By Sophie Borland
Children without MMR jabs should be banned from school, claims public health official
Children who haven’t had the MMR jab should be banned from schools, according to a leading doctor.
Dr Sohail Bhatti, a director of one of the largest health trusts in Britain, said the draconian measure was the only way to ensure higher uptake of the vaccine.
Since the MMR scare more than 12 years ago the number of children receiving the combined jab for measles, mumps and rubella has fallen by a third in some parts of the country.
Dr Bhatti, director of public health at East Lancashire Primary Care Trust, said parents had a “responsibility” to ensure their children were immunised.
He said that many still feared potential side effects, despite the fact that Dr Andrew Wakefield’s study which first prompted the scare had since been discredited.
Dr Bhatti, a GP who has advised several PCTs on public health initiatives, is now trying to negotiate school admission changes with Lancashire County Council to include the jab amongst the criteria.
He said: ‘If you like it’s a radical idea, but I feel an appropriate suggestion for East Lancashire is that we change nurseries and schools admission policies so parents realise they have a due diligence responsibility for not infecting their children and their friends’ children.
‘It’s what happens in France. There, you can’t be admitted to school unless you show your vaccination certificate.
‘We have a responsibility to ensure children are immunised.
‘There has been a huge problem nationally with the take up of the jab since the Wakefield scare.
‘Often its the well-educated parents who are not getting their children vaccinated.
‘They’re worried about the side effects – which are extremely rare – and have forgotten how serious the diseases are.
Fears over the MMR jab were first raised in 1998 when Dr Wakefield published a study in the highly respected Lancet medical journal claiming it was linked to autism and bowel disorders.
In some parts of the country just 59 per cent of children have been vaccinated, compared to 91 per cent in 1997 before the scare.