The very first issue of WDDTY kicked off with the dangers of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in response to a great deal of propaganda by the British government at the time, touting the benefits of the jab. Eleven years on, we're both still here in our respective corners.
At the moment, the British government is spending approximately lb3 million of our tax money defending a vaccine that Dr Peter Fletcher, senior medical officer in the Department of Health, for one, admits never had adequate safety testing (J Adv Drug React, January 2001; see WDDTY, vol 11 no 10).
In an attempt to staunch the haemorrhage of parents opting out of this jab as a result of Dr Andrew Wakefield's work showing an association between the jab and autism and bowel problems the British government has hauled out a Finnish study, published in the December 2000 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, conducted by Heikki Peltola and colleagues at the Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki in Finland. This study appears to be a deliberate attempt at damage limitation in anticipation of even more devastating new evidence to be reported by Wakefield.
The study claims to find no such connection between the MMR and autism among 1.8 million children receiving some three million jabs. It also claims that, among this population, there were only 173 potentially serious reactions attributable to the MMR vaccine and only 437 events mostly minor in total.
However, it's important to take a look at the fine print. First of all, the study relied on "passive surveillance" that is, information reported in by health providers to the Finnish Department of Public Health. Passive reporting systems are known to be highly unreliable. The UK's Public Health Laboratory Service has admitted as much. The US's Vaccine Adverse Event Report System (VAERS) is estimated to receive only 5-10 per cent of the total number of adverse reactions.
The authors say that any side effects were reported soon after children had the jab and the children were followed for as long as was possible (the time frame was not defined). It is well documented that side effects like convulsions in children given the MMR do not surface until 7-10 days after the jab. Autism does not appear immediately either. It's doubtful whether any cases of children whose speech, behaviour or development began to deteriorate would have been followed up.
This study was carried out and completed between 1982-1996 before anyone suspected a link between the vaccine and autism or gut problems.
In other words, there were no reports of autism because the question was never asked.
The authors were also quick to defend the vaccine, even against the single death of a healthy 13 month old boy, who died in his sleep eight days after receiving his jab. He died by aspirating his vomit, the result of acute gastritis. This was attributed to a familial tendency (his sister had "flaccid attacks", whatever that means), and ignored the 5 per cent of cases of adverse events where nausea and vomiting were present.
Mystifyingly, the authors also decided to exclude cases of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, the blood disorder recognised by the manufacturers of the MMR to be one of its primary serious side effects.
The government's position is no longer about protecting the safety of British children. This is all about defending the position it enthusiastically embraced 11 years ago. This is about politics and not being seen with egg on your face.
Speaking of things that keep on hammering on, last month I turned 50.
If I follow my own advice about 100 ways to live to 100, that gives me 50 more years to keep slugging it out in my corner. The government and its MMR defense stand warned.