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Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 10:29 GMT
MMR: How safe do you think it is?
The largest study to date of the MMR vaccine suggests that it is safe.
Researchers in Finland, who followed two million children for two years failed to find a link between the combined measles mumps and rubella jab with autism or bowel disease.
However, a separate report claims that the MMR vaccine was not tested properly before being introduced.
How safe do you think this vaccine is? Do the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the perceived risks?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Alex, Hong Kong
I am the mother of an autistic daughter who did not have MMR. I didn't trust it and opted for single vaccinations instead, one of which (measles) I had to get done abroad. I am not a medical expert and cannot be sure that MMR causes autism although there is compelling evidence to suggest it does, but all parents need CHOICE.
One problem with research like this is that is it funded by the pharmaceutical companies, who will benefit from having everyone vaccinated, in money, and who do not want to be held responsible for the safety of their product. No other product manufacturer could have this arrangement. There is mounting evidence that the MMR vaccine is dangerous. In light of this, more studies should be done that are truly in search of the truth, not intending to defend the current propaganda so that pharmaceutical companies can have a large profit.
Steve McCall, Switzerland
The research from Finland, referred to at the start of your feature, consists of asking doctors whether they thought that the children they had vaccinated had suffered any ill effects. As "scientific research" goes this is like asking 200 men if they think they are good drivers? When all 200 say "yes" you conclude that the standard of driving is excellent.
All the scientific research on MMR suggests that it causes autism in some cases. David Salisbury's comment "all of the research says this is a safe vaccine" is outrageous and insulting. Most of the research that suggests it is safe is funded by the companies that manufacture the MMR vaccine and is laughable (albeit black comedy) in its lack of scientific basis.
After BSE, here is another deception of the public being continued by a government desperate to avoid another health scare in the run-up to an election.
Fact: rubella can and does cause disabilities in children before they are born. Fact: mumps can and does cause sterility in sexually mature males. Fact: measles can and does cause deafness, blindness, brain damage and death.
MMR may cause autism, although autism is not generally diagnosable until about the same age as the MMR vaccine is administered. Thus it is very difficult to prove a causal effect of the vaccine.
BSE, CJD, DU, Thalidomide, MMR the list goes on. Neither my son or daughter has had a single vaccination much to the consternation of my GP. Government assurances backed up by edited highlights from selected reports, not surprisingly, reassure very few thinking adults.
My daughter (3) has had whooping cough and my son (1) has had measles. Both conditions were detected, treated and over with in double quick time thanks to my homeopath. They both have life long immunity to the respective diseases and it didn't cost the government a penny. Unlike vaccinations whose efficacy and duration is suspect at best.
The argument against giving three separate vaccines is that this would leave the children exposed to measles, mumps or rubella, for a considerable length of time with the interval between vaccines being one year.
Dr Chris Brace, Bath UK
A relative of mine refused to have her children immunised against measles in the days before MMR was in use because her sister appeared to have an adverse reaction to the jab, leading to mental impairment. Is there any difference in the level of anecdotal evidence against MMR compared to that which used to exist against the single measles injection?
How are we, as parents, expected to be confident in giving our children the MMR vaccine when certain countries, such as Japan have withdrawn the combined vaccine due to the side effects?
There is no doubt that the triple MMR jab triggers autism in some children. There has to be better provision made as the procedure at present is like Russian Roulette. My cousin is a ward sister in a large hospital and would not let her son have MMR as it was too risky. She told me this at Christmas when I mentioned that our own son had the jab and was later diagnosed as being autistic.
However, knowing what I know now he was in the high risk category and had anybody bothered to check then things might have been different. I am not anti vaccine but I do object to being lead up a garden path and not being able to make an informed choice. I also object to the governments stance that the link between MMR and autism doesn't need investigating further when there are too many co-incidences to ignore.
If the safety of the MMR vaccine is proven or not, it will be done in the laboratory, not in court. The "experts" you all deride are just trying to do their job; your argument is with the government that only uses the results it wants to hear. That was the case with CJD and is the case now with depleted uranium and MMR vaccines. Personally I don't think the population of this country is able to make statistical judgements for themselves on simply being presented with the facts - look at how many play the Lottery!
