MMR Scare

Tony Blair has informed his countrymen that they face "an existential threat" from terror; and that is, of course, precisely what they want us to think, because they are determined to rush through all sorts of "anti-terror" legislation, such as ID cards and the end of habeas corpus
That is why it was so wonderful to read the truth on the front of yesterday's Daily Telegraph, that the world is getting safer and safer, and that there are 40 per cent fewer conflicts than in the 1990s, and that terrorism is certainly not the greatest threat to humanity.
The MMR is safe - what other scare stories are nonsense? So when are we getting an apology? That's what I want to know. I realise it is a faint hope, but if there were any decency in journalism the Daily Mail would now be clearing its front page and grovelling to the British public. If there were an ounce of scruple, the beasts of Derry Street would now be making a pilgrimage to the Department of Health, shuffling forwards on their knees and flagellating themselves with copies of their brutal cellulite-obsessed publication. If these monsters had any sense of accountability they would man the Tube stations, like sellers of the Big Issue, handing out leaflets explaining their error; and if I have mentioned this subject before, you must forgive me, because it really gets my goat. Yesterday, all the newspapers carried a fascinating story, a good news story, namely that fears over the MMR vaccine were unfounded. In 1998 there had been a scare that there was a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the onset of childhood autism. And in the ensuing panic, whipped up by the tabloid press, millions of anxious parents decided not to give their children the vaccine, with the result that there was a significant uptick in the incidence of those diseases. Now, thank heavens, it seems that the link is non-existent, that it is safe to give your baby the jab. So all the newspapers reported yesterday; all, that is, except one. There is not even a paragraph, not a blob, not a brief in the Daily Mail. This is the paper that helped to cause panic in thousands of households that read and trusted and admired its journalism. This is the paper that assiduously fanned the flames of that panic, that decided to turn MMR into one of its campaigns, and now it won't even publish a sentence debunking the story. Is it because it is too proud to admit that it was wrong, or is it because it doesn't want to let the facts get in the way of a good panic? I hope that tomorrow the Daily Mail does carry this news, not just for the elucidation of its poor readers, but mainly because this implicit retraction would be good for the paper's soul; and since the Mail is admired across what was once called Fleet Street, it would be good for the media as a whole. The main reason why the Mail should publish the good news about MMR and autism is that it would help deter them, and others, from ramping up such panics in future. I don't know how you feel about these stories of bird flu from China, and the question of whether it can be passed from chicken to human being. As far as I can tell the only victims are the poor Thai fighting-cock enthusiasts who have engaged in direct osculation with their birds, in an effort to revive them for the fight. We have not yet seen a single example of transmission from one human being to another. And so as soon as I saw that chief medical officer on the television, warning that there would be 50,000 casualties in this country, and that it was a question of when, not if, the calamity befell us, I was irresistibly reminded of the great BSE fiasco. In case you have forgotten, there were scientists at that time who were going on the telly and warning us that it would be necessary to construct new hospices on every street corner, such would be the ubiquity of Variant CJD. They said the dead would run into hundreds of thousands. We're all at risk, they said. The average Brit has eaten 40 infected meals a year. So we panicked; the media panicked; the Government panicked, and soon half a million cows had been slaughtered and burnt. The taxpayer coughed up more than £5 billion and the British beef industry was more or less wiped out. How many confirmed cases of vCJD have there been in the last 15 years? There have been 157, and the incidence is tailing off, and we are still not quite sure of the link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In so far as I harbour any long-term resentment over that episode, it is not so much against the scientists, but against what was then the Labour opposition, who did so much to whip up hysteria against British beef. The media should realise that there will always be politicians ready to give an alarmist quote, to demand action, to call for a ban; and it should be the job of the media to be cynical, because sometimes politicians find public alarm very convenient. We were recently told by Baroness Scotland, for instance, that Britain was "facing the gravest threat this nation has ever faced". Tony Blair has informed his countrymen that they face "an existential threat" from terror; and that is, of course, precisely what they want us to think, because they are determined to rush through all sorts of "anti-terror" legislation, such as ID cards and the end of habeas corpus, that greatly expand the power of the state and remove the immemorial liberties of the British people. That is why it was so wonderful to read the truth on the front of yesterday's Daily Telegraph, that the world is getting safer and safer, and that there are 40 per cent fewer conflicts than in the 1990s, and that terrorism is certainly not the greatest threat to humanity. Remember, O you titans of the media, that when you ratchet up a panic you are not only doing the work of bossy politicians; you are also making inevitable new laws and new regulations, and with new regulations come thousands of new public sector employees, charged with policing them. The Mail yesterday had a terrific attack on the failure to contain public sector pensions, and the explosion in the number of state officials. Correct! But think how often, by joining in panic journalism, the tabloids have boosted the cries for health and safety legislation which is, of course, a prime cause of that public sector expansion. Let the Mail think of its own role in the problems the economy faces... but, first, a full apology for the MMR scare.

59 thoughts on “MMR Scare”

  1. The tragedy about the MMR scare is not that there was concern over the triple jab (and still is about multiple jabs and those containing mercury as a preservative), but that the government would address those concerns by allowing single jabs. It simply said there’s no problem so you MUST use this jab or go without. There was no choice for the public.

