Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Compulsory Vaccinations?

Sir Sandy Macara, former chairman of the British Medical Association believes that childhood vaccinations should be compulsory and that the means of enforcing them should be by making vaccination a requirement for school entry.
Specifically, Sir Sandy wants all children to have to have the MMR vaccine (triple vaccine) whether their parents consent, or not.
The MMR vaccine has been the subject of controversy in the UK since it's introduction in 1988. The then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, famously refused to confirm or deny that his youngest child, Leo, had received it.
Part of the controversy has been about alleged links to autism, or other effects such as convulsions,loss of speech, fits, even, death. In the case linked here, one mother whose child died having had the vaccine, said

"During Hannah's illness I always felt there was a connection with the MMR vaccine, but my opinion was either dismissed by doctors or they genuinely appeared not to know.

Just after she died, I had another letter saying that the MMR link was unproven, and I became very angry. I believed that they wanted to get rid of this 'problem'.

So, we went to appeal, deciding to represent ourselves.

Four months later, we received a letter which included the following: 'Hannah Buxton was disabled as a result of a vaccination to which the claim relates.' It also stated: 'The tribunal found it particularly significant that the reaction to the MMR vaccination was exactly at the expected period of time following this vaccination. This reaction was severe and prolonged, and therefore the development and progress were halted and if anything, deteriorated to a marked and obvious extent. We know this evidence is uncontested and to our minds argues strongly in favour of the award.'

In other words, the Government had not argued against the case and were admitting liability.

The most important thing for me is that someone had confirmed what I had always suspected - that the MMR had caused this; that MMR had done so much damage to the brain that she became severely handicapped, and started having fits."

Another part of the controversy concerns the ethics around the use of vaccinations prepared from cells that are derived from aborted foetuses, as in the case of the Rubella component of this vaccine.

In 2005, the Pontifical Academy for Life published a useful guide " Moral Reflections on Vaccines prepared from cells derived from aborted Human Foetuses"

Here is the brief summary:

-there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems;

- as regards the vaccines without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one’s own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole – especially for pregnant women;

- the lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should not be misinterpreted as a declaration of the lawfulness of their production, marketing and use, but is to be understood as being a passive material cooperation and, in its mildest and remotest sense, also active, morally justified as an extrema ratio due to the necessity to provide for the good of one’s children and of the people who come in contact with the children (pregnant women);

- such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice, which must be eliminated as soon as possible.

Wouldn't it be more acceptable to allow parents the choice of separate vaccines against the diseases of measles, mumps and rubella, thus avoiding the risk of serious damage to children? In some countries MMR has been banned because of the damage it can do. Separate vaccines would also allow parents to consider more carefully, the morality of using individual vaccines where they are concerned about ethical issues, instead of being almost forced to act against their consciences.

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