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Sunday, 2 September, 2001, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
MMR: Should there be a public inquiry?
A survey for BBC Radio 4's Today programme suggests that the majority of parents want a public inquiry into the safety of the MMR vaccination.

Some parents believe that the triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella is responsible for bowel disease or autism in their children, and want the scientific arguments fully aired.

The government insists that repeated investigations at home and abroad show that the vaccine is safe, and says that little would be gained from a public inquiry.

Do you believe this - or do you feel that official public debate of this kind is the only way to reveal the complete truth over MMR?

Here is what you had to say:

Yes, I would like to see a public enquiry. I would like to see actual facts and figures. It not only reassures parents in Britain but parents across the world. My two children go to school in the States and MMR is a required vaccine in order to attend school. I have many friends whose children are in school and I don't recall any of them suffering ill effects from the vaccine, but maybe I'm in the minority.
Andrea Barnett, USA

A public enquiry would cost too much money and give little value

Gareth Sopwith, UK
A public enquiry would cost too much money and give little value. What parents need to know is the basic facts - what proportion of children had autism before the MMR was introduced, what proportion of children had autism after MMR was introduced, what proportion of children who had MMR had autism. Then, if parents are still worried, offer them the three vaccinations separately. I think this option should be available anyway, and I can't understand why it seems to be virtually illegal to offer it. Surely it's better to have our children protected, whatever the cost? Put it this way, surely it would be cheaper to offer any concerned parent the three-injection alternative rather than pay for yet another pointless enquiry?
Gareth Sopwith, UK

The main rationale for measles vaccination is to reduce the death rate, but that had declined by 99.4% before vaccination (from 1901/2 in England and Wales), and those deaths could be prevented with vitamin C injections. Hardly a reason to cause an epidemic of vaccine disease such as autism especially when you know of the argument that measles is a necessary function of the immune system and has been shown to ward off allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema and hayfever, along with various cancers.
John, UK

My wife and I decided against vaccinating our youngest two children after my sister's child developed autism. As a qualified Staff Nurse, my sister blamed herself for allowing her child to be vaccinated. I have read with interest the hype surrounding the vaccination, with claim and counter claim. My daughter, now aged four, starts school next month, without any idea what school is all about, her autism will clearly be a factor, but she is now statemented and the teachers have been briefed. At least we won't have to blame ourselves for having allowed this vaccination to damage our child. Please remember that autism is not detectable until around the time that the MMR is given, that - is the co-incidence.
Martin, UK

I have a two-year-old boy who suffered seizures ten days after his MMR

Kevin Ashley, Belgium
I think this subject needs looking into. I have a two-year-old boy who suffered seizures ten days after his MMR. He was never the same afterwards. I know that I do not have concrete evidence that the jab caused his problems. However when I compare notes with many many other families in similar circumstances, I know that it caused his problem. The dose was too strong and he had it at a very young age. Luckily he only had mild effects, and with home schooling my wife is working wonders with him. Bless him, he could have died, he nearly did. I just hope that we can learn from this tragedy rather than try to hide the facts, as the government seems to be doing.
Kevin Ashley, Belgium

Of course they should be a public enquiry since no parent should be forced to give chemicals to their children. But let's take a hard line with the results: A verdict of "there is nothing to suggest MMR is unsafe" is not the same as "MMR is safe".
Gary Dale, England

They don't realise that science can't give them an absolute truth

Antonia, UK
I heard the speakers on the Today programme claiming that a public inquiry would give them the 'truth' about proposed link between MMR and Autism. They don't realise that science can't give them an absolute truth - only evidence and the probabilities of risks. A public inquiry is not going to change this, because it can only review the science, and so far the science is not conclusive.

