Parents are robbed of choice over MMR jab
PARENTS will have no choice but to give their children the MMR jab after the world's only single mumps vaccine manufacturer stopped production, it was revealed yesterday.
Supplies of the single jab Mumpsvax ran dry earlier this year but Scottish clinics were assured that production by US firm Merck would resume in 2011. However, it emerged that Merck has stopped production permanently.
It is estimated that 2,500 Scottish children are at risk after their parents opted to pay for a course of single mumps, measles and rubella vaccines which they now cannot complete.
The only course of action now is the combined MMR vaccine, which was the subject of a scare linking it to autism and bowel disease, or to avoid mumps vaccination completely.
Dr Peter Copp, from Edinburgh private clinic GP-Plus,
said: "I have around 300 children who have started single vaccinations, but now can't complete the course due to the mumps vaccine running out.
"It is very disappointing, as Merck had been saying until recently that they would be resuming production of the vaccine, but have now changed their mind. This has put some parents in a very difficult position."
There were claims yesterday that Merck was put under pressure by the UK government to stop making Mumpsvax because it wants all parents to have the combined MMR jab.
Martha Cox, director of Wellcare, a nationwide network of private health clinics, said: "I don't think it's a coincidence that within a couple of days of Merck making their announcement, the NHS placed pro-MMR adverts in the newspapers.
"One can't help but feel that is not a coincidence and a lot of parents reading these articles also believe it is political."
She added: "We heard the news about Mumpsvax two weeks ago and we are in the process of notifying our parents.
"So far, it has been a mixed reaction but most feel a bit let down by the system. It is an awful dilemma they now have – to vaccinate their children or not.
"Merck announced this summer they were going to resume production in 2011, and everybody took them at their word.
"It's very hard not to be cynical and think that this is a politically driven decision.
"If I had children at that age, my own personal view is that I would go for the single vaccinations rather than the MMR and not vaccinate against mumps."
Mrs Cox said her clinic estimated that there were 25,000 children across the UK who had started a course of single vaccinations which they now could not complete. That figure was about 2,500 for Scotland, she said.
Experts believe there is no risk associated with children getting the MMR jab after they have received a measles or rubella jab, but they must wait four weeks to avoid complications.
The combined jab for measles, mumps and rubella – given to babies for free from the age of 13 months – was approved in Britain in 1988, despite concerns about its side-effects.
Single vaccines for the diseases remained available free of charge on the NHS until 1997.
While there is still no conclusive evidence, a small number of independent studies appear to show that the triple jab could be linked with cases of autism and bowel disease. However, wider clinical trials have found no link between the MMR and autism or bowel disease.
In a statement posted on the Merck website, vice-president Dr Mark Feinberg claimed that the halt in production was "science-based".
He added: "There is no medical reason to administer the measles, mumps and rubella antigens separately, and guidelines do not support their use."
A UK Department of Health spokesman described as "rubbish" claims that they influenced Merck's decision to stop producing Mumpsvax, to force parents to choose MMR.
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