It fact it is pro-vaccine/MMR political 'activists' like this that just help continue the cover-up of vaccine autism, playing politics with the lives and health of countless children. 'Provocative' is antagonism on the Tone scale. Methinks he protests too much. ]
The anti-MMR mothers who are putting us all in danger
Last updated at 10:19 PM on 11th August 2008
Measles can be a very serious - even fatal - disease, and it's on the rise as a result of lower uptake of the MMR vaccine. As the Government launches a campaign to encourage parents to give their children the jab, novelist Jonathan Myerson launches a highly provocative broadside at mothers who refuse to do so.
All parents want to do everything within their power to protect their children. It's hard-wired into us from that first moment we glimpse our newborn, slippery and struggling for breath.
But what do we do when most of the diseases which killed our grandparents' siblings have been eradicated and there really isn't much left from which to protect them?
The MMR panic hit Britain in 1998 as mothers shunned the jab over fears it caused autism
It seems that some people go out and find something else. A mother (and I feel this is a 'mother thing') has an urge to invent paper tigers that are slavering for a bite of her precious child, and then she fights them, baby tooth and baby nail.
It doesn't matter if the threat is non-existent - her evolutionary need to protect her child aggressively has been satisfied, and damn the consequences.
Which is exactly what happened when the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) panic hit Britain in 1998. Suddenly, mothers had something meaty to worry about. Would the MMR triple vaccine give their child autism? Had this thing of routine goodness turned into something malign and dangerous?
They sat in circles and sipped their coffee and made pacts to shun the MMR vaccine at all costs. And that was quite a cost. In the past two years, there have been almost 2,000 confirmed cases of measles in England - as many as in the previous ten years put together.
And it's not just a nasty rash and a fever - one case in ten develops serious complications, occasionally fatal. The Department of Health is having to channel extra money and effort into finding and vaccinating all the unprotected children.
So just how many of these children's mothers read the original paper in The Lancet by Andrew Wakefield, whose suggestions started the MMR scare? How many read Gillberg and Heijbel's 1998 study, which showed that there was no rise in the incidence of autism following the introduction of MMR in Sweden?
And how many knew, for instance, whether the British MMR uses the cheaper Urabe strain or the safer Jeryl Lynn strain of mumps vaccine?
I didn't know until I looked it up. And that's the point. I didn't expect to know.
When I knocked a chimney out of my house last year, did I reckon I knew better than my structural engineer? Did I tell him I'd read an article in the Sunday supplements recommending balsa wood instead of steel? I wouldn't be here if I had. So what on earth makes me think I should tell my doctor - who has studied for at least seven years to get where she is - that I know better.
The arrogance is stunning, the stupidity is off the scale. But give the mother of a newborn something to fight against and logic is history.
Of course, it's not Wakefield's fault. We rely on people like him to test the boundaries of medical orthodoxy. In this instance, he could not have been more wrong, but that doesn't invalidate his intentions.
No, we have to blame ourselves. The media gave Wakefield's study coverage well beyond its significance and then we all sat and talked about it like we knew what we were talking about.
It was the only study to show a possible link between bowel infections, autism and MMR, based on just 12 children. Yet mothers ran screaming in all directions, taking his word as gospel.
Nor is it a personal decision. We're all in this together - it's called herd immunity. Unless 95 per cent of us are immune, an epidemic is all too possible. Even the single vaccination option has a risk level beyond anything Wakefield claimed.
What is it about child medical scares that makes them so potent? Of course, a healthy dose of scepticism is no bad thing. More scepticism about Thalidomide or Vioxx - the painkiller allegedly linked to stroke - would have done no harm. But we also have an unavoidable duty to listen to the people who know more than us.
At the time, my wife and I simply asked our doctor if she was triple-vaccinating her own children. Armed with her simple 'Yes', I happily watched her vaccinate each of mine. And shame on all those parents who didn't.