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One freedom at a time

MagazineSeptember 1998 (Vol. 9 Issue 6)One freedom at a time

A few months ago, I got a letter from Imogen, my local health visitor

A few months ago, I got a letter from Imogen, my local health visitor. She invited me to take in my 18 month old daughter and discuss in case she hadn't yet got her jabs.

I phoned and told her our family paediatrician was handling all matters concerning our daughter's healthcare, and figured that would be that.

To my astonishment, Imogen told me that they were now keeping records about vaccination on computer, and she'd be obliged if I could just tell her which injections Anya had got and when.

"You know, I have a problem with computers," I replied. " I really hate the thought of any information on my family being kept on some central databank and possibly being misused."

Imogen assured me there was no chance of that. "I'm sorry," I insisted. "This is all a bit too Big Brother for me." I was about to quote her my rights via the Data Protection Act, but she relented and we rang off on cordial terms.

And then the other day, another letter arrived, this time from our GP, which said that the Government now requires that GPs keep on record the vaccines that children have received. Could we simply provide him with the dates, jabs, etc, for their files?

I haven't decided what to do with this yet. But what is most worrying, more than the fact that I'm about to lose my right to remain quietly anonymous about my vaccination choices, is that this particular Government has decided to start tracking vaccination records, much as they are tracked in the states. Tracking provides governments with a means not only of determining takeup rates but also bullying non vaccinators into compliance.

This might have been an isolated move by the government for recordkeeping purposes if it hadn't emerged at the same time as massive efforts by Blair's Government to limit the types of food and supplements we are allowed to eat. Take, for instance, the latest twist in the long running saga of the banning of vitamin B6. Although the government, lead by food safety minister Jeff Rooker, carried on with plans to limit the sale of vitamin B6, despite a huge public outcry, The Commons Select Committee on Agriculture recently condemned the move, challenging the scientific evidence on which the Government had based its proposed ban, and urging the Government to withdraw its proposal.

Nevertheless, a story, apparently leaked by the Labour Party to the chief political correspondent of the Independent, appeared on 20 July claiming that Rooker's boss, Dr Jack Cunningham, had the ear of Tony Blair and had convinced the Prime Minister that it was advisable to ignore the select committee and push forward with the B6 ban.

If the B6 ban goes ahead, it does so despite a furious letter writing campaign and the organisation of comsumer groups. The select committee questioned the Government's right to "intervene at all", apart from publishing risks and leaving it to "the informed decisions of individual users".

But B6 looks to be just the beginning. The Independent article also indicated that Jack Cunningham is determined to ban "green top" unpasturised milk even though Blair supposedly is growing sensitive to charges that he is running a nanny state. Firmly keeping its blinkers in place, COT is also planning to look into whether high doses of vitamin C ought to be banned as well.

Taken together, these latest moves mean that all of us, not only in Britain, but the rest of Europe and America, need to be extremely vigilant over renewed efforts to remove our freedom of informed choice concerning our own health. As Richard Passwater, director of research at Solgar Nutritional Research Center in Maryland, recently wrote in response to the Independent article: "Freedom falls one freedom at a time."

!ALynne McTaggart


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