Compulsory MMR jab – a human rights issue?

A rash of media coverage hit the headlines in the UK at the beginning of July with calls from Sir Sandy Macara, a former chairman of the British Medical Association, for the MMR vaccination to be made compulsory for children going to school. His call was echoed by some health ministers who claim that measles is set to reach epidemic levels again given the loss of faith in the MMR vaccine from fears over links to autism – fears that, they say, are now discredited.

According to the Alliance for Natural Health and many other campaigners, this so-call 'discreditation' refers to the current UK General Medical Council case against Dr Andrew Wakefield. Dr Wakefield is one of a team of doctors from the Royal Free Hospital in London who reported specific bowel symptoms in a prospective case series of 12 consecutive vaccinated children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities, and alleged a possible connection with the MMR vaccination.

The paper was published in the Lancet in 1998 and in the wake of its publication, the doctors faced a massive assault from the media, the vaccine manufacturers, the government, the UK’s General Medical Council and a large clutch of doctors. They were accused of professional misconduct, forced out of their jobs and in March 2004 the GMC announced it was going to instigate an inquiry – which has now been running for 18 months at the taxpayer's expense.

Campaigners’ claims that the right to choose the MMR versus single vaccines for your children is a human rights issue have been given weight by support from health visitors union, Unite. Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association, has rejected Sir Sandy’s call saying that they believe that the NHS is about choice and that Sir Sandy's motion is incompatible with that principle. They maintain that there is a direct link between the declining MMR take-up rates and the slimming down of the health visiting service over the last four years.

Said Cheryll Adams of Unite: 'The health visiting service is now so under-resourced that health visitors no longer automatically see families when the child is eight to12 months old, which is the best time to provide advice and information, so that parents can make an informed decision about MMR. Educating parents, not coercion, is the best way forward.’

At present, only 80% of children have had both the MMR immunisations needed to give full protection – 'herd immunity' necessary to keep these diseases at bay is only achieved
when that figure reaches 95%.

Read more at the Alliance for Natural health or at Medical News Today

For more articles in infant and child health

First Published in 2009

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