    Demand for single jabs is still huge and most doctors surgeries do not provide this option even if you pay. Mnay parents have gone abroad. Unscrupulous people have made a fast buck in this country by injecting children with poorly kept vaccines and in one reported case, just tap water. So parents are left between a rock and a hard place – take the chance with a multiple jab or take the chance with private treatment that’s poorly regulated. Or do nothing.

    My son has had high allergic reactions from birth. At one point he stopped breathing it was so severe. He has been vaccinated with one containing mercury based preservative and reacted badly. Aged 5 the school now believes he may be in the autistic spectrum. I’m not so sure (let’s face it, his mums not exactly run of the mill) Neither of my children have had the MMR. I won’t tempt fate and possibly make a situation worse. I’ve asked all over the place for single jabs but have no confidence in back street private venues and my GP won’t do it.

    The governments line is that they can’t rely on parents to ensure their children have all three. I remain insulted and my children unprotected. If anyone knows where I can vaccinate my children with single jabs I will pay and travel.

    The tragedy is not that concerns have been expressed about a vaccine, but that not everyone may suit it and the government allows no choice.

  2. I smell a rat here. For I learned in the Times today that the Daily Mail, which had apparently suported Kenneth Clarke for Tory leader, had run an editorial calling for David Cameron to own up over drugs:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3284-1833644,00.html

    That’s interesting. And having read that, I can’t read this piece in the same way now. I know Boris Johnson is cheerleading for David Cameron, so doesn’t the MMR affair give him a darn good excuse to throw dirt at a newspaper that’s put his man on the spot?

    The MMR scare was bogus; and Kenneth Clarke would most probably make a very bad party leader. But that’s not the point: the point is it’s difficult to take this piece at this time at face value.

    What I say is that what goes for the “titans of the media” also goes for the pipsqueaks of the media. The Spectator may not be a high-circulation publication, but it can’t dodge the same obligations.

    I eagerly await a Spectator issue where Boris Johnson gives a “full apology” to the public and “grovels” for *anything* he’s printed. (And the fake and all-too-interested apology over Liverpool doesn’t count.)

  3. Fact 1) The report of a new cause for panic sells newspapers.

    Fact 2) The Government have never wavered, ( for once), on this controversial issue. It is the utmost national importance that epidemics are avoided , by the use of best available medical practice, and the best available practice in this case, was , and is ,the MMR injection.

    The point is, that no matter how many times a factual report is made,on whatever subject; if there is one doubter present; it will be the
    “knowledgeable” doubter’s word which will gain most credence. It is , unfortunately, a part of the human condition for the herd to follow an assertive leader, and the Mail is assertive, if it’s nothing else.

    How many children have fallen ill , and suffered the nasty side effects of , for instance measles, due to the lack of this easy to administer, multi purpose jab? Further, how much of that illness might be due to the interference in National Medical affairs, by the tabloid press. The least the Mail can do now , is to apologise,( better late than never), and loudly, and think before acting in future.

  4. Very true Mac

    I saw the tiny article in the Daily Mail today, buried in the middle somewhere and I understood what Boris was saying about alarmist news.

    I distrust scientists anyway so am taking all this with a pinch of salt.

  5. Melissa

    I’m sorry to criticise you as our cyber-chatelaine (I’m sure the other guests agree with me that the hospitality is first class) but I wonder if your distrust of scientists means that you never fly, use a phone etc. etc.. Theories are always contingent (see Karl Popper) but scientific approaches are always truth seeking even if they never hit it on the nose. It’s a bit like the weather forecasting. We always remember when one of them gets it really wrong (the bloke that said that there was no hurricane in 1987) but always remember when some old yokel with a bit of seaweed gets it right for once. Science like politics, suffers from spin but that is not usually put there by the best, often fairly temperamentally modest practioners.

    I’ve nothing against yokels being an East Anglian myself by the way.

  6. Not that I read the national press, but I believe many of them have been covering a story about the wrangling over the leadership of a minor political party.

  7. I think there’s a good point lurking somewhere in Boris’ article, concerning the way certain groups like the media, politicians, etc. peddle alarmism.

    However as someone who believes in civil liberties (and choice) I agree with jaq that the government was incorrect to respond to the alarm by restricting choice.

    I also would like to suggest that Boris is asserting a rather lazy position in saying that the MMR triple-jab has been proven to be safe. In fact scientists would never be able to prove that a particular treatment will be completely safe to all people at all times. What they do establish is that it is impossible (at this stage, using known techniques) to prove that there is a link between the MMR triple-jab and autism, and that if there is such a risk it is negligible in relation to the risk of contracting MM or R. This is not quite the same thing. I can understand that tabloid newspapers sum it up as “MMR proved safe” but am somewhat surprised that Boris peddles this simplification.

  8. Jack Ramsey

    Ok perhaps that was a bit of a wild throwaway comment about distrust of science. I would certainly encourage scientific development and research but can’t help feeling sceptical about the latest conclusions from trials reported in the Lancet and the press. Only time will tell in many cases – we are all guinea pigs in many ways.

