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Threat of an epidemic as number of children having measles vaccinations falls

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As the number of children having measles vaccinations falls, the Government is warning of a threat of an epidemic.

The rise in the number of measles cases in under-18s has been linked to "a decade of relatively low measles, mumps and rubella vaccination uptake" said health minister Dawn Primarolo.

"The potential exposure of a large number of unprotected children to the measles virus means that there is a real risk of a large measles epidemic," said Ms Primarolo in a Commons written reply to Tory health spokesman Mike Penning:

The Health Protection Agency issued a similar warning three months ago when it reported 1,049 cases in England and Wales in the first 10 months of 2008.

Since a new way of monitoring the disease was introduced in 1995, last year's figures represent a new high.

Parents were put off giving their children the vaccine because it was thought they may be more likely to develop autism, but this has since been discredited.

A "catchup campaign" has been launched to immunise all unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children below 18 and more than£5 million has been given to primary care trusts to back the programme.

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