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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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
29 Aug 01 | Health
Parents call for MMR vaccine inquiry
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