Our doctor answers your questions. This week: is the MMR safe?
Is there any link between the MMR vaccine and autism??
THE measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the safest way for parents to protect their children against these serious diseases.
Over 500 million doses of MMR have been used in over 100 countries around the world since the early 1970s. The World Health Organisation recognises MMR as a highly effective vaccine, with an outstanding safety record (WHO, 2001).
Many parents are concerned about there being a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Because of this, some parents have decided either not to vaccinate their children or to give them single vaccines.
Concern over the vaccine was sparked by a paper published in the
Lancet in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield, which alleged a possible connection between MMR and autism.
This research has since been discredited and there are now numerous studies that refute any link. Parents though are still concerned about MMR causing autism but should be reassured that there is no evidence that this is the case.
The vaccine is normally given at around 13 months of age and a second dose at three years and four months, or soon after.
Some parents have chosen to immunise their children with single vaccines, which means six separate injections will be given. The NHS does not recommend these single vaccines, because there are increased risks as a result.
Risks include children not complet- ing the full course of six jabs. It will also leave them unprotected in the gap between injections.
There is no source of single licensed measles or mumps vaccine in the UK. Those that are being offered privately are unlicensed — which means that there is no British testing on their safety and effectiveness.
For further information about the MMR vaccine and the illnesses that it immunises against, go to www.immu-