Jail threat for MMR refusniks
Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 18:44 GMT
Most children are now vaccinated in Washington DC
A US city has introduced an initiative to force parents to vaccinate their children with the controversial MMR vaccine or go to jail.
Children in Washington DC who have not been vaccinated are barred from attending school, while their parents face a fine or a short jail sentence.
The get-tough policy has led to very high uptake levels of the vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
All but a few hundred children are not up to date.
In stark contrast, continuing public fears about the safety of MMR have seen immunization rates dip sharply in the UK - leading to concerns about a re-emergence of disease.
The vaccine has been linked to an increased risk of autism and bowel disorders. However, the medical establishment is adamant that it is safe.
Deborah Holmes, head teacher at Jefferson Junior High School, supports the scheme.
She said: " If it comes down to deciding which is more important, the education or the health, I think it is both, and I think the system has made that clear. "
The architect of the initiative Dr Michael Richardson, of Washington DC Department of Health, said a tough stand was necessary to protect the local population.
He said: " The people who have got measles here have either been unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated, and I think it is going to be true also in Britain.
" You are going to find people who have a preventable disease, and who become hospitalized from a preventable disease, and that is unfortunate. "