Thursday, November 04, 2004
Get a grip
Because of all the excitement about the US presidential election, this story did not receive the media attention it deserved.
There is a high risk of a measles epidemic in London this winter because of a low uptake of the MMR vaccine (which provides a 3-in-1 protection against measles, mumps and rubella). Only 62% of toddlers in south-east London have been immunised over the past year. 95% is the figure recommended to provide 'herd immunity' (a charming phrase). There have already been outbreaks in Britain this year of measles and mumps.
Parents have been frightened away from immunising their children because of an unfounded scare story that claimed the MMR vaccine caused autism. This claim has been completely discredited by fresh scientific research.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the idiots running the campaign against the MMR vaccine are still at it. This campaign is a symptom of a more fundamental and disturbing political trend; the belief that personal testimony trumps science, that feelings trump reason and that emotion trumps rationality. In the case of MMR, this unreason may cause the unnecessary and preventable deaths of dozens of children.
In December 2001, Tony Blair refused to be drawn when he was challenged over whether his baby son Leo had received the MMR jab. Blair turned down an opportunity to show some moral leadership on this issue.
The more our leaders cave in to this sort of illogical campaign, the worse it will get. Our politicians need to regain their critical faculties. Just because some people start a pressure group, it doesn't necessarily mean they are right.
My previous posting lamented the demise of enlightenment values in the USA. In Britain, the enlightenment is threatened not by religious fundamentalism but by the exaltation of 'feelings' over reason.
Our children need the MMR jab and the more credulous of their parents need a good slap.