Good, but not good enough on jab

North-East children are well ahead of the national average in take-up of the MMR jab, figures show today.

North-East children are well ahead of the national average in take-up of the MMR jab, figures show today.

The combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is being given to 80.4% of under-fives in the region, compared to the national average of 73.3%.

But the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the North-East said the take up rate was still not good enough.

A spokeswoman said: "These annual figures demonstrate increasing confidence by North-East parents in the effectiveness and safety of the MMR vaccine.

"The latest quarterly data published by the HPA for July to September shows rates are continuing to rise, with 86.8% of children in the North-East having had their first MMR by the age of two, and 80.7% having their second MMR by the age of five.

"But while North-East uptake rates are above the national average, they are still below the 95% target recommended by the World Health Organisation if `herd immunity' protection levels are to be achieved and the widespread return of mumps, measles and rubella prevented."

Many parents abandoned the triple MMR jab after research in 1998 linked it with autism.

That research has since been discredited and the vast majority of experts now agree the injection is safe - but independent clinics continue to give North-East youngsters single vaccines.

Leigh Scully, 33, of Preston Grange, North Shields, brought a mobile vaccination clinic to the region three years ago after trying to arrange single vaccinations for her son Taylor, now four.

Mrs Scully, who runs a tanning business and has an older daughter Olivia, eight, said yesterday: "I'm still sure I made the right choice and am in the process of getting Taylor his booster vaccines.

"But I'm not surprised about the high take-up rate of the MMR in the North-East because I think a lot of it comes down to cost. It's about £350 for the single vaccines, so some people probably don't have a choice but to get what is available free from their local GP."

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) has compiled the figures from NHS Immunisations statistics for 2004/05 because it is worried about long-term effects of catching measles, mumps or rubella, which include arthritis and inflammation of the brain.

Sarah Bazin, the CSP's chair of council, said yesterday: "This study demonstrates the absolute necessity of getting healthcare messages correct. When panic and confusion reign, public health can be seriously compromised."

Mmr take-up rates across the region

Northumberland: 86.2%

Durham Dales: 86.1%

Durham and Chester-le-street: 86%

Sedgefield: 85.8%

Derwentside: 85.4%

South Tyneside: 84.2%

North Tyneside: 81.6%

Sunderland: 81.4%

North Tees: 81.4%

Hartlepool: 80.3%

Darlington: 80.1%

Middlesbrough: 77.5%

Easington: 76.6%

Newcastle: 75%

Gateshead: 68.2%

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