I am a doctor and parent and I have and will definitely vaccinate both my children. The link between MMR and autism is conjecture not fact and that 'safer' triple injection is also based on conjecture.
What is fact is measles mumps and rubella are real killers.
Chris Brown, UK
Why does the government claim the vaccines are safe if they have introduced a compensation package of up to £30,000 for children who are 80% brain damaged? Even if this payment is made without prejudice, how many such payments have already been made?
Is it not true that the "study" from Finland that gave the MMR vaccine a clean bill of health was carried out by on the drug companies responsible for manufacturing the vaccine? If so, when will there be an independent and therefore reliable study into the correlation between the MMR vaccine and diseases such as autism and Crohn's?
Jacqueline Lauder, UK
There has been a lot of talk about the side effects of the combined MMR vaccine and many have advocated the option of three separate vaccines. However I have heard no debate or discussion relating to the potential side effects of giving each as a separate vaccine. Are parents aware that there are side effects from these vaccinations?
I have a son who developed epilepsy which was attributed, with 99% certainty by his consultant paediatrician and others involved, to the single measles vaccination. He developed a fever immediately after the vaccination and the first signs of epilepsy were noticed within 5-7 days. His epilepsy was predominantly in the form of myclinic fits - rare and acknowledged to be related to the measles virus. Other forms of epilepsy followed. I am aware that at the time (1986) there were possibly 10 similar cases in the UK - all showing the identical pattern to my son. I was advised that as the vaccination was about to be replaced by the new safer MMR that this would not be likely to become an issue.
It is an issue now - the prognosis at the time for my son was very poor, and I was advised that things would probably deteriorate. My son was lucky, as was the daughter of another family with whom we corresponded, he has recovered and is now sitting 10 GCSEs.
Susan E mason, USA
I have a 10 year old son, who was a healthy normal child. I have a video of him playing with his cousins at his first birthday party. He is clearly interacting normally his development up to this stage was normal, documented in medical records etc. At 18 months his immune system was attacked by the MMR. To my dying day I will regret allowing it to happen. Within weeks he was lost to us. He is a shell of the human he would have become, his formal diagnosis is Autism.
I believe that there are children who are at risk from all vaccinations, in my son's case he had and still has a compromised immune system which meant he should never have been given the vaccine.
Until it is acknowledged that there is a significant risk to certain children and we find a way of identifying those children, we are effectively sacrificing them.
My family still remember being told that the whooping cough vaccine was safe for all and there was no chance whatsoever of side effects, that's not the story now.
The question I want answered is what made my son's life so worthless that the government think he was expendable for the so called greater good.
The issue is not that parents are unqualified and ignorant, or even that politicians are arrogant, but that the issue is complex and information is denied to us. Experts cannot rely on their now damaged status to reassure us with their opinions - we need to be able to weigh up the risks for ourselves. For example, we need to know why autism is increasing so rapidly, we need to know the relative risks of measles and the vaccine (i.e. statistical risk)and which children are likely to be more at risk of suffering side effects from the triple vaccine. Most of this information either does not exist, or is denied to the general population.
Whilst we are waiting for our rights to be delivered, perhaps the compromise of the single vaccine could be offered.
I should like to know why health professionals are given such a hard time in BBC interviews when the pressure groups are not - this debate has become a matter of heart over head. There is talk of 1800 possible reactions, and no mention of the millions vaccinated without any side-effects; deaths from measles only get mentioned by the medics who are interviewed so poorly.
Robert Lee, UK
Why can't we have the CHOICE of single-dose vaccines? At least until the safety of the MMR is proven or not in court?
The problem with single jabs is that you have to wait for up to a year between the administration of each one - allowing plenty of time for disease to take hold. MMR is the most obviously sensible option and parents who 'choose' (based on scare-mongering and wrong-headed information) endanger not only the health of their own children but all of our children.
I have two children and the elder was given the MMR jab and by the time he was two we lost all verbal communication from him and lost him to autism. My daughter has not had the MMR jab and she is now at the age were we lost my son and she more sociable than my son and properly understand more than my son (who is now 4). At the end of the day it is up to the parent to decide but we should know all the risks. Did someone say British beef was safeż.
