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Issue 475, 21 January 2002

Fall in vaccinations prompts MMR study

Talking to parents and professionals – (l-r) Robert Mc Murray, Francine Cheater and research assistant Anna Weighall

Leeds is seeing cases of mumps rise alarmingly, as take up of the MMR vaccine continues to fall. Across the city there were just under 400 cases last year, more than double the number in 2000, and ten times the figure for 1999. Take up of the first MMR vaccine has dropped to around 80% in Leeds, with as few as 70% having the second injection – which ensures immunisation – at age five.

Many of the mumps cases are amongst young adults, who received no vaccination as children. They face a high risk of sterility in later life.

Although information is available to parents on the MMR vaccine and the risks of leaving children with no immunisation against the diseases, many parents are clearly still choosing not to vaccinate their children. A team of researchers from the school of healthcare studies and the NHS is looking into whether or not parents receive all the information they need, how they view this information, and what more could be done to ensure parents are fully informed and supported in making the decision whether or not to vaccinate their children.

Led by Dr Robert McMurray and professor of public health nursing Francine Cheater, the 14-month study will involve interviews with 80 parents and 20 health professionals to explore the relevance, quality, usefulness and continuity of the MMR information.

The research, funded by the Northern and Yorkshire Regional Health Authority, will provide recommendations on multi-agency immunisation education and parental decision making support, and these will be publicised regionally and nationally.

Professor Cheater said: "Professionals and policy makers alike are unsure about the type and nature of support required by parents to reach informed decisions about vaccination and its long-term health implications for their child. We hope to provide that information, through talking to the parents themselves."

Dr McMurray said: "This study is really important, as we need to understand how the good souces of information that exist in relation to MMR can be communicated by health care agencies to the parents of young children."

For more details on the situation in Leeds, see the Infectious Diseases newsletter on the Leeds Health Authority website.

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