    I am ready to be converted, however, so keep plugging away Jack. Go all scientists!

  9. Melissa

    On the other hand your distrust of mdedical research may not be ill founded. In his book Irrationality, Stuart Sutherland showed how well regarded and honest researchers in the medical field made such basic errors in their understanding of probability theory that their conclusions could not be supported by their experimental evidence. If an engineer or scientist makes a similar mistake it tends to come back and haunt them in a rather ‘in your face’ manner.

  10. I think the point has been buried under the pile of vested interests shown here.
    This Government, for all its faults, is able to do no right for doing wrong. The vast majority of children , as far as can be evaluated, fall under the ” safe to receive MMR inocculation ” banner .

    The problem arises when large numbers of mothers are incited by the Press’s unwise reporting of specialized medical matters, to rebel against conformity, thus creating doubt in the good intentions of the NHS, and thus medical profession as a whole.

    The resultant refusals, by concerned mothers, to have their children treated, escalate and the resultant gaps in protection allow one or other of these diseases to get a hold , sometimes with dreadful consequences. Demands for individual treatment for a specific child or children tend to overstretch the already stretched NMS resources , and children suffer the often unpleasant consequences.

    In the NHS, an overworked and often underappreciated service , there are limits as to what can be done , due to the fact that resources are finite. This does not mean that human life , or the quality thereof , would knowingly be endangered by the practice of poor medicine. The advice is given by leading scientists; and practiced by the physicians / surgeons a the leading edge of medicine in this country.

    The popular press was the culprit here, not, ( for once ), the Government

    In a world of imperfection, we are indeed lucky to have the NHS , including its imperfections.

  11. Bryan

    Quite right! The actual statement of a scientific result has a good deal of contingency in it – “If A and B then these results would only have been observed in less than 1% of cases”. Throw in concepts like ‘safe’ and most one line statements about most things are either meaningless or wrong. But there is scientific knowledge, however contingent, and on the whole it works for the good of humanity. When people are under ‘political’ pressure to get ‘an interesting result’ or publish 3 journal papers a year then soem may buckle, but on the whole it still serves us. However like the other concerns voiced in this e-parlour, the opportunity for good scientists to do good science may be in need of defence.

  12. As someone has already pointed out – so safe that they are now withdrawing mercury content.

    I for one am not convinced that vaccination is “safe”. It may be less dangerous for society as a whole than the alternative of non-vaccination but that is quite a different matter.

    Boris has a sunny disposition – long may that remain so, but sometimes the gloom squad are right.

  13. Mr Johnson’s article rightly calls for the ‘Daily Mail’ to issue an apology for its MMR campaign, which consistently misrepresented the extent of support within the scientific and medical community for Andrew Wakefield’s flawed hypothesis. It would be very helpful if he could also call for a front-page apology from ‘The Daily Telegraph’ for its editorial line on climate change which has been promoting the equally unrepresentative view that greenhouse gas emissions are not the cause of climate change. Time and again, Telegraph leaders and op-eds have ignored the excellent news articles by Roger Highfield, which have been documenting the mounting evidence that greenhouse gas emissions are causing a rise in global average temperatures. Fortunately, the chief promulgator of this extreme position, Neil Collins, has now moved on to the ‘Evening Standard’, but it would be nice if the Telegraph could now openly admit how misguided its editorial line on climate change has been. Perhaps Mr Johnson could have a word with that nice Mr Newland? As long as we keep pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world is going to experience increasingly damaging effects from climate change, such as more powerful hurricanes, and will not be “getting safer and safer” as Mr Johnson suggests.

    Bob Ward
    Senior Manager, Policy Communication
    The Royal Society

  14. Good point Bob.

    Perhaps Boris could put pressure on the government to address the power stations we have and invest in updating them for more efficient models rather than mooting a large nuclear expansion prog.

    The government has brought in a recycling initiative and in my MBC we’ll be getting wheelie bins next year but look how long they’ve been in power, it’s taken them long enough to provide a recycling facility. Apparently Worcs council (I think) is ringing around to try to find someone to dispose of thier rubbish. And another council has tons of toxic ash containing carcenagenic materials and heavy metals in open bags on a car park! You won’t be seeing those little gems in the news.

    I also think pressure could be put on supermarkets with regard to packaging and packaging choices. It would be so easy for the government to do this…..if of course they wouldn’t endanger a party donation from said supermarket!

  15. Boris

    There is a dicussion going on over on The Daily Ablution about whether you should hire Scott Burgess, the blog host, as a regular columnist for the Speccie. We suggest a “Blog Life” weekly column to add to your “High Life”; “Low-Life” etc., columns. As a long-standing subscriber to the Speccy, I for one would be tickled pink to find him there each week over Friday Breakfast.
    See: http://dailyablution.blogs.com/the_daily_ablution/2005/10/new_philistines.html

    His politics are ideal and his prose is perfect for the Mag.

