Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK

Doctors endorse MMR vaccine


The MMR vaccine remains controversial

More than 800 doctors have given their seal of approval to the controversial measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in a survey.

The poll, carried out by medical research group Medix, revealed that 98% of those surveyed would be happy for their own child to be vaccinated with the combined MMR vaccine.

Dr Peter Mansfield

Dr Peter Mansfield believes parents should be given a choice

However, most of those questioned (97%) also believed that doctors who go against official guidelines by giving children the vaccine in single doses should not face disciplinary action.

The results of the poll were published as the General Medical Council announced that Lincolnshire GP Dr Peter Mansfield - who champions single vaccines for measles - would not face an immediate hearing which could suspend him from practice.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said replacing the MMR jab with single dose vaccines would put children at risk.

'Unnecessary risk'

She said: "While we understand that GPs may face pressures for single vaccines, these would put children at unnecessary risk and would have no scientific support whatsoever."

The spokeswoman added that children would remain exposed to the dangerous diseases in the gaps between vaccines and research had shown that when the vaccines were split many parents failed to complete the full course.

Before the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988 there were 76,000 cases of measles and 16 deaths per year.

Since 1992 there have been no deaths from measles and only 100 cases last year.

Uptake of the jab has fallen since concerns were first raised in 1998 that it was linked to a rise in autism and bowel disorders. This link has been dismissed by the Department of Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and many leading scientists.

Immunisation rates have fallen to below recommended WHO levels, promoting fears that the immunity of the whole population could be threatened.

Most doctors questioned in the survey did suggest that more research into MMR was needed.