I feel the governments are playing Russian roulette with our lives for the benefit of the drug cartel. I would rather (and did) have the natural diseases and pass on a good immune system than have these artificial chemicals enter my body and surface whenever they choose to do God knows what. We really need choices not mandates.
My son became autistic with severe bowel problems shortly after he had the MMR jab. Coincidence or not? Research linking the MMR jab to autism suggests the dose given to someone so young is too much for some and can lead to autism etc. We saw John Gummer feeding his daughter with a beefburger during the BSE crisis, will Tony Blair now have his son Leo immunised on TV to prove the government is right?
My two sons have not received the MMR vaccine. I cannot see either my wife or myself changing our views based upon today's news.
We would however give them the single vaccinations, if they were available.
Did the study in Finland have a control group of children who did not receive the vaccination?
If not, how can they draw such definitive conclusions without a control group?
I am deeply suspicious of just how good this science is?
Our 3-year-old daughter was given the MMR vaccine with no ill effects. We have 3-month-old twins who I expect will receive the vaccine in about a year's time. This isn't because I trust the Government and feel that there is no risk, but that on balance the benefits outweigh the risks. Life is full of many risks.
The Government and the higher echelons of the medical profession again show contempt towards concerned parents. Why not give parents the choice of MMR or separate injections thus avoiding the possibility of a measles outbreak?
MMR is safe. What we see here is the media creating a panic so that they can sell more papers.
Because there have been no major measles outbreaks for years we have forgotten how devastating the disease really is. All 8 children in my great grandfather's family caught the disease at the same time. Two children died and 3 others were blinded for life. Not an inconsequential outcome for the family. I have had my children vaccinated and would do so with any further children that we may have.
Having vaccinations is part of being a good citizen and helping to protect the most vulnerable from the disease.
My first daughter had a very severe reaction to the MMR jab, developing a rash all over her body that lasted several days. Our GP was very concerned and advised she did not have the booster, which is due soon. However the Finnish report does put my mind at rest as it was such a large and comprehensive study. We will certainly be vaccinating our second daughter.
Linda Roberts, England
I had mumps when I was little and suffered permanent damage to my hearing. Although the damage is not severe, it is noticeable and affected me a great deal when I was younger. I was given the option of hearing aids to help, but children can be so cruel to others and I was scared of being bullied. I hadn't had the MMR, but if I had, maybe I wouldn't have had to go through not only being so sick but suffering the consequences too. People have forgotten about these diseases yet they have NOT been eradicated. I was sick in the 1980's, not the 1900's!
Let us not forget the fundamental reason for the Government's insistence on the MMR jab is purely to save costs on doctors' fees. There is no reason why the old-style separate jabs could not continue to be used. Yet again it is Nanny Government. Do I hear "Depleted Uranium is safe"??
Stephen Manning, England
There is a lot of speculation concerning the MMR vaccine but no one has thought to mention the possibility that it is just a harmless bystander and the real culprit for autism is something else. Research in the states has proven that children who develop autism have a high incidence of Clostridia and high dosage treatment with antibiotics decreased the symptoms. Is this significant? The MMR vaccine had no involvement in any of the cases studied. Why is the Government funding research into the safety of MMR over and over again and not into the real cause of autism in children?
A dreadful dilemma. The diseases can cause severe problems and there is strong opinion that vaccines are linked to these problems.
However I am deaf because of mumps, a friend is partially deaf because of measles and there are still young people living in hospital with long term results of polio. I vote for vaccines.
But in order to make an informed decision, those pushing vaccines, over which there might be concern, should show their statistics on which their views are based. However, at this stage I think risks are definitely higher from contracting the diseases.
I think any parent that does not vaccinate their child is irresponsible. The vaccines are always safer than the disease. The chance of reversion of the vaccine back to the virulent form is a lot less than catching the disease. The side effects are a lot less nasty than the diseases themselves.
Alex Chenery, England
The tendency not to immunise one's child against measles seems a predominantly middle-class notion. The idea being "let little Johnny and Mary catch it and develop their own natural immunity". To parents who think that way, I would ask them to suggest such a notion to mothers in developing countries who have seen their children die from the infections that can develop after measles is contracted. When I was a child in the 1960s I caught pneumonia after having measles and only survived thanks to modern antibiotics.