  16. Boris, your criticisms of the government for acting in an elitest manner and siding with their traditional allies, the unions, over the public sector pension dispute, might carry more weight with me if you were not currently promoting an Eton man with no apparent right wing credentials for the Conservative party leadership. As a loyal ‘Spectator’ reader I do not appreciate this great publication being turned into a propaganda pamphlet for David Cameron, nor am I enamoured by the fact that Simon Heffer has so far had no right to reply to Cameron’s spurious assertion (1st October) that his views encapsulate all the tories problems.

    I am certainly not going to resort to buying the ‘Daily Mail’ in order to read Heffer’s views, as I believe their appalling scaremongering and hysterical tone creates an almost unreadably bad newspaper. However if you agree with me about that, you could have distinguished yourself rather better by saying so before the general election; but of course you couldn’t because your votes depend so greatly on it, as Stephen Glover points out in this week’s Speccie. Instead you wait until now to launch an attack on them, coincidentally just as they are battering your new golden boy. I expect better, sir.

  17. Frank P – good idea on blog life!

    Joe Flynn – you are right to expect better. I have every confidence that things do get better every day – for Boris and the Speccie and the Conservative Party

  18. I feel sorry for anybody who wakes up in the morning and goes down to breakfast with a copy of The Mail on their table along with the morning meal. I have to agree with you Boris the Mail should apologise but in their world of sensational journalism and live for the moment and only the moment attitude will ensure they never do that! The reason I feel sorry for most mail readers is not that they are subjected to so much mindless trollop but that I fear many of them don’t realise it! How can we blame them? Do they not have a right to a media that it not spreading half-truths and over playing any little bit of evidence it comes across.

    Could the spectator not run an article on this issue? To explain just how often publications like the mail hype up problems that never happen! – Or would that be journalistic suicide.

  19. Jack Ramsey,
    I agree with you. Science serves us well. However if we look back at certain scientific and medical practices in centuries past, we often do so with horror. It is obvious that future generations will also look back in horror on some of our current practices. This is the nature of scientific progress. The other thing to bear in mind is that paradigm shifts very often arise due to pressure from scientists and non-scientists who are ‘outsiders’. So progress (shifts, rather than small incremental steps) in science often arise from outside the scientific establishment. This should be common sense, however it is somewhat remarkable that the same people who have such faith in the progress of science tend to admonish and attack all such challenges from the fringe. If one is a true believer in science one should welcome such challenges, which either strengthen current scientific beliefs (by failing to overthrow current knowledge) or lead to progress by undermining current knowledge.

  20. Tom

    I used to get very strident about the Sun, feeling the government should do something about and then one day I read a simple, intelligent comment by a (non-Sun) journalist. “The Sun is the price we pay for a free press”. Simple as it may seem this caused something of a freeing up of an intellectual (well that’s what I call it!) logjam.

    People are free to choose what they read. They do not have a (positive) right to a ‘truthful’ paper because, if so, someone would have to guarantee that. There are plenty who would like the commission – in fact various religions including Marxism, have their own ‘truthful journals’ ready and would be only too happy for them to receive government blessing.

    This is outside of the realm of government and rightly so. I suggest that people have a responsibility to be critical of what they read and hear and we all have a responsibility to support a free press, however distasteful the contents may be, unless of course they break the law. I like the Telegraph but, despite doctor’s advice, get the Independent and Guardian a couple of times a week to shake me up and let the descendents get a different world view from my rants.

    On a related point I was defending the virtues of democracy and received the retort “but just look who gets elected”. (a) why should his opinion carry the day and (b) even if the elected are not a good choice, democracy never guarantees anything. Strangely perhaps for someone who himself to be slightly more progressive than conservative on balance, we perhaps need to look to our traditions and adapt them, rather than throw them out wholesale which as many of you have pointed out is what the government seems to be doing at times!

  21. Any learned scientist will know the fallability of science. There are few absolutes.

    I read the Mail and it is sensational in it’s reporting but there are some good reporters there too (mentioning no names). I used to read the Telegraph but usually found it blowing, rain-soaked, around the garden and the Times just didn’t light my fire. At least with The Mail you get a competition to win a house now and again and the thought of getting out of here gives me endless pleasure.

  22. Jaq

    I see from another part of the cyber-salon that I missed your birthday. Apologies and belated congratulations! I hope you allowed yourself a small dry sherry. Now you are 21 you must start setting an example to the younger people like young Jack Target. We haven’t heard from him of late and I am fearful lest he has been abducted by Clarkeites(Ken or Charles).

  23. Thankyou Jack and thanks for the Pasternak ref. it made absorbing reading, esp. the Nobel prize poem, and led me to Yevtushenko – a name that rang bells. Without your starting point I was just getting russian poetry ie. poetry in russian, so many thanks. I asked the world and his wife for direction as I’m still on dial-up and it’s half term so needed to be efficient.

    As for my birthday, I feel as if I’ve aged about 1000 years overnight (I have a cold). And if you read the Mail, as Jeremy Clarkson said, yoghurt is dangerous so lets make merry and sport while we may! No actually let’s get rid of Blair, THEN make merry.

  24. Jack –

    I find it incredible that you seem so ready to take the word of one section of scientists – not ALL scientists by any means – when we are talking about the health of little children.

