Friday, June 16, 2006

MMR - what do the Doctors and Politicans children have ?

Boy in a Shed ( my six year old son ) had the MMR shortly after the photo on the right was taken. I can't say I noticed a sharp change in him then, but gradually a bit latter in time he engaged a little less with people directly and his language was very delayed and is still a problem. It really is hard to be sure if anything changed - or if he just didn't develop as he should have done. In short this lead, after years of pushing, to his getting a statement of special educational needs ( the magic document you need to get help in the British system ) and latter to a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (know as ASD – its a wide range).

However, I watched the argument on MMR now with some interest. I'm not fully convinced either way, but I think the firm balance of probability comes down against MMR being the reason for the increase in Autism. (But I'm not a medical researcher – so what do I really know ? ) We let our second child have both sets of MMR injections ( the second for our daughter after knowing about the ASD diagnosis for our son ).

The reason for mentioning this is that vaccination rates in the UK – and especially Surrey and Sussex have dropped to such low levels that measles is starting to make a come back. The Doctors are reminding us on TV and in notes from School what a nasty disease measles can be and pushing for people to take up the MMR vaccination.

Its hard to measure and evaluate risk – especially when family is involved. And to put it mildly I don't trust official government advice. But I take the medical profession more seriously and they are shouting fire right now.

John Gummer got into a lot of trouble for feeding his daughter a beefburger on camera during the BSE outbreak. However, in many ways this is exactly what we want to see. Doctors and Politicians what's good enough for your children? -( note the link here describes a report by Direct Health 2000 who promote the use of single vaccine and profit by that- I have my doubts about how valid what is reported there is - but I include it as many parents will have read such articles ). Remember the outcry about Leo Blair's MMR jab, where he appeared to only have the MMR jab after reporters started asking about it and latter than is normal. I have sympathy for Tony and Cherie Blair on this ( and I won't be saying that often ), however what the public needs is the same leadership that John Gummer provided.

The irony is that now it looks like MMR, where the Blairs may have hesitated, is probably safe – (see comments on survey in Japan in this link), and the hamburger was more of a risk ! Just because you've weighed up the risks doesn't mean you or your child won't suffer from your decision. We have delayed taking Boy in a Shed for his MMR boaster for that reason. In my head I believe its safe, but can't stand the risk that we might make his situation deteriorate any further. We will probably have his boaster after teenage years have set in and the last major set of brain development has finished.

Given that ASD is now seen to run at up to 1 child in 150 there should be a supply of parents who are also medics and politicians who should come forward with their views on MMR. Maybe an enterprising journalist could do the survey – but of course the problem is that news is only interesting when its dramatic, so if such a survey showed the professionals really do support MMR – with the health of their children – it might never get published widely.

There is the a more sinister interpretation of the facts. That MMR is seen by the government and medical establishment as the lesser of two evils. Looking at how they treat their own children should help establish this – and what I've seen so far isn't all that reassuring.

What's the point of saying all this ?

  1. The link between Autism and MMR looks far from proven to me – despite having a child with ASD. That between measles and some very nasty outcomes is not.

  2. The Doctors and Health car officials should try and understand how hard these issues are for people. Sometimes the approach taken is very forceful and condescending. The independent survey I suggest of uptake of MMR amongst medical professionals children might help, or alarm. It would certainly inform.

  3. Its parents who have to live with the results of these decisions – for the rest of their lives.

  4. I'm still not sure on this issue, but a decision is needed and our decision has been to have our son immunised with MMR, before it became apparent that he would be classified with ASD, and his younger sister has had both MMR shots. He will have his booster latter on – and we will live with the consequences.

Sorry if this rambles a little - I don't have more time to work on it - but wanted to convey the feelings of the dilemma many of us are in.

PS – Boy in a Shed is doing fine thanks to some very helpful doctors, speech therapists, his school, his classmates – who are great, and his sister. A mention in dispatches also for Surrey LEA – who mostly draw fire from anxious parents, but in our case have eventually done their stuff.

2 comments:

Dr John Crippen said...

Excellent post, if I may say.


First, for the record, all four of my children have had MMR x 2.

Secondly, do have a look at Left Brain/Right Brain at http://www.kevinleitch.co.uk/wp/home.php if you have not already and tie up with Kevin

BW

John

Man in a shed said...

John,

Thanks for your encouragement and the link.