Finally, speaking as the parent of a child who has had leukaemia, I would remind those who think immunisation should cease, that measles is a killer for children on treatment for cancer.
Stephen Hayes, UK
Like Kate I have managed to find a private clinic which will immunise my daughter using the single vaccine method. I don't care about the cost. How can you put a price on your child's health?
Adrienne, American in Germany
I find it a strange coincidence that, following huge media coverage in the UK regarding the runaway success of the Meningitis C vaccine, there now follows an immediate wealth of coverage of the MMR debate. I admit to being more than a little cynical but I believe this was well orchestrated.
As for not knowing anything about the MMR vaccine, I think you would find that most parents have thoroughly researched the subject before daring to challenge the "experts".
I have had the MMR jab for both of my children (now aged 2 and 3). I consider the risk of measles to be greater than the other, rather unsubstantiated and media-hyped risks. Neither of my children have suffered ill-effects.
I have not had my children vaccinated with MMR because I am terrified about the possible side-effects. My cousin is sure that her son's autism was caused by the vaccine. However, I am also terrified that they might catch measles. What am I to do? If there was a single measles vaccine available, I would have my children vaccinated immediately.
I found a private doctor to immunise my son
in 3 separate jabs.
It was expensive but worth it.
No bland government reassurances
The real question is "how dangerous is measles?" My aunt died at age 42 after contracting measles from her youngest child. She left 5 children ages 14 to 5. The risks of the vaccine are much smaller than the risks of the disease. Vaccinate your children! (We're working on a problem here with parents that don't "believe in" the polio vaccine, they are all too young to remember the last epidemic, I'm not). Vaccinate your children, the risks are ALWAYS smaller than the risks of the disease.
Mike, USA (British)
In the absence of conclusive evidence either way on whether or not MMR is harmful, why can't we err on the side of caution and have access to a single measles jab? Surely this would give parents better peace of mind; they would know their child was protected against measles but the risk of side-effects would be greatly reduced.
For the record, my daughter had her MMR jab three months ago with no side-effects other than a mild case of the measles one week later. I was aware of the risks and would have preferred her to get the single measles shot, but I don't believe it is available in my part of Canada.
Everything in life is a risk and as parents we take those risks on for our child. The MMR jab has kept our children safe from this horrible disease. My two children are young and one is not through his full course yet, but he will be soon. What would parents do if they found a school which has a below average amount of children immunised? Would they send their kids to school and if not where do they stand legally? What ever happens, something needs to be done now to protect our children.
The injection of three diseases into a young child's body has the potential to overwhelm the immune system with permanent consequences such as autism. Parents should be allowed to vaccinate their children with 3 separate injections over a period of time. The Government should not force parents to take drastic action by not immunising their children due to a lack of choice of treatment.
Roger Horsgood, England
I have been reading many sites on the MMR issue. I have a 15 month-old baby. It is extremely urgent that we get answers or better options as parents. I can see that the three separate injections will be a solution (at least temporary until a more permanent solution is found). Why doesn't the entity responsible for this come out publicly and face the situation accordingly?
The government is quite happy to issue warnings to parents regarding the health risks of mobile phones where there is also no proven link between use and brain tumours, and considerably less anecdotal evidence than for the MMR Autism. My view is that the governments reluctance to admit the link is based on the fact that doing so will open the floodgates for thousands of compensation claims from the parents who already KNOW their children have been permanently damaged by the MMR injection.
The trouble with the vaccine issue is that there is so little information and no official statistics on the numbers of people who suffer serious side effects from the vaccinations. We need these facts to weigh up the risks properly and until they are available I am very reluctant to expose my children to injections of what are essentially toxic substances.
So Andrew Reid wants the Government to interfere in yet another aspect of our lives. When will people like him realise that bad laws lead to mass campaigns of civil disobedience (e.g. poll tax). On a personal level, I waited until my eldest daughter was 21 months before I let her have this vaccine, and I intend to do the same with my youngest. I have researched the subject thoroughly, and do not believe some immune systems are sufficiently developed at 12-15 months to cope with the triple vaccine.