    You do not seem to have denied either:

    (a) that vaccines in the past have incorporated
    significant amounts of mercury OR

    (b) that the government is now taking steps to remove mercury from vaccines.

    I assume that since we know mercury is one of the most insidious poisons that we face, you do not think it is a good idea to inject it direct into muscle tissue, which is why one presumes the government has also decided to remove it from vaccines. But the question remains how can anyone, knowing this to be true be sure that vaccines have not caused autism in children?

    I would caution that one has to look who is paying for these studies. Just as an opinion survey can be bent to delvier the requried result, so can scientific surveys.

    The last piece of research on this subject I read about was I thought very interesting. It seemed to show a correlation between autism and a LACK of mercury in hair samples. This might seem paradoxical at first. But what it suggests is that these autistic children may have defective anti-toxin systems in their bodies, so the mercury collects in their gut and elsewhere and isn’t excreted.

  25. Field

    I don’t believe that was my intent. You are better informed than me on this case and I have no reason to doubt you. The point I am trying to make is that statements about scientific experiments are hedged by their very nature. Further to that there are usually factors not taken into account.

    On top of that there are the human factors of greed, vanity or just plain ignorance that can creep in.

    Although just because A sponsors an investigation into the effects of A’s products doesn’t prove there is anything wrong we might be inclined to read the report rather more carefully and particularly the stats. and their contribution to the conclusions.

    Although in research it is said that a negative result is a result – “there is no evidence that this is a better way of doing things than those existing” – in practice research ratings need ‘sexy’ results, just like so many of our target driven activities.

    “There are lies, damned lies and statistics interpreted by medical researchers/psychologists……”. (I’m not saying that physical scientists are more honest perhaps just it is more likely that they have to be dishonest to make a mistake, whereas their colleagues from the non-physical sciences may more easily make a mistake through ignorance.)

    I have children so I don’t take this lightly.

  26. Field

    I don’t believe that was my intent. You are better informed than me on this case and I have no reason to doubt you. The point I am trying to make is that statements about scientific experiments are hedged by their very nature. Further to that there are usually factors not taken into account.

    On top of that there are the human factors of greed, vanity or just plain ignorance that can creep in.

    Although just because A sponsors an investigation into the effects of A’s products doesn’t prove there is anything wrong we might be inclined to read the report rather more carefully and particularly the stats. and their contribution to the conclusions.

    Although in research it is said that a negative result is a result – “there is no evidence that this is a better way of doing things than those existing” – in practice research ratings need ‘sexy’ results, just like so many of our target driven activities.

    “There are lies, damned lies and statistics interpreted by medical researchers/psychologists……”. (I’m not saying that physical scientists are more honest perhaps just it is more likely that they have to be dishonest to make a mistake, whereas their colleagues from the non-physical sciences may more easily make a mistake through ignorance.)

    I have children so I don’t take this lightly.

  27. The fact that mercury is being , if not entirely removed from the vaccines concerned, at least significantly reduced , must point to the concerns regarding mercury,but not necessarily the vaccine. Is not mercury used as a preservative in other , single vaccines?
    If it should turn out that the mercury is indeed the culprit; what about amalgam fillings for the teeth? What about the oily fish we are exhorted to eat , such as tuna: a well known repository of the noxious metal?

    Mankind, in its striving for a better quality oflife , has unknowingly poisoned the very oceans. However,since mankind, as an entity, is too nebulous a target, it is much easier for the parent to seek a culpable individual or group of individuals; someone at whose feet the blame for their problems can be laid.

    In the apparently unending search for truth / knowledge, there may be some alleys yet to be explored, but without the research of the scientists,and the huge strides in medical knowledge thus won, we would still be mourning a large number of babies and young children, as our forefathers were doing, even into the 20th Century. Less developed, less fortunate countries, eg sub Saharan African countries, are doing so ,to this very day.

    To err is human………..

  28. To err is human – but I’m sure the parents of thalydamide babies, for example, expected a little more care to have been taken. Accidents happen, oh well, never mind, that’s all right then.

    On the subject of amalgam fillings, whilst we know the dangers, as that knowlege is now in the public domain, we have to pay if we want mercury free. We can be poisoned free at the governments (public purse) expense. As a government in this country is an administration, frankly I expect better than to be forced to be poisoned with my own money if I have no extra to spare.

  29. I am a scientist who works with medical research, so would either be thought of as someone who has some degree of knowledge about the area, or as someone who is marked from birth as biased depending on your prejudices.

    There are real fears and concerns about modern life and how we will bring up our children. Noone wants to harm their children, even inadvertently. We all want to do the best for them. So it is not surprising that a sensational story that could touch the lives of millions is siezed on by certain elements of the media.

    Unfortunately, scientific research is generally not boolean. It does not give a true or false answer. It suggests answers with degrees of confidence. In order to properly interpret these findings one needs to understand the nature of statistics and to be able to examine in detail the methodology etc. of particular studies. Where the system falls down is where those with the ability to broadcast far and wide a message sieze on a particular finding, misinterpret it and pronounce as gospel what a scientist would express as a reasoned opinion goverend by caveats. Who do you trust? the person who gives a confident yes or no answer or the person who spends five minutes listing caveats before making a tentative suggestion? Not exactly soundbite worthy is it, in a nation where we have become conditioned to expect it to be the scientists fault if years of work is difficult to express in a single phrase.

