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Babies to receive five-in-one vaccinations.

Byline: By Alison Dargie

A new five-in-one jab to protect against childhood illness could spark a greater storm than the MMR controversy, parents warned last night.

From September, two-month-old babies will be given a vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, HIB or child flu, and polio, under Department of Health plans unveiled yesterday. It replaces the current four-in-one vaccine.

Mercury has been removed from the whooping cough vaccine, after researchers in American suggested it could be linked to autism and the oral polio vaccine has also been scrapped.

But parents in the North-East claim the Government has yet to convince them the new jab is safe and warned of a mass boycott ( similar to that surrounding the MMR.

And private healthcare firms offering single vaccine alternatives are gearing up for a rush when the combined jab is introduced.

Paul Shattock, who heads Sunderland University's autism research unit, welcomed the removal of the mercury and the oral polio vaccine, but called on the Government to publish evidence that the combined vaccine was safe.

He said: "People don't believe Government pronouncements any more. It is not enough to say the combined vaccine is safe, we need to see the published evidence and we need the opportunity to scrutinize the evidence ourselves.

"There's no reason that five vaccines together should cause problems but there's no reason it shouldn't. There are many chemicals which are fine taken separately but cause problems when taken together."

Debbie Cole, 41, who chose to pay for single injections rather that let her daughter, Jenny, now four, have the MMR, said parents would be reluctant to let their babies have the five-in-one injections.

She said: "People were concerned enough about the triple MMR jab and the thought of injecting a baby with five diseases all at once is even worse.

"I'm no medical expert but common sense tells you that giving a child that small five vaccines in one can't be good for their system. There's no way I would have let my daughter have it and I think a lot of parents will feel the same way."

Mrs Cole, a secretary, of Crofter Close, Annitsford, said she had chosen to avoid the MMR over fears of a link to autism and bowel problems which she claims the Government has done too little to allay.

Robert Key, a spokesman for Direct Health 2000, which has given the single jab alternative to MMR to scores of Tyneside children, predicted the new jab would bring a rush of demand.

The Government also announced it is to remove the mercury from the whooping cough vaccine, after researchers in American suggested it could be linked to autism.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow said: "We simply cannot afford to have a repeat of what happened in the case of the MMR vaccine."

"Not only must the science behind this decision be sound, but parents and the public must have confidence that all possible risks have been discounted before the new combined vaccine is put into use."

Dr David Salisbury, head of immunisations at the Department of Health, stressed that the new five-in-one injection would be safe and would not represent any more of a strain on a baby's system.

He said: "Leaving a baby unprotected is not a good thing to do.

"Whooping cough does kill and the people it kills are babies too young to be immunised or those where immunisation is delayed."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 10, 2004
Words:571
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