PARENTS are boycotting existing vaccinations until they can get the new five-in-one jab for their children next month.
Some are waiting a month or more for the new mercury-free injection, despite warnings from government experts that doing so could put their children at risk of contracting potentially fatal diseases.
The new jab protects against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and Hib (a range of bacterial infections including meningitis). It replaces the current live oral polio vaccine, and will be given to babies aged between two and four months.
The new single jab, marketed as Pediacel, will be available from 27 September. The polio vaccine will not be live and the compound does not contain the mercury- based preservative thiomersal, which some parents fear is linked to autism.
The Government denies the change of vaccine is an admission mercury is unsafe. Dr David Salisbury, head of the immunisation programme, said the reason for removing thiomersal was because the new polio vaccine would not be effective if that preservative was used with it.
There is also widespread agreement that exposure to mercury should be limited where possible.
Sara Richards, of the Royal College of Nursing's practice nurses' association, said: " Parents are already refusing the old vaccine until the new one becomes available."
She said RCN members had told her parents feared the old vaccine would cause autism.
But Dr Salisbury warned that delaying vaccination could be dangerous.
"It is unfortunate some parents are reportedly delaying vaccination, as they are putting their children at risk of serious diseases," he said.
Kate Howie, a member of the practice nurses' association, said most parents were still happy with the old four-in-one vaccine but some were turning it down and preferring to wait for the new one.
She said: "We have been noticing that there have been a lot of parents coming in to practice in the last week and saying they would rather wait than have the old vaccine.
"It is up to us to ensure parents have as much information as possible so they feel confident that the four-in-one is safe to give their child, but we also have to respect the wishes of those who want to wait.
We are explaining that the children are slightly more at risk in the meantime."
Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Hib and polio can all be fatal.
About one in 500 children under 12 months with whooping cough dies. The risk is higher for the youngest babies.
The new five-in-one vaccine replaces the live polio virus, which carries a small risk of developingthe disease from the jab, with the dead virus and exchanges the whooping cough element for a version with fewer side-effects.
The new controversy follows the refusal of some parents to have children vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab amid fears it could cause autism.
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