Letter: Children and MMR

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Sir: I strongly support your leading article (11 June) on the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, calling for the availability of single vaccines. I am medically qualified and a parent of a child with Crohn's disease. The cause of Crohn's disease (a chronic inflammatory bowel disease which has no current cure) is unknown. There are probably genetically susceptible individuals in whom an environmental trigger or triggers start the disease. There has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of this disease in children in the last 20 years (about fivefold).

My son first developed symptoms of the disease about eight weeks after an MMR booster at age 13. His great-uncle also suffered from the disease most of his life. Had I known then what I now know of the uncertainties surrounding the cause of the disease I would not have agreed to the combined vaccine for my child. For a male who has already had mumps and to whom rubella can pose no possible threat, how can it be justified to expose him deliberately to these viral antigens? Single measles vaccine may well be justified because of the severity of that disease.

I am well aware it is impossible to prove a negative, and I simply accept we do not know if there is an association with MMR vaccine.

It may be convenient from a public health perspective only to offer triple MMR vaccine but is this ethical if it may not be in the best interests of certain children, such as those with a family history of an inflammatory bowel disease?

The one-size-fits-all policy of the Department of Health may make economic sense but if it is not in some children's best interests then it is ethically dubious and it cannot be right not to have the single vaccines available.