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Tuesday, March 24, 1998 Published at 13:09 GMT


Parents' vaccine dilemma
image: [ Parents are being urged to make sure their children receive the MMR vaccine ]
Parents are being urged to make sure their children receive the MMR vaccine

It is a dilemma that most parents will have faced at some point in their children's lives: whether to allow their child to be vaccinated to protect them against the dangers of measles, mumps and rubella.

[ image: Parents have been concerned about the safety of the MMR]
Parents have been concerned about the safety of the MMR
Doctors, health visitors and nurses say that many families have been scared off, fearing the combined MMR jab which is meant to protect their child - could end up damaging them.

For years there have been anecdotal reports of children suffering bowel disorders and becoming autistic after being vaccinated.

There was widespread alarm last month after research published in The Lancet medical journal suggested a possible link between the MMR vaccine and an unusual inflammation of the bowel associated with autism.

Sir John Pattison explains why experts believe the MMR vaccine is safe (32')
The Medical Research Council called 37 scientific experts together to examine all the research and concluded there is "no evidence to indicate any link".

Sir John Pattison, the government advisor who headed the panel, said he had no doubt that MMR jabs should continue to be given.

"I think that is the right policy and that is what I would sign up my children, if they were the right age, to have," said Sir John.

Sir Kenneth Calman says having vaccines separately makes children more prone to infection (16")
The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Kenneth Calman, said if parents kept refusing to have their children immunised with MMR, Britain could be hit by a wave of epidemics which could endanger the lives of children.

But some parents still believe the MMR vaccine had a detrimental effect on their child.

[ image: Rosemary Keswick believes her son had a bad reaction]
Rosemary Keswick believes her son had a bad reaction
Rosemary Keswick believes her son William had a bad reaction.

She said: "He was absolutely normal but after he had his MMR, within days, he started to show some very strange reactions.

"He had swollen lymph glands, he had a strange look and colour and he started headbanging which he never did before."

The scientists maintain the evidence does not support a link between MMR jabs and autism and bowel disorders like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Autism usually appears in the second year of life at about the same time as most children receive the MMR vaccine.

Experts believe this is almost certainly pure coincidence and not evidence of a genuine link.

The scientists agree however that there is a need for more research generally into the causes of Crohn's diseases, ulcerative colitis and autism.

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