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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
MMR: Are you reassured the vaccine is safe?
The most in-depth analysis to date has cleared the controversial MMR vaccine of any link to autism or bowel disease.
The researchers say their findings provide clear reassurance for patients and health professionals that the combined jab for measles, mumps and rubella is safe.
There has been a sharp drop in the number of parents prepared to give their children the MMR vaccination because they're worried about a possible link with autism and inflammatory bowel disease.
But a team led by Dr Anna Donald and Dr Vivek Muthu have examined research into MMR from 180 countries around the world and now claim the vaccine is completely safe.
Are you reassured about the safety of the MMR vaccine? Has the latest evidence changed your mind? Would you give your child the vaccine?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Autism in a child shows itself at around about the same time that the MMR jab is given, and thus many people think they are linked. There is no evidence they are linked, the furore over the jab does however show that many people lack knowledge of basic science and rudimentary statistics.
I am a university instructor and health professional who had a normal child who was in a lab three weeks before the MMR to showcase normal development. By four weeks after the MMR he had lost language, eye contact, social skills, mimicry skills and was about to lose the ability to even identify himself in a mirror.
So now we are told yet again it is safe, even as there is confirmation of vaccination strain measles in the guts of autistic children. Whether it made them autistic or whether they were susceptible because they were autistic is debatable. But we now have laboratory work on three continents showing measles virus related problems in a subset of children with autism. But parents are not to worry because a review that ignored the relevant studies says MMR is safe.
As a scientist I have to accept the findings of the vast majority of sound research that says the vaccine is safe, and reject the findings of the small number of unsound studies that say it isn't. I concede that you cannot prove a negative but no one as yet as proved (in research that is not flawed) that there is a link. The increase in cases of autism can be explained by increased diagnosis combined with unknown environmental factors. No one has proved that the single vaccines are any safer, they may even cause other problems, and the diseases themselves are certainly more dangerous, I don't see any choice but to opt for MMR
One of today's newspapers quoted a Department of Health spokesperson as saying this was important research but that parents should make informed choices and that it was not for the DOH to preach - reading between the lines this statement is staggering. The Government spent £3million on an advertising preaching campaign last year (money which could have been spent on looking at the causes of autism). Why the change in tactics from preaching to non-committal comments? This leads me to mistrust official policy even more. Can someone please fund research into the near epidemic increasing prevalence of autism - it's not simply better diagnosis.
As a health care professional in the learning disability field, I have cared for more individuals known to be brain damaged by the effects of measles and rubella than I care to count. This has reduced considerably since the introduction of the MMR. Autism is almost certainly a multi-factorial disorder, and huge progress is being made, both in its detection and in interventions to minimise the impact upon those affected. The human genome project offers us substantial hope in understanding the many pre and post-natal events which may trigger the disorder in some individuals, one of which may be vaccination of some kind. I was happy to have my own child vaccinated.
While we continue to wonder about the MMR there will be parents of autistic children who will blame themselves for having their child vaccinated. My daughter was not vaccinated, she is autistic, my sister's child was vaccinated and is autistic. I worry about the blame that parents feel after finding that they have an autistic child, and have regret about the vaccination. The truth is we just don't know, and I personally feel that no matter how many "studies" are completed, will we ever trust the MMR? There has to be a genetic link, and we are not helping parents or children by blindly blaming the MMR.
... Like there was no link between beef and BSE. I find it difficult to accept anything that comes from government experts with their hidden agendas. That's why my child has had the single measles jab.
Russ Anderson, UK
My brother lost hearing in one hear through mumps and was lucky not to become entirely deaf. It's all about weighing risks. We decided to give MMR to our daughter, without any ill effect. Should we have another child, we will do the same again.
All vaccines carry some risks, as acknowledged by the manufacturers and the government's own vaccine damage compensation scheme. So let's have an adult debate that recognises risks exist and put in place a compensation scheme that generously compensates the children who sacrifice their health for the greater good.
Experts from both sides of the debate can find research that backs them up and discredits their opponents. The sensible thing would be for these experts to define what criteria needs to be met for it to be considered safe and then they should jointly perform the tests and examine the results together. It's not that complicated to do a proper job on this.
Jonathan Harris, United Kingdom
The link between autism and MMR has developed the status of a religion: the anti-vaccine lobby simply believe that the link is there, in much the same way that people believe in God. Mere evidence is not going to change that.
It is patronising to come up with this sort of review as an answer to parental fears. One thing would resolve this debate: fresh, conclusive, unbiased research. The government wants parents to be responsible for their children - please equip us to be so with more than propaganda.
There is a grave reluctance amongst parents, and others, to accept assurances offered by the government over the safety of the MMR triple vaccine. This reluctance was also evident during the BSE crisis and in relation to GM foods. I think the issue to be examined is source credibility and trustworthiness.
Steve Cahill, England
Safe is a relative term in the healthcare field. One must weigh the benefits vs the possible side effects. In the case of MMR, its usage in millions of patients in many countries has proved its safety.
How can the authors of this latest report claim that it proves anything, if, as they claim, the research that it reviews is flawed? Such an approach only demonstrates they found the current evidence for the MMR/autism link hypothesis unpersuasive.
So, it's safe again is it? Verified safe by a set of DoH doctors. Are these the same doctors who are the shareholders of the company that manufacturers this vaccine then I wonder? After all, as long as the drug company is profitable, what does it really matter if my son becomes autistic? Sorry Mr Blair, the damage is done.
Barry P, England
To Barry P: I would really need a lobotomy before I could fully digest and accept the official arguments for the MMR vaccine. Today's parents are smarter, better-educated and more ready to challenge the official line - based on common sense, rather than rebellion - so the "as the doctor orders" principle does not automatically work any more.
Barry P: My wife and I are highly qualified scientists, who also have an autistic child (typical stupid parents). This latest 'proof' is just re-analysis of already released research - which can be legitimately criticised for not looking for (rare) long-term reactions between autism and measles vaccination. Statistically, vaccination is clearly a sensible approach, but ignoring a possible, rare side-effect with devastating consequences is not the answer to parents' concerns. Why doesn't the government fund research that investigates the real cause of the apparent rise, rather than repeating the current simplistic mantra? That way the majority can be protected from nfectious diseases, and alternative approaches / treatments can be provided for the children susceptible to side-effects.
No one believes the government any more, especially when business interests are put on the line. The reason the MMR is being pushed as safe is to save money for the drug companies who have invested in a product and want to see a profit. It is unfair, and immoral, to take the decision away from parents how they will protect their children.
There is overwhelming evidence this vaccine is safe. In my opinion, it is far more likely that the rise is autism and other similar childhood problems are down to women who refuse to breastfeed (for whatever reason), as well as smoking, drinking, poor diet and taking medicines, which may have unknown, but subtle, side effects on unborn children.
The care of a baby needs to start way before it is born!!!
I have always been happy that the vaccine is safe and both my children have had it without ill effects.
For some reason, having an autistic child seems instantly to make someone into a qualified epidemiologist and statistician.
Anyone with a sick child has my sympathy but I prefer to make decisions about my children's health based upon the opinions of those with more substantive qualifications.
Another look at the old research... why doesn't someone look at the autistic children for a change? Chris Chitty blames drinking, smoking, poor diet and not breastfeeding. Not guilty of any of this but my child is still autistic and perhaps Steve Harrison would like to try and find someone with "more substantive qualifications" who is not biased by government policy or payment bonuses for reaching vaccination targets? The truth will only become clear when someone is allowed to carry out unbiased research and does not have their hands tied.
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