MMR vaccination call to parents

THE number of children receiving the MMR jab in Leeds is on the rise but health bosses say more still need to be fully vaccinated.

According to figures from NHS Leeds, the number of youngsters having the first injection against measles, mumps and rubella has increased by eight per cent in the last year.

From July to September 2009, figures show that 84.7 per cent of children aged two years had been vaccinated with the MMR jab compared to 76.6 per cent in the same period during the previous year.

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But health chiefs say that at least 95 per cent of children need to be fully vaccinated with both injections to fully protect the community against the diseases and they are still urging parents to get their children vaccinated.

The first MMR jab is given to children at around 13 months of age with a second dose given with the pre-school booster immunisation at three years and four months of age.

Dr Simon Balmer, NHS Leeds head of health protection, said: "We need more children to have both doses of the vaccine in order to stop the spread of these diseases.

"It is encouraging to see that the numbers of children being vaccinated against MMR is slowly going up. However, we know that part of the increase has been due to some improvements in the way we record data on childhood immunisations and so we are still urging parents to get their children vaccinated.

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"We're always worried about measles because very rarely it can kill. Our main aim is to protect children against this and other infectious diseases which can be serious and can cause long-term health problems for some people. The MMR vaccine is proven to be the safest and most effective way of protecting children against these serious diseases."

Nationally, there has been a drop in the number of children being immunised, which has caused an increase in the number of measles, mumps and rubella cases.

In Leeds, six cases of measles were confirmed during 2009.

The NHS Leeds vaccination and immunisation team has been raising awareness of MMR by holding a series of immunisation events to try and increase uptake of the vaccination in the city.

Last summer, a six-week MMR campaign was carried out at children's centres in East and South Leeds.

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Vaccination and immunisation manager Beryl Bleasby said: "There was an enormous amount of interest in the summer MMR campaign and we were pleased to have the opportunity to speak to parents about the vaccine.

"From talking to mums and dads at the events, we know that vaccine safety is a key worry for parents and so we are going to be doing some more awareness raising throughout the year to give people the facts about MMR."

The MMR combined vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella – three common infectious diseases of childhood – was introduced in the UK in 1988 to replace single vaccines for each disease.

Measles, which is highly infectious and spreads quickly from person to person, can lead to pneumonia, lung infections and in rare cases inflammation of the brain.

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Very rarely measles can be fatal and over one million people around the world die from the disease each year.

Mumps and rubella also cause unpleasant symptoms including a high fever and rash.

All three illnesses can lead to permanent deafness or partial hearing loss in children and in adults. If contracted during pregnancy, rubella can cause birth defects in unborn babies.

According to the Health Protection Agency, there were 56 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales in 1998. The number of cases rose to 438 in 2003.

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