Schools should exclude children who have not had MMR jab, says leading scientistDr Craig Venter, a leading biologist, said unvaccinated children are a 'hazard to society'Department of Health said that such measures were unnecessary and risked alienating parents
08:44 GMT, 25 April 2013
09:58 GMT, 25 April 2013
Schools should have the right to refuse access to pupils who have not had the MMR jab, a leading scientist has said.
Biologist Dr Craig Venter said that vaccinations should be made compulsory for children who wish to attend school and benefit from the NHS.
His statement comes after health officials have launched a new programme to help stem the measles outbreak in South Wales and stop it spreading more widely across the UK.
Immunise: Dr Craig Venter says children should not be allowed to attend school unless they have had the MMR jab
Dr Venter was the first scientist to successfully sequence the human genome as well as create a cell with an artificial genome.
‘People think they’re making individual decisions for themselves and their family not to get vaccinated,’ Dr Venter told The Times. ‘It’s not just an individual choice, you’re a hazard to society.’
He said that unvaccinated individuals are putting the population at risk.
The number of people infected with the virus in Swansea in now approaching 900.
The city has been left especially vulnerable to measles since the 90s, when a local newspaper campaigned against the MMR vaccine.
There are now concerns the outbreak could spread to London.
David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health said: ‘What happened and continues
to happen in Swansea could happen anywhere in England.
‘I worry about London. It’s a fast
moving group of people, with new families coming in and families moving
out. It is harder to track immunisation status.
Historically there is also a legacy of poorer immunisation.'
Health officials announced today that at least a million children and
teenagers are to be vaccinated against measles in an attempt to stop
expected outbreaks in England.
will never have had a jab, while others have only had the first of two
doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Dr Venter's comments came after the government's decision to launch a 20million vaccination scheme across the country
Many of those affected are teenagers
who missed out on vaccination in the late 1990s and early 2000s when
parents were concerned about a link between MMR and autism that has
since been discredited.
Dr Venter also warned that low vaccination rates raised the prospect of circulating infections mutating into new forms. This could lead to current vaccines no longer offering protection, and putting the entire population at risk.
‘Strains that could not develop in a population that was vaccinated could mutate and affect everybody whether they have been vaccinated or not,” he added.
The Department of Health said increased vaccine level were proof that Dr Venter’s proposal was unnecessary, arguing that it risked alienating parents.
However Dr Venter’s call for a mandatory vaccination was supported by Rino Rappuoli, global head of vaccines research at Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics.
The two scientists were speaking yesterday at a House of Commons event to raise the profile of the first approved vaccine for Meningitis B, which they have jointly developed.