Scotland failing to hit child MMR immunisation targets

SCOTLAND is still failing to meet global targets for child MMR immunisation, new figures revealed yesterday.

The World Health Organisation recommends that 95 per cent of youngsters should be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella.

But in Scotland, the take-up rate among two-year-olds was 91.8 per cent in the latest quarter, from October to December, and 92.1 per cent for last year as a whole.

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However, researchers said the number of children getting the drugs had increased on the previous three months.

The figures remain well above the take-up rate of 85.8 per cent among two-year-olds in 2003, although they are lower than for some quarters in 2006. This may be due to a short-term lack of available vaccination appointments because of a catching-up exercise in another area of the vaccination programme.

Among five-year-olds, the rate was 94.4 per cent, both in the latest quarter and for the year as a whole, while immunisation rates for other childhood diseases are well above the 95 per cent target.

The MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988, but take-up levels began to fall in 1998, when a fiercely disputed study claimed it was linked to autism. The connection has been largely discredited, and immunisation rates have been rising again since 2003.

Earlier this month, an outbreak of measles was reported across Scotland, leaving three people in need of hospital treatment. Experts put the 36 cases recorded by Health Protection Scotland down to the low level of inoculations from 1998. Health chiefs said most of those affected had not been fully immunised.

Last night, Shona Robison, the public health minister, said it was "very encouraging" that take-up rates for the majority of childhood vaccinations remained above the 95 per cent target.

She added: "It is also good news that uptake rates for MMR have continued to rise over the past few years, although we need to continue to encourage parents to have their children given this vaccine.

"We have one of the most successful childhood vaccine programmes in the world. It has provided vital protection for children in Scotland from serious infectious diseases."

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However, Ms Robison said the government was continuing to encourage parents to engage in the process, adding: "This is the safest and most effective way of protecting all children, and the wider community, against serious infectious diseases."

Mary Scanlon, the Scottish Tories' health spokeswoman, said while the party backed the MMR vaccine, free individual inoculations should be available in cases where parents were wary of giving children the combined jab.

And Jamie Stone, the Lib Dems' public health spokesman, called for a public information campaign addressing concerns about the triple vaccine.


THE death rate for youngsters in the country's poorest areas is more than twice that for children in the wealthiest areas, it emerged yesterday.

Official statistics showed a total of 362 children under the age of 15 died in 2006 – giving a rate of 4.2 deaths per 10,000. The rate in 1986 was 8.5 per 10,000. However, the death rate in the most deprived areas was six per 10,000, compared to 2.4 per 10,000 in the least deprived.

The Lib Dems said the figures were "extremely disturbing". Shona Robison, the public heath minister, said a ministerial task force on health inequalities was due to report back in May.