Mothers lose fight to choose whether children get MMR

Two mothers have lost a bitter legal battle to prevent their daughters from being immunised with the MMR vaccine.

Three Court of Appeal judges ruled yesterday that the two girls, aged four and 10, should receive the measles, mumps and rubella jab, against the wishes of their mothers.

Both fathers of the girls want them to have the MMR vaccine and several other routine immunisations for which their mothers have also refused consent. The judges upheld last month's High Court ruling in the fathers' favour, saying it was in the girls' best interests to be vaccinated.

Mr Justice Sedley, said the mothers' claims that MMR was unsafe were based on "junk science". Another judge, Lord Justice Thorpe, said the High Court ruling was "above criticism". He added: "What is plain is that ultimately these applications were decided by applying the paramount consid- eration of the welfare of the two children involved."

Campaigners said the case set a dangerous precedent of state intervention in family life and parental decision making. Jackie Fletcher, founder of the Jabs support group for vaccine-damaged children, said: "This decision will be abhorrent to most parents. This is denying parents a choice, and their right to make decisions about their own children.

"If the state is going to intervene in this way, then the Prime Minister should come clean and tell us whether his son Leo has had MMR, or single vaccines, or nothing."

The High Court rejected suggestions that the two girls could receive single vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella, saying that the gap needed between the jabs would leave them vulnerable to infection.

Scores more parents who are divided over whether to give their children the MMR vaccine are now expected to take their arguments to the High Court.

The two women are estranged from their former partners and have raised their daughters alone. Neither can be named for legal reasons. They are concerned over the safety of vaccines, particularly MMR, and suggestions that it is linked to autism and bowel disorders.

The mother of the four-year-old girl is a trainee midwife in her late thirties and has spent 10 years studying holistic medicine. She is determined not to accept the ruling and has vowed to take the case to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights.

Isabella Thomas, of Jabs, said: "She is in shock at the moment. She is very, very scared and adamant that her daughter will not go to have the vaccinations. She will not accept it. She said: 'Are they going to tell me what schools [the child] will go to as well?'"

Under the ruling, the four-year-old will be given MMR, as well as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and meningitis C.

The mother of the 10-year-old girl and her partner separated a year into their relationship, shortly after the birth of their daughter. She then discovered that he had served a prison sentence for the attempted rape of an 11-year-old girl. He has since married and has young children.

The 42-year-old woman said: "This man has never paid a penny for her [the daughter's] support and I've not chased it up because I don't want anything to do with him. He has never so much as sent her a birthday or Christmas card.

"But he keeps trying to get at me, through her, and I believe this court action over the MMR vaccine is just another step in that direction. I'm the one who brought her up, fed her, cared for her, and loved her, but I don't seem to have any say in any of this at all."

The judge in the original ruling, Mr Justice Sumner, knew of the man's previous conviction but deemed it irrelevant. He also heard evidence from the 10-year-old girl herself that she did not want the MMR jab, but said she may have been unduly influenced by her mother.

The woman is thought to have decided to accept the ruling and allow her daughter to be vaccinated. She will receive MMR, polio, tetanus, diphtheria and tuberculosis vaccinations.

More than 1,500 families are taking legal action against manufacturers of MMR, claiming it has damaged their children. The case is due to be heard early next year.