Re: MMR worst case scenario: worth the risk? 8 June 2005
John Stone,
London N22

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Re: Re: MMR worst case scenario: worth the risk?

Andrew Papanikitas's quoted figure of 1-2 deaths per 1,000 measles cases seems rather high, and does not as far as I am able to ascertain reflect the conditions in 1988 when MMR was introduced in the UK. I do not have official figures for measles incidence, but I quote the health minister of that time Edwina Currie's remarks to Panorama 'Every Parent's Choice' in 1998:

"We had 47,000 cases the year before [1987], we were heading for 80,000 cases in 1988. Measles is a killer. In fact in 1988 we lost 15 children who were killed by measles, all of whom were preventable, and we felt that the case was overwhelming for having a go." [1]

This is quite confusing but the official death toll in 1987 for measles was 6 [2], which on the Currie figure of 47,000 cases gives a death rate of just over 1 in 8,000. Edwina only gives the projected figure for 1988, but 1988 was presumably the first year to benefit from MMR, and yet the death toll went up to 15 (16 according to official figures [2]). Of course, we had monovalent vaccination against measles in 1987. Nor is there information about how many cases and how many of the fatalities were vaccinated in each instance, and with what.

None of this, however, substantiates 1-2 deaths per 1,000. Is it not remarkable how difficult real information is to get hold of?


[2] National Statistical Office CD ROM 'Twentieth Century Mortality' - England & Wales.

Competing interests: Autistic son