Parents’ dilemma

THE sight of people queuing outside hospitals to ensure their children receive the MMR vaccination underlines the rightful level of public concern over the measles epidemic in Wales.

Prior to the introduction of the measles, mumps and rubella jab in 1988, about 100 children died from the disease each year. Even those who survive can still be left with serious and permanent complications, such as eye disorders, deafness or brain damage.

As such, the now discredited research in the late 1990s by surgeon Andrew Wakefield, which raised concerns over the jab’s safety and suggested it was linked to an increased risk of autism, has much to answer for in terms of the reluctance of parents to have their children inoculated, which has given rise to outbreaks such as that seen in Wales.

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Despite the NHS’s insistence that the vaccine is safe, it is understandable that the lingering seeds of doubt planted by Andrew Wakefield’s report have taken time to dissipate, while anxiety about the effect on young immune systems of giving all three vaccines in one injection has also had an impact on its take-up.

It is unfortunate, however, that it has taken an epidemic of this scale to convince parents that the importance of ensuring their children are shielded from life-threatening illnesses outweighs any risks – perceived or otherwise – of them receiving such protection.

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