    Back to MMR. A small study identified a statistically significant rise in autism amongst patients who had taken MMR. This means that there was a specific, measurable possibility that these findings had occurred purely by chance. Other larger studies failed to find this connection. Such a link is not like a fossil. It is not lying there waiting to be discovered, it is an intrinsic property of the population. Because my scottish neighbor is taller than me does not mean that Scots in general are taller than the English. There is an alternative hypothesis, that there is no increased risk from MMR. That hypothesis (the null hypothesis) has been statistically verified time and time again. So we have one outlier study blown out of proportion.

    Regarding multiple single jabs. Every injection carries a specific risk. By multiplying the number of injections you multiply the risk. By multiplying the number of injections you multiply the risk that vaccination courses will not be completed. In addition, these courses have to be taken separately, and extending the period for which a child is unimunised raises the risk of disease.

    So it is not a black and white issue. The balance of clinical opinion, based onstudy and assessment is in favour of the multiple vaccine. Single jabs are more expensive to administer and monitor, and these costs then detract from other, life enhancing, measures that can be offered out of the limited pot of public money in the NHS. “I want to spend more money on my child so you can’t have the treatment you need”.

    As regards mercury, all vaccines require preservative. Any preservative is designed to prevent life so that the drug (in the broadest sense of the word) is delivered in an appropriate condition. There are risks associated with all preservatives. ANy formulation has to undergo testing before it recieves approval. This can take considerable time. Changing a preservative cannto happen overnight. So again we balance the risk of harm by very low dose mercury against harm by not being immunised against harm by other preservatives against many other factors.

    It is not a simple case of ‘this is bad, anything else is good’. It is a case of balancing the costs against the benefits, not just in the case of the individual but in the case of society as a whole. To fully appreciate these issues requires an understanding of the science involved, the analysis methodologies involved and the time to delve into these issues in a detailed and informed manner. Single issue scaremongering from ignorant rabble rousers most certainly does not help.

    I am all for scientists being held to account, but let us have a level playing field for such assessment. When the scientifically illiterate media wish to act as a kangaroo court, they are doing the nation a great disservice. Boris’ article was spot on, and a welcome bit of reading.

  30. David M –

    Boris’s article was not spot on as reading the whole of the above thread will illustrate.

    When you say “Single issue scaremongering from ignorant rabble rousers most certainly does not help” I sincerely hope you do not mean me, or indeed any of the contributors here.

    * “Regarding multiple single jabs. Every injection carries a specific risk. By multiplying the number of injections you multiply the risk” and in combining jabs you risk overloading the immune system – not every human being is the same, we all have different tolerances.

    * “By multiplying the number of injections you multiply the risk that vaccination courses will not be completed” firstly that is an insult and an implication that a caring parent will be negligent. Secondly, by INSISTING on multiple jabs the alternative is no immunisation at all.

    * “these courses have to be taken separately, and extending the period for which a child is unimunised raises the risk of disease” which is far better than the alternative of not being immunised at all.

    * “So it is not a black and white issue. The balance of clinical opinion, based onstudy and assessment is in favour of the multiple vaccine” That’s right, it’s not balck and white, I’ve read the evidence and I’m against multiple jabs for my children and especially those containing mercury. My son reacted badly and you CANNOT tell me the just administered jab was not the cause – it’s not a black and white issue, remember?

    * “Single jabs are more expensive to administer and monitor, and these costs then detract from other, life enhancing, measures that can be offered out of the limited pot of public money in the NHS. “I want to spend more money on my child so you can’t have the treatment you need”. Emotional blackmail and I and MANY parents like me will NOT be governed by this. This our children you are talking about.

    * “So again we balance the risk of harm by very low dose mercury against harm by not being immunised against harm by other preservatives against many other factors” The risk of not being immunised is very real as parents choose not to be lead by the nose. Unfortunately the government seems to take the view that if they offer SOMETHING, then the consequences are not thier fault.

    * “To fully appreciate these issues requires an understanding of the science involved, the analysis methodologies involved and the time to delve into these issues in a detailed and informed manner” and what makes you think the people here have neither the time, intelligence nor opportunity to do this David M? It would be better if both politicians and scientists suspended thier arrogance long enough to do what will benefit society with some reference to what society is willing to accept. And while your getting all altruistic, thalidomide was just one example in a long line of catastrophic drugs that were all scientifically designed and tested. Thankfully Boris is not Bliar. Take note David M – we’ve had quite enough of the nanny state.

  31. Jaq: for the first time , I feel you are not correct in your assessment of what has been , or is being said. You appear to wish to shoot the messenger.He said it like it is. It might not be to your taste, but what he says rings true to me.

    In an imperfect world, imperfect people are striving to achieve perfection. The way is hard and long, but I feel that we have been set upon the right road towards that hitherto unreachable Nirvana.

