MMR jab could slash severe asthma attacks: Hospital admissions for life-threatening episodes are 27% lower in vaccinated youngsters
- Potentially life-threatening asthma attacks 27% lower in vaccinated children
- Study in Denmark found jab slashed number of kids who develop asthma by 10%
- More than 5m people have asthma in UK and the condition kills three each day
The MMR jab given to thousands of children every year could slash severe asthma attacks by more than a quarter, a study shows.
Hospital admissions for potentially life-threatening asthma episodes were 27 per cent lower in vaccinated youngsters than those not given the jab.
The vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella, also reduces the number of children who develop asthma in the first place by about 10 per cent, researchers found.
The MMR jab could slash asthma attacks by 27 per cent and prevent one in ten children ever developing the condition, research suggests
A team of experts at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, in one of the biggest studies of its kind, analysed data from more than 300,000 children born between 1999 and 2006.
They looked at how many youngsters went on to develop asthma and compared the results with whether they’d been immunised against measles.
The findings, in the International Journal of Epidemiology, showed the vaccine appeared to reduce overall asthma rates by about 10 per cent and the number of cases of severe asthma that resulted in emergency hospital treatment by 27 per cent.
However, the benefits were only seen in boys and not girls – a result scientists are at a loss to explain.
WHICH VACCINES SHOULD I HAVE HAD BY THE AGE OF 18?
Vaccinations for various unpleasant and deadly diseases are given free on the NHS to children and teenagers.
Here is a list of all the jabs someone should have by the age of 18 to make sure they and others across the country are protected:
Eight weeks old
- 6-in-1 vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B.
- Pneumococcal (PCV)
- Meningitis B
12 weeks old
- Second doses of 6-in-1 and Rotavirus
16 weeks old
- Third dose of 6-in-1
- Second doses of PCV and men. B
One year old
- Hib/meningitis C
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
- Third dose of PCV and meningitis B
Two to eight years old
- Annual children’s flu vaccine
Three years, four months old
- Second dose of MMR
- 4-in-1 pre-school booster for diptheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough
12-13 years old (girls)
- HPV (two doses within a year)
14 years old
- 3-in-1 teenage booster for diptheria, tetanus and polio
Source: NHS Choices
Researchers admit they do not yet know why the jab seems to have a protective effect for the lungs.
However, some previous studies have suggested catching measles itself can reduce the chances of getting asthma.
Since the MMR vaccine contains a small amount of the live measles virus, it is possible it is mimicking the effects of the disease itself.
In a report on the findings researchers said: ‘Live vaccines may have beneficial effects.
‘The MMR vaccine may have a protective effect against asthma for boys.’
Measles vaccination rates in the UK have fallen in recent years, partly driven by anti-vaccination propaganda on social media.
Unicef estimates more than half-a-million children in Britain went unvaccinated against measles between 2010 and 2017.
Vaccination rates among five-year-olds have fallen to just 87 per cent – well below the 95 per cent the World Health Organisation says is vital to prevent outbreaks.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned recently he was willing to look at ‘all options’ to boost childhood vaccination levels, including making jabs compulsory for school attendance.
Previous investigations into the MMR jab’s links with asthma have been inconclusive.
Some have suggested it may actually increase the risk, while others have found the opposite.
Asthma affects more than 5million people in the UK – and around three people a day die from the disease around the country.
A controversial 1995 study by disgraced British researcher Dr Andrew Wakefield claimed the MMR jab was linked with an increased risk of autism.
The research was later found to be flawed and Wakefield was struck off by the General Medical Council.
A recent investigation confirmed no link between the inoculation and autism after scientists analysed data on more than 650,000 children given the jab.
Some children with asthma do not receive a diagnosis for more than three years, research suggests
An Asthma UK poll found that one in five youngsters with asthma had to wait more than three years to be diagnosed.
The study included 778 parents, of whom 151 (19 per cent) said their child had waited more than 36 months.
Twenty-three per cent of parents said they’d taken more than 10 days off work to look after their child in the run-up to them being diagnosed.
Asthma UK said it can be difficult for GPs to diagnose asthma in children under five because their lungs are not fully developed and they can find it hard to breathe out forcefully for asthma peak flow tests.
Symptoms such as coughing and wheezing can also be caused by other conditions such as viruses.
On average, more than 25,000 children are hospitalised in the UK with asthma each year.
Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma UK, said: ‘Seeing your child struggling to breathe or rushed to hospital and not knowing what is wrong is every parent’s nightmare.
‘This agonising wait for an asthma diagnosis can take years, leaving parents feeling helpless, frustrated and confused.
‘Something as simple as keeping a diary of your child’s symptoms for a couple of weeks or filming your child’s symptoms on your phone could really help to give your child’s GP the full picture.’
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: ‘Diagnostic tools for asthma – especially for children under five – are not fit for purpose.
‘GPs are doing the best they can with the tools they have, but without more effective ways to diagnose asthma, their efforts are often wasted.
‘Currently available tests are not able to differentiate between asthma and other conditions that can cause wheezing in children.
‘The tests that can help are time-consuming and are not suitable for young children.
‘The only option is for GPs to diagnose ‘suspected asthma’, which is understandably frustrating for parents.
‘In line with the NHS England’s Long Term Plan, funding bodies need to commit to invest in research to develop new and improved diagnostic tools for asthma, including tests that can be used in young children.’