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More on Vaccinations

When I finished this newsletter, there was a special report on A Current Affair [Jan. 30] about two families, whose children developed autistic symptoms after receiving MMR -measles, mumps, rubella - vaccination.

The following is from the ACA website:
Vaccination: a stab in the dark?

30 January 2001
Reporter: Rachel Friend

With the government and health authorities pouring millions of dollars into the promotion of child immunisation, Australia now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, more than 90 percent.

But now a British report - supported by some Australian doctors - claims the shot for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) may cause serious illnesses such as autism. It says there has been inadequate testing of the MMR vaccine.

A Current Affair spoke to two sets of Australian parents who say their children started showing symptoms of autism after receiving the MMR vaccine.

Peter and Heather Jennings say their daughter Kate was a normal one-year-old but in the weeks after her MMR vaccine she deteriorated, losing all her communication and motor neurone skills. She has now been diagnosed as autistic.

Sharon and Tony Balloch tell a similar story about their daughter Moale. She has been diagnosed as autistic but her parents say prior to the MMR vaccine she was a normal little girl.

Professor John Ziegler, head of immunisation at Sydney's Children's Hospital at Randwick, says he can appreciate that these parents are very distressed about their children's condition but that there is no evidence to prove a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

"We've got historical data where children have been followed for a number of years, children who have been immunised at the choice of their parents and children who didn't receive the vaccine. These children have been followed over a number of years and there's no difference in the incidence of either of those conditions," he says.

But a team led by Dr Andrew Wakefield from the Royal Free Hospital in London believes there could be a link.

"There is no doubt if you give three viruses together then you potentially increase the risk of an adverse event occurring, particularly when one of those viruses influences the immune system in the way measles does," says Dr Wakefield.

After following more than 100 children, Dr Wakefield believes the vaccine may damage the intestines, allowing toxins into the bloodstream. When those toxins reach the brain of a developing child, he says the result may well be autism.

Dr Mark Donohoe, a Sydney GP, says parents deserve to be fully informed before they make any decisions about vaccination.

"We need to make sure people know there is a risk - if your child becomes autistic, develops bowel syndrome or arthritis, you need to know what caused it It's not the fault of the doctor or authorities, it's just the price you pay for having a vaccination program," he says.

But Dr Wakefield and Dr Donohoe agree that the risk of complication could be greatly reduced if the vaccines are administered individually.

Professor Ziegler says there would still be downsides to that strategy. He says it would involve giving three times the number of injections, which would increase the possibility of something going wrong, such as parents forgetting or not organising to have the vaccine.

The report was visually very effective, as one of the sets of parents had lots of videos of their daughter prior to the vaccination - graphic proof of the dramatic changes. The little girl was the most active, vivacious, even precocious little person we are likely to meet. Now, she does not talk, can't walk for more than a few steps before siting down, fatigued.

Of course, on the same web site, there was the official government statement, disclaiming the whole thing.

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