A campaigning Wigan mum, whose son was left brain-damaged by the MMR vaccine, has written to Britain’s health secretary urging him to ignore calls to make it compulsory.
Robert Fletcher, 27, suffered a catastrophic reaction as a toddler to the triple jab that left him with the mental age of a 14-month-old, and was later awarded compensation from the Government’s Vaccine Damage Unit after a finding that the inoculation was to blame for his seizures.
But his mother Jackie, who set up the pressure group Jabs to campaign for families still to have the option of single inoculations, has been dismayed at the continued medical establishment and government line that the combined measles, mumps and rubella injection, is perfectly safe.
And now she has been moved to write to health secretary Matt Hancock after GP chairpersons of clinical commissioning groups in London urged him to promote compulsory MMR for four and five-year-olds.
They want school entry procedures toughened so that the only exceptions made to the new rule would be for children whose parents have registered a conscientious objection to the triple jabs or those whose health means they cannot have it.
Doing so would save lives and tackle dangerous “complacency” among parents who do not ensure that their child is fully immunised, they say.
But Mrs Fletcher, of Gawsworth Road, Golborne, said: “In my experience parents are anything but complacent when it comes to the health of their children. It is the parents who hit a brick wall when they ask their doctors important questions about the real risks of the vaccines compared to the real risks of the illnesses.
“History demonstrates that in the early part of the 20th century measles was indeed a killer, however, by the time the single measles (1967) and MMR vaccines (1988) were introduced it had become a relatively mild disease and mortality was very low.
“Natural measles led to life-long immunity for most people and provided maternal immunity for babies under 12 months of age. MMR vaccines do not create sufficient maternal immunity which has resulted in measles being potentially much more dangerous for babies of this age group. Measles could also be more dangerous in adults where vaccine immunity has waned.”
She added: “On the subject of safety data, a recent study sponsored by vaccine-makers compared two MMR vaccines: Merck’s MMR II and GSK’s Priorix. The children in the study were given a version of MMR and other vaccines and the results of the study were published.
“Adverse events resulting in emergency room visit: 10.1 per cent in one group 10.4 in the other group. New onset chronic diseases following the vaccinations: 3.4 per cent in one group and 3.7 in the other. Given that our vaccine policy-makers usually quote the chance of a severe reaction as one in a million, using the figures in the study this could mean if you vaccinated one million children with either MMR vaccine, 34,000 in one group and 37,000 in the other group were at risk of new onset chronic diseases.
“Why does it need to be MMR or nothing? Dr Liam Fox when he was shadow health secretary stated that a Tory government would fund single dose vaccines to increase the inoculation rate. ‘We will be less doctrinaire and more pragmatic,’ ‘we would have to see whether we should make single dose vaccines available in certain areas to certain groups to get inoculation rates up’ he said.”
Mrs Fletcher insisted she was not “anti-vaccine” as some would like to suggest, but wanted to maintain the choice of having jabs administered singly.
In an interview with the Post in May, Wigan’s director of public health Prof Kate Ardern - who was struck down by measles as a child which led to pneumonia and in turn lifelong asthma and short-sightedness - praised the MMR campaign which had led to there only being one confirmed case in the borough in the last five years.
Figures show that there have not been any outbreaks (that is multiple linked cases) of measles in Wigan borough since 2012.
For the year 2017-18 the uptake rate for one MMR jab by the age of two stands locally at 94.7 per cent: higher than the English rate of 91.2 and Greater Manchester’s of 93.3 and very close to what is termed the “herd immunity” threshold of 95 (the proportion of the population needed to keep a disease under control.)
The same year the uptake for one dose at five in Wigan was 97.1 (compared to England’s 94.9) and the rate for both MMR doses by the age of five was 92.5 in Wigan, compared to 87.2 in England and 90.2 in Greater Manchester.