Commentary By Dr Helen Bedford, Child Health Scientist

The Sun, 7 Feb 2002 

AS a mother of two young boys I understand how concerned and frightened some parents must be feeling about the MMR vaccine.

No parent wants to take any risk with their child. Both my boys, aged six and nine, have had two doses of MMR and if I had to take them to be immunised tomorrow I would.

I have been a vaccine specialist for 16 years and I firmly believe MMR is the most effective way of protecting children against these diseases.

If enough children are immunised, babies too young to get the Jab and children who can’t have it — such as those with cancer — will also be protected.

With MMR we have seen a huge drop in cases of measles, mumps and rubella. Some countries have no cases at all any more.

Because we see so little of these diseases we have forgotten how serious they can be. Many young doctors have difficulty recognising measles, which can be fatal.

In the past couple of years there have been major outbreaks in Ireland and Holland in which six children have died, and there have been other complications like pneumonia and inflammation of the brain.

There seems to have been a rise in the number of children with autism, but actually we have changed our views on what autism is and are also better at counting it.

One reason why parents link autism with the MMR is that the condition tends to become apparent at around the same time of the jab. People think one must have led to the other.

The whole MMR controversy began four years ago when doctors from the Royal Free Hospital, North West London, published a paper describing 12 children who showed behavioural problems and bowel problems.

Since then many parents have been frightened by MMR and a great deal of research has gone on to try to find a link.

But this is still the only paper that has even suggested a link between MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease. There’s a fallacy that we should "go back" to single vaccines but we have never given these for children in this age group.


And no country in the world that uses MMR — more than 90 of them — offers parents a choice. A single jab plan is untried, untested and is second best for protecting our children.

Why abandon a highly effective vaccine with a good safety record in favour of something that is untried and untested?

Parents should talk to their doctors and not worry about what politicians do or don’t do. This is far too important an issue for that.

Dr HELEN BEDFORD is a Child Health Scientist from the Institute of Child Health, at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.