Dr Jayne Donegan's career was almost ruined when she did her own research into vaccinations and discovered that doctors are being misled by the government about their safety and effectiveness
Anti-vaccine groups are variously dismissed as hysterics, conspiracy theorists and antisocial alarmists-but what happens when a doctor starts out as pro-vaccine, reads the evidence for herself and decides that the MMR and other vaccinations for our children probably do more harm than good?
Dr Jayne Donegan is a GP who believes her profession is being deliberately misled by the UK's Department of Health (DoH) which, in its 'Green Book' on vaccinations issued to all doctors, is deliberately massaging the data to make vaccines seem more effective and safe than they actually are.
For her troubles, Dr Donegan was charged by her own governing body, the General Medical Council (GMC), of serious professional misconduct and of bringing the profession into disrepute. The hearing, which ran over three weeks in 2007, was the result of the GMC charging her directly although, in the vast majority of cases, it acts only after receiving complaints from the public.
Remarkably, the GMC panel found her not guilty and agreed in their findings that she had been objective, independent and unbiased in her research and conclusions-which, by implication, suggests that the UK's leading medical authority happens to agree that vaccines are not as safe or effective as government agencies state.
To find out the truth about vaccinations, Dr Donegan spent many days at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) studying health records going all the way back to 1837. There she discovered something that shook her world: deaths from whooping cough had fallen dramatically from the mid-1850s onwards and death rates had dropped by 99 per cent before the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine was partially introduced in the 1950s.
And yet the graph in the DoH's Green Book only showed data from 1940 and so suggested that the vaccine had a more dramatic effect than it really had.
She found the same thing with measles. Again, the Green Book graph starts in 1940 and appears to show an enormous drop in cases from 1968, when the vaccine was introduced. But when Dr Donegan took the data back to the early 1900s, she uncovered a similar picture to pertussis: there had been around a 99 per cent drop off in death rates in the 60 years before the vaccine was brought out. "There was a virtual 100 per cent decline in deaths from measles between 1905 and 1965-three years before the measles vaccine was introduced in the UK," she says.
Public sanitation, personal hygiene and better nutrition had played a far more significant role in controlling childhood diseases-making them benign rather than killers-than vaccines ever did.
Dr Donegan's journey from vaccine believer to vaccine sceptic was a courageous one because she had so much to lose. After qualifying as a doctor in 1983, she had been very pro-vaccination and had urged worried parents to vaccinate their children. "I used to think that parents who didn't want to vaccinate their children were either ignorant or sociopathic. I believe that view is not uncommon among doctors today," she says. When her own two children were born-in 1991 and 1993-she had them vaccinated, even though one had suffered worrying reactions to the BCG (bacillus Calmette-Gu'erin) tuberculosis jab.
Then in 1994 the government launched a major measles vaccination drive after an epidemic had been forecast; only years later was it revealed that the forecast had been based on a faulty mathematical model. Even children who had already been vaccinated were to have a second dose, the DoH announced, as one dose might not provide maximum protection. Dr Donegan accepted this, but she was concerned by a further announcement that even children who had received two doses before should still have a third shot.
This started raising alarm bells especially as the vaccine had been heralded as a 'one-shot' jab that on its own would provide life-long immunity. The second worry was the need to vaccinate tiny babies to achieve herd immunity and "break the chain of transmission", as the DoH described it. Dr Donegan wondered why they couldn't just vaccinate children aged three or so and so break the chain among those whose immune systems might at least be strong enough to withstand any adverse reactions to the jab.
"Some things just didn't seem to quite add up," Dr Donegan recalls, "but it's very hard to start seriously questioning whether or not vaccination is anything other than safe and effective, especially when it is something that you have been taught to believe in so strongly.
The more medically qualified you are, the more difficult it is, as in some ways the more brainwashed you are."
She started to read anti-vaccination books, but the evidence in them was so contrary to what she had been taught that she decided to do her own research.
That research, which included her visits to the ONS, culminated in the research paper 'Vaccinatable Diseases and Their Vaccines'. The report includes data from the mid-1850s that she gleaned from the ONS, and a review of the small number of studies into vaccine safety and effectiveness.
Astonishingly, there haven't been any "clear, open, objective and well-designed studies on vaccination safety", she states in the report's introduction. And the studies that have been done invariably conclude that vaccines are safe-even though the data don't support such a conclusion.
Dr Donegan antidoted all the vaccines given to her children with homeopathic nosodes-she had qualified as a homeopath in 1990-and she also appeared as an expert witness in a high-profile vaccine case where a mother was refusing to have her child vaccinated even though it was against the wishes of her estranged husband.
Because she had spoken out against vaccines in a court case, the GMC decided to take action against her. The GMC expert witness was Dr David Elliman, consultant in community child health at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who spent four months reviewing the evidence Dr Donegan had given in the case before he attended the GMC hearing.
Under cross-examination, Dr Elliman admitted that, as Dr Donegan had stated, there had been no proper randomized, placebo-controlled trials into any childhood vaccines in the past 30 years, and his 62 criticisms of her evidence were reduced to just two.
Despite this significant victory, the media failed to report on the result-although it had written up the first day of the hearing with headlines such as "GP accused of misleading court over MMR danger".
Afterwards she reflected: "If a parent says 'I'm worried about the safety of the vaccination', they are told 'You don't understand, you're not a doctor'. But if a doctor says the same thing, he or she is charged with serious professional misconduct."
Dr Donegan is speaking on vaccinations at the College of Naturopathic Medicine, 41 Riding House Street, London W1, on November 11, starting at 6.30 pm. The talk is entitled 'Vaccination-The Question'. The entrance fee is lb10. To purchase tickets or find out more, telephone 01342 410 505 or book online at www.naturopathy-uk.com.
Donegan on the DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus) jab
Diphtheria: The likelihood of contracting diphtheria in the UK is so low that I do not think any benefit is to be gained by vaccinating against it, and any detrimental effects are therefore unacceptable.
Pertussis (whooping cough): Children develop natural immunity against whooping cough from breast milk, but parents who want their child vaccinated should choose the acellular vaccine. It is currently not available without the mercury additive thiomersal (thimerosal in the US), and the whole-cell version has such a high incidence of side-effects that I think it should never be used.
Tetanus: Wounds should be cleaned immediately, and 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide is an excellent cleanser. As the tetanus vaccine is available only with thiomersal, aluminium hydroxide and formaldehyde, it is safer to build up a child's immune system and clean any wounds carefully.
Donegan on the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) jab
Measles:This is a benign childhood illness in the child with a strong immune system. In the Steiner alternative school community, during a measles outbreak not one severe case was reported. There is plenty of evidence about adverse reactions to the vaccine that should convince parents not to have it. Don't give in to the fear about measles generated by doctors and governments.
Mumps:This is generally a mild illness. I do not recommend mumps vaccination, as any benefit is minimal and any side-effects unacceptable.
Rubella (German measles):The effects of rubella are minor and the vaccination cannot be recommended. And the vaccine doesn't seem to work very well, as it often fails to protect the unborn child of women who are not immune.