To Tony Brett - many of the so-called experts in our society work for organisations who have a vested interest in promoting whatever they are experts in. Even doctors get cash bonuses if a certain percentage of their patients have these vaccinations. Besides this is a discussion site - not a forum for doctors.
Jenny Mayne, UK
Parents of today sometimes forget that these so-called childish illnesses can have permanent effects. I had measles very badly in 1956, and shortly after my recovery it was discovered that I had suffered severe damage to my eyes.
When I had my own child I made sure that she was vaccinated.
I can't understand the Government's dictatorial stance on "Triple MMR or none at all" vaccination programme. We've been trying to get the single measles vaccine for our son but due to MCA (Medicine Control Agency) and local Health Board regulations we have been blocked at every turn. We have been quite willing to pay to have him immunised (at great expense) but even that is not possible in the UK.
Have we no right to informed consent? Have we no right to decide what's best for our children? Why can't I be allowed to minimise the risks to his health, wellbeing and future development?
Andrew Reid, London, UK
How many people posting here have any medical qualifications and know the first thing really about the MMR vaccine?
Conflicting media reports heighten hysteria one way then the next. It shows the power of the media that it can cause epidemics by scaring the public and then avert them by scaring them again. When will people learn to make up their own mind based on the facts?
Our daughter is autistic not from MMR but possibly from a tetanus vaccination. The ins and outs of this whole subject are extremely complex but I believe there are enough 'coincidences' to suggest that there is a link between MMR and autism. However, this is only one factor in the whole autism spectrum. Governments should be sitting up and asking why autism is on such a massive increase in our global society. What changes in our environment and the way we have to live are causing this?
Sabina Ahmed, Somerset, UK
The Government has to realise it has very little credibility in this area after the CJD fiasco. People don't trust them and getting clear evidence to support or disprove their claims will be difficult. I think they should offer the single vaccine or the MMR and let parents decide how they want their children vaccinated.
My son was given the MMR injection on 22 Jan 2000. He immediately developed stomach problems with terrible diarrhoea. While this was happening - it went on for over a month - we failed to notice that his speaking had stopped and he no longer made eye contact. Seven months later he was diagnosed as autistic, having previously been a normally developing toddler.
People do not believe the Government's 'no proven link' line. When your family's health is at stake you don't wait for proof. When you see reasonable cause for concern, you act. It's about time the Government did the same.
We need choice, research and information on vaccinations, not bland assurances.
I have an 11-month-old son and he will be up for his MMR jab at 18 months. I would feel better if parents had the choice of single jabs for all three illnesses.
Deirdre Yager, England
I have one child who was vaccinated with the MMR vaccine and is autistic. I believe that he developed normally in the first year of life and suffered the onset of symptoms after the MMR vaccine. I don't know whether he was damaged by the vaccine but I cannot understand why the single vaccines are not available in this country, and why legitimate concerns are routinely dismissed.
When I was very young, I had measles and my younger brother had them really badly. Thankfully, there were no side effects but I would not wish my own daughter to go through this disease or risk the serious side effects that can occur. She has had the vaccine but I know other family members whose very real concerns have prevented them from having their children vaccinated.
I was disgusted when my daughter told me yesterday that several of the schools in our area are not going to do the TB jabs.
All forms of immunisation are needed to prevent epidemics of that disease taking hold.
This should be a Government priority as prevention is far more important than cure. Give people the option to have separate jabs so that these diseases are wiped out.
I have four children, all of whom have been given the MMR vaccine. I am thankful that none of them have suffered any side effect and they are all in excellent health. If I had decided not have them vaccinated and they had contracted one of the diseases, how could I tell them that I thought it was for their own good? Likewise, if any of them had suffered from one of the speculated side effects, how could I tell them I thought it was for their own good? As parents we have to make choices and these choices can have dire effects on another life, a life that we hold dearer than our own. Whilst there is uncertainty, we are faced with taking this responsibility on someone else's behalf. It is not a simple choice.
Have we forgotten the horrible effects of measles? It's not just spots but disability and death.
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