MMR: Don't treat parents like children
March 28th 2008, 12:10 | Bryan HubbardIt's all unravelling badly for our health guardians who have been trying their upmost to convince us that the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine is perfectly safe.
In the past few weeks we've heard from the US that a court has awarded substantial damages to a family whose child developed autism after being vaccinated, and this week Dr Andrew Wakefield - the man who started the controversy about the autism link - began his defence against charges of professional misconduct.
Dr Wakefield's case is an own-goal by health regulators who clearly wanted revenge for a study that they considered was damaging to their aim of achieving mass immunity from vaccination. Either way they can't win. If they succeed in getting Dr Wakefield struck off, they'll be accused of staging a witch hunt against a doctor who was trying to help parents. If Wakefield successfully defends the charge, his research will be vindicated. And all the time the MMR debate - and Wakefield's claims - continues to get a public airing.
Meantime, health regulators have been throwing science at worried parents. They have said that study after study has conclusively established that the MMR is safe. Unfortunately, those who've taken a closer look at these studies have found a number of inadequacies or inconsistencies.
In one, a junior researcher who looked over the analysis discovered a basic mathematical error that hadn't been picked up by the eminent peers who considered the paper worthy of publication. Other papers studied the children for a very short span, and some even admitted they had left out vital evidence because it as 'unsubstantiated'. The whole sorry catalogue is revealed in the April issue of 'What Doctors Don't Tell You'.
Parents are rightly concerned that our health authorities - in whom we place our trust - are not playing straight. Science looks too much like propaganda, and their arguments are becoming more hectoring in tone.
If they want children to be vaccinated, the health authorities must start treating the parents as the adults they are. Yes, there is a risk with the vaccines - it might be slight, but it's there - and, yes, your child could be affected. Part of the message should also tell parents that there are also plenty of ways you can reduce the severity of these childhood diseases through good nutrition.
Unless medicine becomes the science it always claims to be, and stops being a propaganda machine for the drugs industry, parents will rightly remain reticent.