    To cite individual failures in no way negates the many successes which have been achieved in the medical field .

    I understand, probably better than most, that feeling of helplessness which parents , and in particular, mothers have , when it comes to the frustration of apparently getting no further in the hunt for the best for ones children .

    It is a sad fact, but a true one, that there is not enough money available for every individual’s personal wishes to be carried out. With expanding medical expectations, and ever expanding possibilities for cures for hitherto untreatable conditions, if money were no object, the sky might be the limit. To date;we can only reach for the moon .

  32. Jaq –

    I am behind you 100% on this. The question is not really whether or not MMR causes autism, it is whether the public is being presented with accurate information.

    To take one example, David M. says that every vaccination,single as well as multiple, carries a specific risk. This is of course true. However, it is not what the public are told by the Chief Medical Officer, the government or health professionals. They are lied to because they are told “vaccination is safe”. That is simply not true. It carries a significant risk.

    As you say Jaq huge numbers of medicines have been implicated in serious side effects resulting in death and horrible injury.

    Personally I do not trust the surveys that have been undertaken by the health establishment
    of the association between autism and MMR. For one thing, they do not seem to factor in the possible health effects of the individual vaccinations. If those are also damaging children’s health then we shoudl not expect to see a steep rise with the introduction of MMR and any steep rise may in any case be disguised
    by initial resistance to the triple jab. One would need to look at these surveys in great detail. But I simply cannot trust people who quote these surveys if they are also telling us vaccination is “safe” when as David M. admits they all carry specific risks.

    I would ask people of 50 plus to think back to their own childhoods. Were there really all those “disguised” cases of autism that the health professionals are trying to tell us there were. There were some but not the huge percentage – approaching 10% in some areas – that we are being invited to think must have existed. I think not. I think again we are being told some giant size fibs.

  33. Field – thanks and ditto “I think again we are being told some giant size fibs.”, whatever suits the governments whim at the time I think is the doctrine of ‘New Labour’ Methinks they seek to control the public like cattle, and look what they did to them?

    Mac – actually I think you are missing MY point lovely but “To date;we can only reach for the moon”? If GP surgeries were not directed by central government opinion then the public could at least have the choice of paying for single jabs themselves! (Assumes Bette Davis voice) Why reach for the moon, we have the stars.

  34. Jaq: Yes ; we have the stars, but unfortunately the stage which should be set for them is not properly equipped, and therefore the stars can’t shine as well as we all know they are able.
    I almost adopted the Clarke Gable voice there, but I think I’d better hold my tongue,discretion being the better part of valour.

  35. Completely lost me there Mac – I was suggesting that we have a solution at our disposal, we only have to be allowed to use it by the Labour government.

    Not that I’m against Clark Gable, I’m definately for that one…..no, spare us please, I know, you don’t give a damn. (groan) Oh well, tomorow is another day.

  36. As usual , a superb column.

    Boris yours & the young David & Georges time will surely come, if this country is ever to comes to its senses.

    Bravo & Three cheers…keep up the good work.

  37. Jaq:You said in plain language what I hinted at in my airy fairy way .The trouble is that the country has paid its money, and the choice it made was a bad ‘un.

  38. Agree Mac, and as Paul Bendon says above “if this country is ever to comes to its senses”, then surely we must get rid of this canker in politics that is New Labour and for my money VOTE BORIS.

    I’m going to think of Boris’s columns all night now…what a delicious thought 🙂

  39. To respond to Jaq:
    * When you say “Single issue scaremongering from ignorant rabble rousers most certainly does not help” I sincerely hope you do not mean me, or indeed any of the contributors here.

    No – I was referring to the sections of the media who persist in misrepresenting complex issues in far too simplistic terms.

    * “Regarding multiple single jabs. Every injection carries a specific risk. By multiplying the number of injections you multiply the risk” and in combining jabs you risk overloading the immune system – not every human being is the same, we all have different tolerances.

    Indeed. And it is not possible to tell beforehand what the scale of reaction would be. The majority of ‘severe’ reactions are unpleasant but not dangerous. The risk of a severe reaction drops below the risk of infection, ie becomes statistically insignificant.

    * “By multiplying the number of injections you multiply the risk that vaccination courses will not be completed” firstly that is an insult and an implication that a caring parent will be negligent. Secondly, by INSISTING on multiple jabs the alternative is no immunisation at all.

    It is not an insult. It is a statement of fact. There are many rasons immunisation courses are not completed, only one of which is that the parents are too lazy/negligent to take the child along.

    * “these courses have to be taken separately, and extending the period for which a child is unimunised raises the risk of disease” which is far better than the alternative of not being immunised at all.

    But there is the option of the multiple jab which on a population wide scale is far better.

    * “So it is not a black and white issue. The balance of clinical opinion, based onstudy and assessment is in favour of the multiple vaccine” That’s right, it’s not balck and white, I’ve read the evidence and I’m against multiple jabs for my children and especially those containing mercury. My son reacted badly and you CANNOT tell me the just administered jab was not the cause – it’s not a black and white issue, remember?

