European health officials warn of need for MMR vaccinations

A leading European health official is urging doctors to do more to ensure that parents have their children vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

Marc Sprenger, the director of the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the support of physicians is vital if Europe is to halt recent and future outbreaks of measles across the continent, according to Reuters.

This year, there have been 30,000 recorded cases and eight deaths attributed to the highly contagious illness.

Sprenger said it was critical for pediatricians and doctors to give their patients the information needed to make evidence-based decisions regarding whether or not to give their children the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. He is concerned that a significant number are not doing that.

The director said that Europe will possibly not reach the level of 95 percent coverage needed to win the battle against the measles.

"The good news is that parents trust doctors -- but doctors should be a bit more aware that they could use that position to convince parents to vaccinate their children," Sprenger said, Reuters reported.

"The vaccine is extremely effective, but it's important that we get vaccination coverage of at least 95 percent (because) this virus is highly contagious," Sprenger said, according to Reuters.

Immunization rates in Europe dropped precipitously after The Lancet medical journal published research by Andrew Wakefield, a now-disgraced doctor who researchers believe falsified a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Sprenger said that across the region, vaccination rates are hovering at approximately 90 percent, leaving significant portions of the population unprotected.

"People trust their they can really make a difference," Sprenger said, Reuters reports. "We know for sure that this disease is not disappearing. It's still increasing and the peak of this epidemic was far higher compared to last year."