The place for scientific arguments is scientific journals, not public inquiries. More scientific debate and more original research would certainly provide more evidence, but in the end decisions on vaccination must be made by parents and doctors based on current evidence, and remembering that media hype can greatly distort people's perception of risk.
Antonia, UK

Personally, I feel that the refusal to hold an inquiry indicates something to hide. My son is 18 months old and I've read everything I can about immunisations, including the MMR. I have decided that there is no way he will receive his MMR jab. As far as I can see, all the medical profession can manage by way of reassurance is hysterical accusations of irresponsibility and putting other children at risk, or sneering references to "the chattering classes". I love my son more than anything in the world. They're going to have to come up with a bit more in the way of factual reassurance and acceptance of responsibility before I'll consider it.
Julie, UK

There is a general misconception of risk in the population that should be addressed

Tony Brand, England
I do feel sorry for people whose children have got autism. It is natural, and somewhat easy for them to want to attribute the disease to a specific incident such as an MMR jab. It has been shown that the rate of autism has not increased when the jabs were introduced, this would have been a prime indicator of a causal effect of the jab. There may indeed be some effect but it is so low level that it is not measurable. Let us not forget that Measles kills and disables; one of my grandfathers siblings died and two where blinded by measles.

There is a general misconception of risk in the population that should be addressed. The risks of not having the jab far outweigh the risks of not having it; I had both of my children inoculated and would do so again today. The damage that most parents are doing by giving their children an inappropriate diet for example, has a far higher risk of affecting the child than jabs like MMR. You weigh the risks and take the consequences.
Tony Brand, England

My son is 15 months old and has had all of his immunisations to date except the MMR. I am frightened to death of him having it and ending up with autism or bowel disease. I don't feel I have read anything to give me the evidence I need in order to go ahead with he vaccine. A public enquiry may not be the answer but single vaccines would be the answer for me. I would happily pay to go private for them, but I don't know where to start. Immunisation is important to stop the spread of awful diseases like measles and that is the aim of the Government so why not give us the option to have the single vaccines.
Tracy Walker, UK

There is no need for a public enquiry just a choice of single or triple vaccine. The "Government" feels it can completely discredit ordinary people with very real fears. Most studies appear to have something to loose if the results aren't the standard old lines, of nothing in it. Please stop treating very able adults with real concerns as idiots.
H.Burrell, England

I have two children who have both had the MMR vaccine with no problems. Hhowever, friends of ours did the same and their youngest child had a severe reaction to it and is now suffering from Autism. Coincidence? I am not qualified to say. What I can say however is that a perfectly normal toddler before his vaccination now suffers from a problem that is very real and has changed his family's life completely. Yes - we need a completely open enquiry but as we have a bunch of chronic control freaks in Government I doubt we will see it in the life of this parliament.
Ian Jones, UK

An inquiry is needed to reassure parents and hopefully get more children vaccinated if there is no link!

Marcel Devereux, UK
As a new parent who has never worried before, to make a decision for a one-year-old that could cause a problem, it has been a nightmare. We were going to have the MMR, as we know measles can kill, but fortunately we are lucky enough to have booked appointments to have it done separately. An inquiry is needed to reassure parents and hopefully get more children vaccinated if there is no link!
Marcel Devereux, UK

The government long ago lost all credibility on safety issues. Look at the Gulf War veterans, BSE, the military volunteers who went to Porton Down to help find a cure for the common cold... the list is endless. The simple fact is for parents who have fears about MMR they are either going to have the single jabs or forego vaccination altogether. MMR is not an option.
Stephen, England

There seems to be a belief that the simple solution is separate vaccinations, whereas the evidence is that this approach is less effective and exposes children to infection for a much longer period - an inadequate alternative to the MMR vacccine.
Ian Greaves, UK

Having been faced with the MMR dilemma for my own son in the last four months, I was very concerned at the rise in autism during the same timeframe as the introduction of the triple vaccine. I noted in particular that although research suggested there was not a link between MMR and autism, there was no supporting argument for the rise in autism. As we moved from the UK to Australia, the choice had to be made within the Australian framework which denies a financial payment to parents who do not fully immunise their children and also denies access to daycare for children who do not keep up to date with vaccinations. I believe a public inquiry would provide assistance to many puzzled parents who are only trying to do what is right for their children as opposed to supporting any political or private enterprise.
Robert, Australia

