'Horrific' experience leads some to take legal action

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The Independent Online
RICHARD Lancaster was given MMR vaccine at boarding school in May 1990. Within hours of returning home for his half-term holiday he was complaining of increasingly severe headaches and he started vomiting.

Within three days he was in hospital. 'He was flat out, unable to eat or drink. He was admitted at 4.30pm and by 11pm they confirmed he had meningitis,' said Richard's mother, Angela Lancaster. 'The second day was the worst. They were taking his temperature every five minutes; it was very high. It was four days before we were able to take him home.'

Even then he suffered headaches for five weeks, so severe on one occasion, his mother says, he was crying and screaming with pain. 'My son was very unwell,' Mrs Lancaster said. Unusually, Richard was 13 when he was vaccinated, two years older than the recommended top age, but like other, younger children who developed meningitis, his case was investigated by a Department of Health doctor.

His family also considered taking legal action but as Richard recovered and there was no evidence of neurological damage, they decided not to proceed.

But their solicitor, Richard Barr, of King's Lynn, a specialist in compensation cases, is representing another family from the North of England whose five-year- old son was left profoundly deaf after meningitis following MMR vaccination.

'These families have had a horrific time . . . there have been a lot of rumblings about whether the vaccine should have been taken off the market earlier,' Mr Barr said.

Another family in Oxford is reported to have started legal action after they claim their child was brain damaged.

The MMR vaccines were added to the child immunisation programme in 1988 and there have been intermittent reports of adverse reactions to them since.

Last month the Department of Health reported record numbers of children being vaccinated and in 1991, for the first time, no deaths in England and Wales from measles or whooping cough.

Government figures reveal that 92 per cent of children received MMR vaccines and 90 per cent whooping cough vaccine.