Why We Gave Our Children the MMR Jab

An event has happened that’s made me write the post I know will be my most controversial. One of the mums at Boy’s school has just been released from hospital after a terrible time with measles. There have been a lot of texts from the school and her child has been kept off school. This is just the sort of thing that should not be happening in the UK today and yet it has.

To me, vaccinating children should not be controversial and yet, when the local paper reported the last measles outbreak in Brighton, it’s message board went in to meltdown. I have never read a longer thread. Clearly not only the MMR but vaccination in general is still, for some, a controversial subject. Which is nuts.

So let’s deal with them as two separate issues. Firstly vaccination in general. Our kids have had every jab they’re entitled to. The evidence for the benefits is all around us. Like the eradication of smallpox. Like the fact that the BCG (the vaccination turkey that voted for Christmas) has eradicated TB in countries that gave it so successfully it is no longer given in them. Conversely where it is not given TB remains. Same with Polio immunisation. And then there’s Bill Gates. Not so long ago he pledged 10 billion dollars to save 8 million children by creating vaccination programs in the Third World through his foundation. I don’t think the guy who created Microsoft is going to have a 10 billion dollar bet with poor children’s lives frankly.

Those who oppose vaccination on the other hand tend to come back to one name. Dr Viera Scheibner. So let’s have a look at a page from her. Here’s her Wikipedia page. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viera_Scheibner

Yes Wikipedia. I know. Not 100% reliable, editable by anyone. So I have been back to this page a number of times and certain facts on there about this anti-vaccination “hero” have never changed. Namely:

  • Her only qualifications are in Geology and Palaeontology
  • Her analysis is constantly challenged and considered sloppy and dishonest
  • She claimed a direct link between vaccination and SIDS. The only link is that vaccination reduces SIDS risk.
  • She withheld data showing Japanese Pertussis mortality increased 800% in the five years following the pause in Pertussis vaccination in Japan . (Evidence  in the wiki footnote)
In 1997 she won the Bent Spoon Award  “presented to the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudoscientific piffle”. Frankly she makes the case for vaccination by herself.

But now the MMR itself. Slightly more tricky. Firstly there’s the furore around the link between MMR and autism. This is a tricky one for a parent for not many of us are scientists and wherever you look – however discredited Andrew Wakefield and his study – it is ‘out there’. If the disappearance of smallpox, TB et al are obvious signs that vaccination in general works then the anecdotal evidence regarding MMR and autism is more problematic for signs of autism first show up around the time the MMR is due.

For me as a parent this meant reading. I started with this study on the World Health Organisation website. Note this is not the NHS – this is the World Health Authority. When Boy was due his MMR Andrew Wakefield had not yet been struck off in the UK as he has now. Therefore we did something additional. We asked my GP,  if she would give her own child the MMR. She would and had. After that it was trust in her and the WHO and our own instincts that made the decision for us.

I have since read an excellent book on autism by Kamran Nazeer (himself an autistic) called Send In The Idiots that backs up the fact that Wakefield’s evidence was flawed and suggests reasons for it. Namely that equally flawed theories abounded at the time that autism was somehow down to bad parenting. Clearly that is ridiculous but, of course, a study showing it was instead linked to MMR would be gold to any parent previously guilt-tripping themselves for something clearly not down to them.

There are, undoubtedly, side effects and risks with the MMR however. My experience with our two was good but I have a very good GP who specialised in paediatrics.  What happened with our two is what should happen in every case and it is thus:

  • The doctor / nurse giving the jab should be able to explain the side effects and the contents of the inoculation.
  • There is a risk of anaphylactic shock immediately after. Your GP should ask you to stay in the waiting room for 10 – 15 minutes afterwards so it can be dealt with there.
  • There is a risk of fever in the days after as a side effect. Boy got one. Baby didn’t. (I, however, got mumps when I was 6 and it was an absolute bastard. Constant sore throat, immense pain, fever and quarantine for over a week. Boy’s fever was more like a bad cold and over in a day. And measles is much worse than mumps.)

Make sure your GP surgery can do all of these things before they get a needle near your Little One. If they can’t then don’t refuse the jab – change GP and get it done by your new one.

There is also a well known MMR compensation case. It’s worth bringing it up here as it was another thing I looked at. The full judgement, while finding MMR culpable in this one-off cause of epilepsy, makes it clear there is no link between MMR and autism. You can read it here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-11125343. It is also worth noting here that this is the only case of note in the UK. Meanwhile one in 10 measles cases require hospitalization and the measles death rate in the UK is one in 5000 (source http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Measles.htm)

I have written this not because I am a Doctor or a Scientist. I am not. I am an ordinary parent who faced, along with my partner, a choice I felt unqualified for and yet one that every parent in the UK has to make. I have documented my thought process and experiences. They won’t be everyone’s but they’re ours and we’re proud of them. Boy is now thriving at school and I am glad to say I was one of the parents who was not worried for him when we got the text from the school. Just worried for the family affected – affected by a disease that should, by now, be on the extinct list.

SOURCES

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Wikipedia (evidence for the quotes was on the wiki page as at March 24 2012)

World Health Organisation

The BBC

http://www.patient.co.uk

Send In The Idiots by Kamran Nazeer (Bloomsbury Publishing 2006/7) excerpt paraphrased.

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  1. #1 by jbmumofone on March 27, 2012 - 5:47 pm

    This is a wonderful, informative post that I am sure many parents will find incredibly useful.

  2. #2 by JallieDaddy on March 30, 2012 - 12:26 am

    I couldn’t agree more. Why deny medicine to your children that could save their lives? There shouldn’t be any debate here. And Wakefield & MMR: there’s actually no evidence at all to suggest a link to autism, His ‘research’ has been shown to have been false, & involved the coercion of minors. You might as well believe that faeries at the bottom of the garden cause autism. Ads far as I know there’s no evidence for that wither. We’ve given ours all the jabs the NHS provides too & will continue to do so.

    Great post

  3. #3 by Chelseamamma on March 30, 2012 - 3:44 am

    All mine have had the MMR. My eldest daughter suffered afterwards and was hospitalised with a very high temp and febrile convulsions, but that did not stop me giving it to the others.
    They’ve all been poorly afterwards for a few days but it’s a small price to pay for protection from nasty diseases.
    I think parents nowadays don’t realise how nasty the diseases are that these immunisations protect from as they have no experience of them.
    Whilst I’m all about free choice, this is probably the one thing I firmly believe should be compulsory for all and by not getting your child immunised you are irresponsible and putting your child’s health at risk.

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