I am not convinced that the MMR is necessarily dangerous, but I'm not going to find out the hard way by gambling with my son's future, either by overloading his immune system with the jab or exposing him to a dangerous virus. Instead, I've opted for the best of both worlds. He's just had the single vaccine and has been completely free of side-effects. I would recommend it to any concerned parent.
Phil England

Science does not deal with 'facts' about the world, it is merely a tool used by people to investigate 'reality'

Alex, UK
The MMR vaccine is controversial because the investigation into its safety is inconclusive. What this means is that no link can be found between the vaccine and the childhood illnesses people believe are caused by MMR. Science does not deal with 'facts' about the world, it is merely a tool used by people to investigate 'reality'.
There is no such thing as a 'safe' drug or vaccine anyway. Each has its side effects, which may cause problems with some of the population; this is the uncomfortable truth. Whatever the final outcome of the research, I'd vaccinate my child against these extremely dangerous and infectious diseases, as I couldn't live with myself were my child to contract a disease or spread it to other children.
Alex, UK

Would the people who do not believe the Government or a multitude of studies believe a public inquiry? I don't think so, the inquiry would be a waste of money and time. Before letting my child get the MMR vaccine I had heard the rumours of side effects and so looked quite closely at the many articles and reports on the net... The pieces for the MMR had evidence and the ones against had rumour. I feel, and some may think I am harsh, that when something is wrong people automatically look to place blame. This does not help the parents and totally fails to tackle autism as a problem in its own right.
Michael, England

The call for a public enquiry represents a rather pathetic attempt to manufacture a news story out of a fading vaccine scare. All the evidence to date is already in the public domain, and points in the same direction - MMR does not cause autism. This is not just the conclusion of government mandarins, whom one might sensibly distrust, but of professional bodies around the world.
Alan Stanton, UK

Why did the autism scare grab so much attention when it seems to be largely forgotten that measles can kill?

Dr Adam Jacobs, UK
If there is a need for a public enquiry, then it should enquire into how the media ever managed to convince so many parents to refuse the MMR vaccination. There is no credible evidence whatever that MMR causes autism, and it is scandalous that the media were able to frighten so many people on the basis of a flawed piece of research. Why did the autism scare grab so much attention when it seems to be largely forgotten that measles can kill?
Dr Adam Jacobs, UK

An inquiry is unlikely to do any good. Parents need to be offered a choice of having individual injections and not the triple or nothing. Both of my children will not be having the MMR.
Judith Applegarth, UK

There are genuine concerns about MMR and it is no good just trying to sweep parents' concerns under the carpet. There should be a public enquiry and if parents are still unsure about MMR then single vaccinations should be available. At least this should stop an epidemic
Tracy Kemsley, UK

I doubt that a public enquiry is necessary or useful

Richard, UK
I doubt that a public enquiry is necessary or useful, whereas additional research into the increased incidence of autism certainly is (what I have seen of the evidence, as opposed to the spin, suggests that there is a real problem with increased incidence of autism but that the cause is not yet understood - and is unlikely to be MMR). One of the major causes of this public health crisis is the utter refusal of the Government and health experts to present such evidence as there is in an impartial, objective manner, inevitably leading to universal mistrust.
Richard, UK

The Government believes that there is "little to be gained" from a Public Enquiry?? However little will be gained, surely it will be for the good of parents in this country if they could hear people who understand the pros and cons of vaccination rather than a government minister telling us that everything is going to be OK... I have no faith left in our government. Let the people who understand matters give us arguments to help us decide.
John Wedge, North England

The strength of parents' reaction in linking autism to MMR is enough to convince me that something is wrong

