Intended for healthcare professionals


Has the UK government lost the battle over MMR?

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 10 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:552
  1. Paul Bellaby (, professor of sociology of health
  1. Institute for Public Health Research and Policy, University of Salford, Salford, Greater Manchester M5 4QA

Possibly, but the war can still be won by openness and communication

Since the World Health Organization introduced its Expanded Programme on Immunization in 1974, multiple vaccinations—such as for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)—have been used to help eradicate childhood diseases that cause death and disability worldwide. Smallpox has already been eradicated. The United Kingdom has provided DTP since the 1950s and MMR since 1988. Lowered prevalence rates of disease, serological surveys, and treatment specific trials have lent support to this policy.1 2 In short, evidence already exists.

Unfortunately not all countries have the infrastructure that is required to put the evidence into practice. This deficiency is greatest in infancy, when the window of opportunity between maternally derived immunity and susceptibility to infection is narrowest and childhood diseases kill and disable most.3 In Ethiopia in 1974, the World Health Organization reached only 12% of its child targets. By contrast, in the United Kingdom in 1998 the …

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