Part of the reason for having a blog is to enable me to write 'pieces' to which I can then direct others. I suppose one could say it is my soap box, or sounding board. This is the first time I have ever written something without having a definite target audience in mind. Perhaps no-one will read it and my questions and comments will go unanswered. But this blog springs from a genuine desire to sort out the whole measles vaccination controversy, and perhaps to explain why some parents have always been very wary of needles.
First of all my family history. My elder sister died of polio in the 1949 outbreak. A cousin was hospitalised with it and suffers the effects to this day. I tell you this to put into context any ideas the reader may have that I am from a family 'medicine refusers', on the contrary we have many good reasons to thank the NHS for saving our lives!
In 1956 I suffered a bad attack of measles, and in around those childhood years I also caught mumps and had four attacks of scarlet fever. Measles wasn't considered a particularly untoward childhood illness, we all knew that in much earlier times children had died of it, but when I contracted Scarlet Fever on the first occasion there was much more commotion. The Sanitary Inspector visited the house and it was only because the household conditions were judged to be adequate that I wasn't transferred to the nearby fever hospital or my belongings burnt [this was c1955] Mr Sanitary Inspector visited on my second attack of the illness but on the subsequent occasions I think he just spoke to my mother on the 'phone. Thanks to anti biotics and an operation to remove my tonsils Scarlet Fever vacated our house. However not before the anti biotics first prescribed tried their best to kill me with an extreme reaction. Again we all knew that in earlier times Scarlet Fever was a killer.
The thing was in the 1950s and 1960s most children had measles. Sometimes more than once. Terribly some did die, although often there was an accompanying 'other cause'. I honestly can't remember any adults getting it because they, in their turn, had had these diseases in their childhood. More children had died in their day, before the introduction of anti-biotics.
My first child was born in 1971 and by now the Measles [single] vaccination had been introduced. There was no suggestion that there would be any contra indications to its use. My child had very severe eczema, which had necessitated hospital admission. The measles vaccination 'took' and caused a severe reaction. Child was OK eventually, but I vowed not to have any future children vaccinated against Measles.
Second child was born in 1975, by which time questions were being asked about the safety of the whooping cough vaccine. Yes that's right 1975. Even more so the medical profession were advising anyone with a family history of bad reaction to any vaccine, asthma and eczema not to have the vaccine. No 2 child had asthma. So Second Child didn't have the whooping cough vaccine, nor the measles. A lot of other parents were making the same decision. This child caught measles at the age of four and was not as ill as No 1 had been after the vaccine.
Last child arrived in 1987. By now the triple vaccine was in place: MMR = Measles, Mumps and Rubella. Many parents were concerned, some were asking if the vaccine could be given as three separate doses. Not on the NHS but the facility was there sometimes in the private sector. Children with a history [or family history ] of convulsions or epilepsy could be vaccinated in hospitals in single doses, depending on the policy of the area health authority. As usual I declined to have Last Child vaccinated. When this child was about two and a half I got a 'phone call from my GP suggesting I re-think and take up the vaccine. Last Child had been going through a series of bad ear infections and mumps was in the area. I decided to go ahead with the MMR 'jab' solely to get the mumps protection. When I arrived at the surgery the GP was surprised, he said he didn't need us anymore as his quota had been fulfilled...... Never the less Last child had the jab and had a bad reaction, with rash.....
In either 1992 or 1993 there was a campaign for booster jabs for measles for all school children. These jabs could only be administered through schools, and when I asked my GP if he could do it he explained that was not possible. In the end we had a homeopathic 'vaccination' and made ourselves very unpopular at the school [where Other Half was a governor] because they couldn't return a 100% score.
Now I know from reading up on the web that the type of vaccines has changed over the years, that booster shots are now recommended and that the pre-school 'booster' contains measles vaccine. Things have changed. But what hasn't changed is the way that information is disseminated to parents on these changes or on the vaccines and possible side effects. Are they getting enough of the 'right' information at the 'right' time? and what support is offered to children with ongoing health problems which may have been caused by a vaccine? If it is not believed a vaccine can caused a problem, how will it be investigated?
The outbreak of measles in Wales is being mostly blamed on the research published in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield which suggested a link between the MMR vaccination and autism [a claim by which Mr Wakefield still stands] although he believes that the single measles vaccine is safe. The Daily Mail, who publicised this claim in 1998, is also taking a share of the blame. But I would suggest that parents who were worried by the claims in the late 1990s should not now also be pillioried for not having their children vaccinated.
It is dreadful news that a young man of 25 has apparently died of the disease in Swansea. Yet this young man would have been a baby long before Andrew Wakefield's research came to light and when questions were already being asked about the safety of the MMR vaccine [see above] Like any so called 'childhood disease', measles is far more dangerous when contracted by an adult.
The S.Wales outbreak follows outbreaks in other parts of the UK last year and could be followed by more later this year. I wish everyone well. I would not know what to do if I had a young child now.