Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, called on Tony Blair yesterday to end the speculation over whether his baby, Leo, had received the MMR vaccination.
He spoke out after the Prime Minister issued a strongly worded condemnation of media intrusion into his private family affairs, but dropped a clear hint that 19-month-old Leo had been given the controversial combined jab against measles, mumps and rubella. Mr Kennedy told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Probably they have allowed this story to get slightly out of control by the way they have handled it over the last four days."
As Downing Street insisted that Tony and Cherie Blair would say no more on the issue, the Tory who confronted the Prime Minister in the Commons on the subject renewed her demand for him to come clean. Julie Kirkbride, MP for Bromsgrove, has refused to vaccinate her 14-month-old son. She said: "Tony Blair is masquerading behind a mask of privacy. The public want to see whether he practises what he preaches."
But the former Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, said: "They should keep their noses out of this. Every patient has a right to total confidentiality of their medical records."
Ministers have been under pressure over MMR – which the Government is a keen advocate of – amid fears that the triple vaccination is linked to autism and a bowel disease. They have repeatedly sidestepped challenges on the subject, insisting the press should respect their families' privacy.
Mr Blair was spurred in to drafting an unprecedented personal statement on Saturday evening after learning that two newspapers were investigating rumours that a member of Mrs Blair's family was autistic. The clear implication was the couple might not have given Leo the MMR vaccine as a result.
The Prime Minister attacked the "horrible and unjustified" reporting of the controversy, and added: "The suggestion that the Government is advising parents to have the MMR jab whilst we are deliberately refraining from giving our child the treatment because we know it is dangerous, is offensive beyond belief."
Mr Blair's statement added: "For the record, Cherie and I both entirely support the advice, as we have consistently said throughout. It is not true that we believe the MMR vaccine to be dangerous or believe that it is better to have separate injections, or believe that it is linked to autism."
He said they have never commented on the "medical health or treatment" of their children as that could lead the way to questions on a host of subjects from under-age sex to teenage drinking.
Jackie Fletcher, founder of the anti-MMR pressure group Jabs, said yesterday: "He has put his full weight behind the MMR programme, we just want to know whether he [Leo] has had that or not.
"We do not blame the Government but the medical advisers to the Department of Health. We don't want to blame the Government, we just want to know the truth."
Only the Health minister, Yvette Cooper, who has two children, has confirmed that they received the triple vaccine.
The Labour backbencher Ian Gibson has called on the Prime Minister to show some leadership on MMR to help "people who are confused about the issue take a decision which is very important for their children".Reuse content