Health authorities block import of unlicensed single mumps vaccine
By Lorna Duckworth Health Correspondent
06 August 2002
Attempts to import a single mumps vaccine, which is
known to cause meningitis in some children, were
blocked yesterday by the Department of Health.

Suppliers had sought permission to import an
unlicensed vaccine, which has not been used in Britain
since 1992 because of the risk of children contracting
viral meningitis.

But the Medicines Control Agency, which is responsible
for the safety of all medicines available in the UK,
yesterday told importers they must not bring the
vaccine into the country.

The warning followed advice from an independent panel
of scientists, who said that vaccines containing the
Urabe strain of the mumps virus carried an
"unacceptable risk" to children.

Professor Alasdair Breckenridge, chairman of the
Committee on Safety of Medicines, said: "There is
sound evidence that [the] mumps vaccine containing the
Urabe strain of virus is associated with a risk of
meningitis and no proven additional benefits. This
risk to children of a potentially serious neurological
complication makes its use unacceptable and we are
advising MCA not to allow importation of vaccines
containing this strain."

Demand for single vaccines against measles, mumps and
rubella (MMR) has soared in recent months because of a
collapse in confidence in the combined jab.

Fears of a possible link with autism and childhood
bowel disorders have seen large numbers of parents opt
for single immunisations, even though nearly all
doctors say that MMR is safe.

But recent decisions by manufacturers to halt the
production of several single vaccines, including
another form of the mumps vaccine, have fuelled
concerns that supplies could run out.

This has raised the alarm about the number of children
who remain unprotected against the diseases. According
to one recent report, government advisers now believe
that one in seven children under 10 in Britain, or
about 800,000 in total, are at risk of contracting
measles because of the failure to innoculate.

The MMR vaccine contains a strain of mumps virus
called Jeryl Lynn, which is not associated with
meningitis and which is used in many countries around
the world.

But the manufacturer of the unlicensed single Jeryl
Lynn vaccine recently halted production, which led to
the MCA receiving requests to import the Urabe strain.

In a statement, the CSM said studies had shown that at
least one case of Urabe mumps meningitis would occur
for every 3,800 doses distributed.

The decision was backed by Jabs, the support group for
families of children damaged by vaccines. Jonathan
Harris, West Midlands spokesman for Jabs, said: "It is
absolutely right for the MCA to do this. We campaign
for vaccine safety so we would not recommend any
private vaccine supplier or GP that intended to use
the Urabe strain of mumps."

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