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February 11, 2003

“ Remember rubella ” , urges charity

From:, U.K. - 11 Feb 2003


By Health Newswire reporters

The public is not sufficiently aware of the dangers posed by rubella, warn deaf-blind campaigners concerned at the drop in uptake of the MMR vaccine.

Following the fall in the number of children receiving the combined MMR vaccine much attention has been given to the threat from measles, but the deaf-blind charity Sense is warning that outbreaks of rubella could also put unborn children at risk.

A MORI poll, commissioned by Sense, found that 27 per cent of adults could not name any of the effects of rubella on an unborn child. Among people aged between 15 and 34 years, 39 per cent were unaware of the dangers, something Sense attributes to the fact that younger people do not remember rubella outbreaks.

The charity says the public needs to be aware that if a pregnant woman catches rubella in the early stages of pregnancy her child can be born with congenital rubella syndrome, which can cause deafness, blindness and damage to the heart, brain and nervous system.

Between 1971 and 1980, there were 447 congenital rubella births and 5,711 rubella-associated terminations reported, according to the charity.

Following the introduction of vaccination programmes, the numbers of rubella-related births and terminations fell to 38 and 61 respectively between 1991 and 2000. Rubella vaccination was introduced for schoolgirls in 1970 and in 1988 the triple MMR jab was recommended for infants.

However, since speculation about a link between MMR and autism and bowel disease, immunisation rates have been falling. Last September, the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit warned that the current level of MMR uptake might not be sufficient to prevent the circulation of rubella in the long term.

Malcolm Matthews, Sense’s director of community support and information, said it was extremely worrying that younger people did not seem to be aware how dangerous rubella could be in the early stages of pregnancy.

“So much of the negative publicity about MMR has focused on unproven speculation and theories. What we do know about MMR is that it has led to significant reductions in the number of children born with congenital rubella syndrome,” he said.

“There is no evidence that single vaccines would either be safer or as effective. In fact single jabs would leave children unprotected for longer and so increase the risk of them catching the disease and passing it on to pregnant women without immunity.”

Sense is calling on parents faced with decisions about the MMR vaccine to “remember rubella” and talk to their medical practitioner, so they understand how dangerous the disease can be.

© HMG Worldwide 2003