MORE CHILDREN RECEIVING MMR VACCINE IN SCOTLAND

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More children in Scotland are being vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), according to recent data reported by the UK's National Health Service (NHS). In recent years, the Scottish government has pushed for 95 percent of children to receive the vaccine before age 2 -- this effort to "herd immunity" will increasingly prevent MMR outbreaks, say NHS officials. At present, approximately 90 percent of children born in late 2003 have been given the inoculation.

While this vaccine rate is higher than last year's 81 percent rate in England, officials still worry that even a small percentage of unvaccinated children presents a health risk. Nanette Milne, spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservative Party's health department, noted that "given the number of parents who are refusing to have their children vaccinated with MMR, and the worrying number choosing not to vaccinate their children at all, alternative action must be taken."

Making the vaccine cheaper and more widely available, she added, is crucial. "At present, only those who can afford to pay for the single vaccine have the choice -- that is wrong," said Milne. "This choice must be extended to the parents of every child."

The MMR injection is a three-part vaccine that contains live virus particles of measles, mumps and rubella. In the UK, it is given to children 12 to 15 months old, with a reinforcing booster given between age 3 and 5.