Sunday Express, April 1, 2001


Up to two million children were knowingly put at risk by the former Government with a vaccine which causes meningitis.

The MMR jab, known as the Urabe strain, was still approved by Tory ministers for two years after some children developed a form of meningitis after receiving it.

And the Government’s own figures show that 20,000 infants probably suffered side-effects from the drug which can also cause deafness, brain damage, loss of speech and epilepsy. A Sunday Express investigation has discovered that at least eight children died after receiving the jab and many others suffered permanent damage.

The brand of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was manufactured at that time by drug giants GlaxoSmithkline and Aventis Pasteur.

It was introduced in Britain in 1988 and given to up to one million children a year as part of the Governement’s routine vaccination programme.

In 1990, scientists from the Queen’s Medical Centre Nottingham found some children developed a form of meningitis after receiving it. But despite this the Government went on using it for more than two years.

The Canadian Government, also using the vaccine, immediately switched to a safer version. It was not until September 1992 that the UK Department of Health issued pharmacists with emergency supplies of a safer brand with instructions to withdraw existing batches.

The then Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth Calman insisted that giving children the vaccine had been safer than not doing so.

Research by The Sunday Express has found at least eight died and many suffered permanent damage including deafness, convulsions and speech problems - all known after-effects of meningitis. Jackie Fletcher from the pressure group JABS, which aims to highlight vaccine risks said: "The Urabe jab has affected a whole generation of children. I can’t believe the Government continued to use it when they knew they were risking lives."

GlaxoSmithkline is still selling the Urabe strain to Argentina, Chile, Haiti, Honduras and Lebanon. A Department of Health spokesman said that, according to its research, children did not suffer lasting effects. By Lucy Johnston