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Perfectly reasonable behaviour

MagazineJuly 2000 (Vol. 11 Issue 4)Perfectly reasonable behaviour

The current meningitis C campaign being conducted through the schools is being carried out all nice and reasonable seeming, with reasonable (if rather skimpy) consent forms sent home to the parents

The current meningitis C campaign being conducted through the schools is being carried out all nice and reasonable seeming, with reasonable (if rather skimpy) consent forms sent home to the parents. The consent form provides a space where you and I supposedly have the right to exercise our option either to take them up on their offer or refuse.

For a Western country, most of which now make vaccination mandatory, you can't get more reasonable than England, it would seem. There are calls that come into our offices and those of prochoice organisations like Informed Parent from parents whose kids got jabbed even though they clearly stated that they didn't wish them to. But we all like to think that these are reasonable mistakes made by the reasonable and the well intentioned.

And then you hear about the case of a Nottingham family I'll call the Smiths. The couple, who were very dedicated to natural parenting and against vaccination, had had baby Alexander, who was born normally with a normal birthweight. He was breastfeeding well but, over the first few weeks, he wasn't gaining any weight. At 28 days, Alexander weighed less than his birthweight. This situation is not unheard of among breastfed babies indeed, many, if not most, breastfed babies do lose weight within the few weeks of birth and then usually only return to their birthweight by age three weeks or so. Alexander may have lagged behind in this, but it wasn't a gross deviation from the norm. Indeed, the community midwife was so unconcerned about the situation that she discharged the family from her care at 28 weeks.

Nevertheless, being the conscientious parents that they are, the Smiths took Alexander to their GP two weeks later for a check up. When he was nine weeks old, the Smiths asked their GP to come to the house because they wanted the baby checked again, but didn't want to be pressured into vaccination.

The GP arrived at the door with a health worker. When they heard the Smiths' position about vaccination, they accused them of neglect. The Smiths were carted off to Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, a large teaching hospital in Nottingham, and Social Services were called in. The workers said you basically have two choices. Either you let us take your child into care, or you stay in a family centre where you can be monitored with your child.

Family centres, for the uninitiated, are places where parents with social problems can be monitored around the clock until Social Services deems them fit to be left to their own devices.

Although the Smiths had bought a house in Wales, they were forced to leave it and to put their dogs in care, while they complied with Nottingham Social Services and moved into a family centre in Hull. For the first few weeks, they were never allowed to be out with their baby unsupervised. Twelve weeks later (at the time of this writing), they are still there. They are under constant, unannounced surveillance (one way mirrors and the like) and must comply with a curfew. During these three months, Mr Smith has been unable to work.

Meanwhile, baby Alexander, who is plump and thriving, has reached a normal weight and is no longer at risk of 'failure to thrive'.

Nevertheless, Social Services continues to maintain that they should vaccinate their child or they will be taken to court and be forced to do so. The Smith's lawyer, who is not a vaccine expert, has counseled them to accept some vaccinations just to get Social Services to back off. The Smiths are holding fast to their principles, but they are frightened of losing their baby and are very much alone.

This particular case illustrates to what extent government and the social network has abandoned all reason about disease prevention. Getting his jabs wouldn't have helped baby Alexander to gain weight (in fact, the polio vaccine has been shown to slow growth). Besides, he no longer has a problem if indeed he ever did. Step by step, whether by 'mistakes' or coercion, we move towards mandatory vaccination, and lose our sense of reason and free choice.

!ALynne McTaggart

Make sure to come to our vaccine Debate, 22 June, where we will be discussing MMR, meningitis C and issues of consent.


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