History of Sense / Child 2000 / National Rubella Council work around rubella and rubella immunisation
1941 Rubella is reported a cause of congenital disabilities by an Australian doctor.
1955 In the UK the Rubella group began and would eventually become Sense.
At this time BMA advice concerning Rubella was to ensure that girls had the virus
before childbearing age by attending “Rubella tea parties”.
1961-2 Rubella epidemics occurred.
1968 A vaccine is available in the USA.
1970 Rubella immunisation for schoolgirls is introduced in the UK.
The programme is extended in 1972 to women of childbearing age who had not
had rubella and who were sero-negative.
1971 The National Congenital Surveillance Programme is established to monitor the
effects of the vaccine on the incidence of congenital rubella defects.
1974-80 Overall uptake of the schoolgirl immunisation increases from 74%-84%, though in
some areas the figure is as low as 60% (1982).
1978 a Rubella epidemic
1982 A consortium of voluntary organisations comes together as the National Rubella
Campaign and launches a pilot campaign in East Sussex.
The campaign offers to collaborate with the Department of Health and Social
1983 In the International Year of Disabled People, a national immunisation campaign is
announced and at the end of the year the National Rubella Council (NRC) is
Lady Wilson chairs the NRC, the patron is the Princess of Wales and it is made up
of 11 voluntary organisations, the Institute of Child Health and the Health Education
The emphasis for the work of the Council was schoolgirl immunisation.
1984 The NRC launched a campaign with an aim to increase uptake of rubella
immunisation amongst schoolgirls and women of childbearing age.
The pilot campaign in East Sussex was used as a model of success, as uptake in
the area increased from 40-95%.
The NRC produced newsletters, posters, a “rubella credit card” and held
conferences. 30 million letters were franked with “Don‟t risk rubella. Be wise,
The NRC worked with education authorities, schoolteacher‟s organisations, school
nurses, Girl Guides etc.
Sweden reported successful MMR vaccine use.
1985 The NRC holds its first conference with contributions from Brian Rix (Mencap), John Patten (DoH) and Lady Wilson.
Videos are produced: Kim Wilde featured in “Go for it” aimed at school girls; Jan Francis in “Why worry” aimed at adults and encouraging immunity checks.
There is joint work with the Manpower Services Commission and health agencies.
The Sense Rubella Action pack is produced. It is a multi-curricular approach to
rubella health education for 10-13 year olds.
An ethnic minority campaign is aimed at Asian women. Literature is produced in Urdu, Hindi, Gujerati. Videos are made in Hindi and Bengali.
1986 Uptake for schoolgirls aged 14 is 87%.
th1987 On World Health Day, April 7, the Government announced that MMR would be
added to the childhood immunisation programme and should lead to the virtual disappearance of measles, mumps and rubella.
rd23 November: National Rubella Awareness week is held and sees the launch of the Rubella workplace pack. The Princess of Wales visits a bakers in Oldham.
“Uptake” newsletter is produced as are various fact sheets including: “Rubella - the
facts”; “Rubella - protect yourself as if someone‟s life depended on it”; “Rubella -
can you be sure” (funded by the DHSS).
Local activity happens through NRC members and Rubella action groups, WRVS, Girl Guides, pre school playgroup‟s associations, NCT, Mothers Union, to name a
1988 In October, the measles vaccine is replaced with MMR. Mumps and Rubella become statutory notifiable diseases along with measles.
The school girl programme will continue for a further 10 years.
1989 The Peckham report: National Immunisation Study – Factors Influencing
Immunisation Uptake in Childhood
The report makes recommendations to improve immunisation policy and practice.
1990 A target payment scheme is introduced for childhood immunisation as part of GP‟s contracts.
The DoH and Health Education Authority launch a ?1.5 million campaign. The DoH grant to the NRC expires and is not renewed.
The NRC is reconstituted and now includes childhood immunisations across the board.
1991 The NRC is reformed as the National Council for Child Health (NCCH) with a major
campaign called Child 2000. The NCCH hoped to be an independent organisation that would stimulate improvements that prevented child disease and promote both individual and society‟s responsibilities for child health. It also hoped to work in
partnership with the DoH.
To be a channel of communication for families; a source of independent
information; a link for the voluntary sector with the DoH.
Child 2000 aimed for 95% uptake of childhood immunisation by 1995 and the
eradication of major childhood diseases by 2000.
Activities included: the newsletter “Uptake”; events; materials; a survey undertaken
with Boots; videos; answering enquiries from parents seeking advice; responding
to media stories.
These activities were maintained by Sense and a director for NCCH was
appointed. It was possible to attract funds for project work and the activities but it
was harder to fund the core costs.
NCCH enjoyed significant co-operation with the HEA, although its role was never
really recognised by the DoH.
1992 MMR vaccine containing the Urabe strain of mumps is withdrawn following
confirmation of an unacceptably high risk of aseptic meningitis (approx 1
case per 3,800 doses)
1993 The school girl programme of rubella immunisation begins to end in a number of
local authorities. There was some concern that there would be a gap - a section of
the population who would miss out on the school girl immunisation and the MMR
Due to the lack of core funding NCCH is closed. Sense makes a commitment to
maintain an active interest in the area.
1994 A mass MR (Measles, Rubella) immunisation programme happens because of an
expected measles epidemic.
1996 An MMR pre-school booster is introduced.
Suggested link with Crohn‟s disease, autism, bowel disease is first made.
1998 Dr Wakefield‟s paper in the Lancet is published
Medical Research Council report, following a meeting of experts concludes that
there is no evidence of a link with Crohn‟s, autism, and bowel disease and that
there is no need to change current immunisation policy.
Uptake of MMR is 85% in Wales.
Media interest in MMR continues, with a particular interest in promoting single
vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella.
Sense continues to respond to the situation but avoids confrontational situations
with those that are opposed to MMR immunisation.
1999 In November 1998, Sense holds a meeting with the ICH and the HEA, which leads
to a meeting being called for the former partners of NCCH / NRC.
1999-03 On-going pro-active and re-active awareness raising work in the context of
questions about MMR and possible links to bowel disease and autism.
Significant calls in the media and from some parents to have a choice of single jabs
introduced on the NHS.
Science Museum has a six-month exhibition on MMR and the surrounding science
– Sense is featured.
Growing body of evidence is unable to confirm Dr Wakefield‟s hypothesis (of a link
between MMR and autism), and in fact suggests that MMR is not linked to bowel
disease or rises in diagnosis of autism.
2002 Sense distributes Remember Rubella leaflets in national and local press.
2003 By 2003 MMR uptake rates have fallen to just below 80%.
Parents who believe their children have been damaged by MMR attempt to sue the
vaccine manufacturers in a class action. The Legal Services Commission
withdraws support in 2003 due to lack of evidence and likelihood of the case
2004 10 out of 12 authors of the1998 Lancet paper retract any link made between the
MMR vaccine and autism
2005 Sense distributes „MMR – the facts‟ to all parliamentary candidates during the
2006 As predicted, UK starts to experience significant measles outbreaks. First death
from measles in the UK since 1992.
2007 GMC bring a number of charges against Dr Wakefield in relation to a potential
conflict of interest and the ethics of his 1998 research. The case is on-going in
2008 More cases of measles in this year in the UK than the previous 10 years put
together. One death due to measles in the UK. Sense receives funding to
promote rubella immunisation to women from minority ethnic communities.
M Matthews / J McGill