GLOUCESTERSHIRE County Council is pushing for an increase in MMR vaccination following the publication of figures showing a dramatic rise in measles cases in the area.
Figures released last week by Public Health England showed that 57 cases of measles were recorded in Gloucestershire between January and April this year compared to just three for the same period last year.
Rumours have been circulating in the Five Valleys that one reason for the rise was because vaccination conflicts with Steiner beliefs and the Health Protection Agency has identified the Steiner community in general as a 'high-risk population' for measles.
However, a spokesman for Public Health England said there have been no confirmed measles cases in Gloucestershire attributed to Steiner schools so far this year.
"The general increase in cases can be mostly attributed to the proportion of unprotected ten to 16-year-olds, who missed out on vaccination in the late 1990s and early 2000s when concern around the discredited link between autism and the vaccine was widespread," she said.
"After many years of low vaccination uptake, measles became re-established in 2007."
GCC is supporting the national catch-up campaign that calls for parents or guardians of unvaccinated and partially vaccinated young people between 10 and 16 to go to their GP to get vaccinated.
Cabinet member for public health and communities Dorcas Binns said: "Measles cases have been increasing in our county, but we can easily protect our children.
"We want everyone in the community to spread the word that MMR vaccinations are ready and waiting for people through their local GPs.
"We have the power to prevent this disease spreading and help stop the serious consequences it can bring."
Information is available at www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/measles and letters are being sent to parents.
MMR Vaccination panel by Alice Bishop
The MMR jab combines measles, mumps and rubella into one vaccine and has saved hundreds of lives in the UK.
However, many parents declined the vaccine for their children because of the following reasons:
• In 1998 Andrew Wakefield published a paper linking this vaccination with autism.
• He looked at twelve children with bowel disease who showed autism-like symptoms
• He reported that in eight of these cases it was associated with the children receiving the MMR vaccine
These statements were later proved false, although not before causing parents across the country to be put off the vaccine, leading to an enormous increase in measles cases.
In 1998, there were 56 measles cases in the UK but by 2008 the number rose to 1348 cases including two confirmed deaths.