We've landed a live, exclusive interview with a top official at the UK's Department of Health following its decision to launch a new five-in-one vaccine next month. The new vaccine, which combines the old DTP (diptheria, tetanus and whooping cough) jab with Hib and polio vaccines, will be given to babies as young as two months.
WDDTY: British parents have been concerned about the triple MMR vaccine. They fear that the combination increases the risks of autism, and so they've sought out centres that offer single vaccines. What's been your response to these concerns?
Gov official: We've really listened to their worries, and now we're introducing a bumper five-in-one vaccine.
WDDTY: But how can that be safer?
Gov official: Well, for one thing we've removed thiomersal. . .
WDDTY: Oh yes, the mercury-based preservative that's also been linked to autism. So you're finally accepting that it is dangerous?
Gov official: Not at all, it's perfectly safe. What we're saying is that it's time for parents to start trusting us. The five-in-one has also been used in Canada for some time, and they tell us it's safe.
WDDTY: But the British public trusted you over the last mass immunization programme for the MMR booster. You told them the vaccine was safe, based on evidence from the USA, but when we saw the same evidence it said nothing of the sort.
Gov official: Well you know how it is with the folk from the other side of the pond. . .
WDDTY: But Canada's on the other side of the pond. . .
Gov official: Only technically. And I'm sure one day they'll back up their claims with some useful medical studies. Look, we need to protect our children from harmful diseases. Vaccines have done a great deal to achieve this, you know.
WDDTY: But so have nutrition and sanitation, and without side-effects. . .
Gov official: Ah yes, but where's the money in that?
WDDTY: Finally, why have you made the announcement in the middle of the summer when most parents with small children are on holiday?
Gov official: We work on the basis of need-to-know and trust. We need to know that they don't get to hear about it, and so we trust they won't pick up a newspaper while they're away.