-damage. There has been a huge question mark over MMR for some time and now it is getting scientific recognition. What is the health department playing at?"

A health department spokesman said the advice from two expert committees on vaccination was that even if there was any danger from MMR, which they did not accept, there was no evidence that giving the vaccines separately would be any safer.

The days when drugs have to be administered via a needle and syringe may be numbered, writes Andrew Yates. PowderJect Pharmaceuticals, a small British biotechnology group, is pioneering a new system where powdered drugs are painlessly blasted through the skin at supersonic speeds. Patients feel no more than a short blast of air.

The technology received a huge endorsement yesterday when the pharmaceuticals giant Glaxo Wellcome pledged more than pounds 180m towards research and development.

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