Natalie Descheres, UK
For me, the strength of parents' reaction in linking autism (or other disorders) to MMR is enough to convince me that something is wrong. We unfortunately have two cases in our family of parents convinced their children suffered from the MMR injection. None of the cases have been medically investigated. One father is from medical background and literally went from completely pro to completely opposed to the injection. Irrational or not, coincidental or not - it is imbalancing. My child is 16 months old and she is due her injection. She will not get it as a 3 in one. I would like her to be immunised but not this way. Were I given the choice of having separate injections, she would have been immunised by now and the government would not need to worry about potential measles outbreak.
Natalie Descheres, UK

Having one child who developed autism shortly after receiving his MMR jab made us highly sceptical about giving our next son the MMR vaccine. No public enquiry would have eased that worry, however - the option to have three separate jabs would most certainly have resulted in us getting our youngest vaccinated at an earlier age. Surely the way forward is to give parents with real concerns this option, and not waste money on enquiries which will fail to convince the sceptical.
Robert Bell, UK

We have so far not had our son, aged 4, immunised against any of these three diseases as the GPs we have had have refused to supply the single vaccines either on the NHS or privately. He reacted poorly to some of the vaccines he has received and we were given little information about those either. I am also concerned that practice of immunisation against milder diseases is growing at a time when the NHS budget is stretched, when I was a child only girls were deemed to be at risk from Rubella (due to the risk of the disease in pregnancy) and so, sensibly boys were not immunised. Even then only girls who tested negative for antibodies were subject to immunisation.
Ed Green, UK

There is NO credible evidence that MMR causes autism or Crohn's disease

Alex, UK
The Anti-MMR lobby have simply made parents' life a misery by giving us another thing to worry about (as if we didn't have enough worries already!). There is NO credible evidence that MMR causes autism or Crohn's disease, indeed there is a lot of good evidence to the contrary. There is no medical case for the separate vaccines either. If we had a measles epidemic, it would cause far more harm than the illusory MMR side-effects. People who are worried about autism should be promoting research into the real causes of this poorly understood condition, not chasing phantoms! This would be a far better expenditure of taxpayer's money than an unnecessary public enquiry.
Alex, UK

Of course there should be a proper enquiry into the autism epidemic (my son is now autistic following MMR) but who is honest enough to carry out this responsibility? Won't it just be another opportunity for reams of government spin as with all the other health crises to date - Gulf War Syndrome, CJD, BSE, Foot-and-Mouth ad nauseam? What faith can one possibly have in people who constantly cite as solid proof studies which have been shown to be flawed? The government doesn't want to lose face and the manufacturers don't want to lose profits. Meanwhile the number of afflicted families increases worldwide and the requirement for special needs education rises in tandem. Not without cost it should be remembered.
Susie Appleton, Greece

There would appear to be a government cover-up. Our son has autism and we feel that the MMR injections may have had an influence in this. Most parents I speak to share this concern, and wish to get separate injections for their children. I would not recommend the MMR to anyone. Instead of trying to silence the voices of concern, the government should be taking appropriate action or they could have an epidemic on their hands. What the big deal with supplying separate injections anyway?
Peter Havenaar, Northern Ireland

Why do we need an expensive public inquiry? There are loads and loads of evidence that MMR is safe

Gerard 't Hart, United kingdom
Why do we need an expensive public inquiry? There are loads and loads of evidence that MMR is safe. Yes, unfortunately some children did get autism, but many leading medical authorities have extensively proven the globe over that it is safe. Parents should however be free to make a choice for separate vaccination, but it should be made clear that the separate vaccine is less effective and therefore can harm their children.
Gerard 't Hart, United kingdom

I don't see how a public enquiry is going to convince parents who are unconvinced by all the reports and enquiries already. People are just going to keep asking for new enquiries until they get the only answer they'll believe.
I think we must accept that parents' fears here are both real and irrational. We should simply accept the existence of those fears and provide the alternative. It may be marginally worse than the MMR but it's a lot better than no inoculation at all.
Malcolm McMahon, UK

Yes I think there should be a public enquiry. All the facts and evidence need to be considered properly in an unbiased study, rather than the government simply stating that they are sure MMR is safe because they are the government and they know best (remember BSE). At the very least an enquiry would reassure parents.
Jane, London, UK

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