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Fears of European measles epidemic as vaccinations falter

7 January 2009

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Poor measles vaccination rates in some countries, including Britain, may have dashed hopes of eliminating the disease from Europe by 2010, The Lancet medical journal reports.

Of more than 12,000 cases in the two years spanning 2006 and 2007, all but 15% occurred in just five countries – the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Romania.

Most were infections of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children, in part linked to concerns about the possible side effects of the triple measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab.

Renewed fears of an epidemic that could affect up to 100,000 young people in England has prompted a government campaign to improve MMR take-up rates.

The report takes a critical look at the World Health Organisation’s goal of eliminating measles, and concludes that it will be impossible if the situation does not change.

Dr Mark Muscat, from the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, writes: “The suboptimum vaccination coverage raises serious doubts that the goal elimination by 2010 can be attained.”

Copyright © Press Association 2009

The Lancet