MMR: Low vaccination rates leave Ireland vulnerable to measles epidemic


A new measles outbreak in Germany has been attributed to "militant" opposition to the vaccine that gives children immunity to measles, mumps and rubella.

According to Germany's Professional Association of Paediatricians, more than 600 cases of measles have been reported in an area of Bavaria with a population of 135,000. The vaccination rate there is 80 per cent for the first MMR dose, but only 60 per cent for the second, given at the age of six.

An Irish Times survey showed that three-quarters of people here believe that children should receive the MMR, but even this rate wouldn't be enough to prevent an epidemic. The uptake should be at least 90 per cent, yet vaccination rates are below 70 per cent. One in 15 Irish children who gets measles will have a serious complication, such as bronchitis, convulsion or encephalitis. In 2000, three died of measles in Dublin.

An outbreak of mumps, which is a real risk, would cause viral meningitis and deafness in some children, including those too young for the MMR vaccine.

Babies get the MMR at 15 months. Parents who refuse to have their children immunised are, therefore, putting the lives of babies under the age of 15 months at risk.

While a study involving a mere 12 children linked the MMR to autism, further studies have failed to show any link. Autism rates started to increase 10 years before the MMR was introduced. The link with bowel disease was fully investigated and no link can be shown. The MMR vaccine has been used in the US since 1970 with an excellent safety record.

There is no evidence that separate vaccinations are any safer than the MMR, states the Irish College of General Practitioners, which recommends the MMR vaccine to children.