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Increase in measles across Europe

Just five countries, including Britain, were home to 85% of new measles cases in Europe over a two-year period, figures show.

Poor vaccination rates in the handful of countries have dashed hopes of banishing measles from Europe by 2010, according to research published in The Lancet.

A new study has documented more than 12,000 cases of European measles in the two years spanning 2006 and 2007.

All but 15% of the 12,000 cases occurred in the Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Romania and the UK – with most affecting unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children.

Fears over possible side effects from the triple measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab were blamed for the poor take-up in Britain. Extra supplies of the vaccine were made available by the Department of Health last year in an effort to head off a possible epidemic in the future.

The report examined the World Health Organization's stated goal of eliminating measles from Europe by 2010.

It concluded that if the situation did not improve, achieving this target would not be possible.

"The suboptimum vaccination coverage raises serious doubts that the goal elimination by 2010 can be attained," the authors wrote.

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