    Badly? I would expect a small proportion of children to have an uncomfortable response to an immunisation. I would not expect more than a tiny handful (count the fingers) to have a medically serious response, and only a handful per decade to have persistent consequences. The hypothesis that MMR can somehow ‘overload’ the immune system has been examined and found to be severely lacking. The risks of a bad immune response associated from injection with three different adjuvants instead of one are clear.

    * “Single jabs are more expensive to administer and monitor, and these costs then detract from other, life enhancing, measures that can be offered out of the limited pot of public money in the NHS. “I want to spend more money on my child so you can’t have the treatment you need”. Emotional blackmail and I and MANY parents like me will NOT be governed by this. This our children you are talking about.

    No, it is not emotional blackmail. There is a limited pot of money that has to be divided. It is *not* emotional blackmail, just because it is not what you want to hear. If you spend more in one area, then less can be spent elsewhere.

    * “So again we balance the risk of harm by very low dose mercury against harm by not being immunised against harm by other preservatives against many other factors” The risk of not being immunised is very real as parents choose not to be lead by the nose.

    Instead they appear to be lead by hype and hysteria. Sad but true. They are being led, but by the fashionable leaders of the media who will absolve themselves rapidly of any responsibility rather than the classical leaders of the public service.

    * Unfortunately the government seems to take the view that if they offer SOMETHING, then the consequences are not thier fault.

    I think that is unfair to the many people who try to ensure that what they are doing is in the best interests of the individual and society as a whole. If individuals or organisations deliberately withold information that should be made public then they should be held to account. If the government offer something, with the associated information (for those who can understand it) then it is up to the individual to take that choice.

    “To fully appreciate these issues requires an understanding of the science involved, the analysis methodologies involved and the time to delve into these issues in a detailed and informed manner” and what makes you think the people here have neither the time, intelligence nor opportunity to do this David M?

    I would submit that people with these three qualities who are able to take a dispassionate view of the science are not common, possibly extremely rare.

    * It would be better if both politicians and scientists suspended thier arrogance long enough to do what will benefit society with some reference to what society is willing to accept.

    I happen to know a number of scientists. They are no more arrogant than the truth is arrogant. Much of the time, leading edge scientific research is indistinct and hazy. If by arrogant you mean having little patience with people who have not taken the time to examine in detail and understand the science, then that can be said of all fields.

    * And while your getting all altruistic, thalidomide was just one example in a long line of catastrophic drugs that were all scientifically designed and tested.

    Actually, most drugs up until very recently were not scientifically designed. Tested, yes, but not designed per se. I was at a seminar today regarding development of some very exciting new cancer drugs. but that is by the by. With Thalidomide, the testing was blatently inadequate and lessons were learned, and implemented very rapidly. Unfortunately, Thalidomide has been removed from the drug register when it could have very beneficial uses in non-pregnant women.

    * Thankfully Boris is not Bliar. Take note David M – we’ve had quite enough of the nanny state.

    I am also glad that Boris is not another Tony. I too am not in favour of the nanny state. The alternative though is people taking on responsibility for themselves, something which in many cases people are not competent to do. (case in point – how do you assess the competence of your GP? You don’t unless they are blatently wrong. You trust the certification safegurds laid down by the state to prevent bad doctors being able to practise).

    In response to field:

    * To take one example, David M. says that every vaccination,single as well as multiple, carries a specific risk. This is of course true. However, it is not what the public are told by the Chief Medical Officer, the government or health professionals. They are lied to because they are told “vaccination is safe”. That is simply not true. It carries a significant risk.

    There is a difference between a specific risk and a significant risk. ‘Safe’ does not mean no risk. Just sitting at this desk is not safe. There is a specific risk that the CRT will blow up, or a passing aircraft crash on this house. Should I stop typing or move house? No, because those risks are so low as to be insignificant. Your use of ‘Safe’ as implying some absolute absence of risk, rather than a level of risk that is so low as to not need to be worried about unduly, seems to indicate a lack of appreciation of the nature of the statements that are being made. Is allowing your children to run around safe? More than 10% of head injuries requiring hospitalisation amongst children come from simple trips and falls when just running around. Is soccer safe? Aboutthe same number of children die each year from running into goal posts as do from head injuries when cycling.

    The MMR issue (and many others) has been beset by intelligent, concerned, but ultimately scientifically illiterate people who are unfortunately not competent to assess teh information they are given. When there is no rational basis for debate, superstition, gut instinct and group hysteria take over.

    The level of competence needed is about A-level stats (or top end of O-level for those who are as old or older than me) plus an understanding of the principles of medical research methodology. If you read ‘A brief history of time’, felt you understood it and were disappointed that there wern’t more equations, then that is probably the right kind of person.

    You may consider this arrogant. It isn’t. You don’t expect any kid who wants to play football to be able to play for the Chelsea first team if they just put in a bit of hard work and practice, or an amateur keyboard player to be able to play competently a Rachmaninov Symphony. Likewise, the talent to understand stats, feel their application to data and understand the implications is a talent that few, even in the medical research community, have.

    I don’t see any problem with people choosing their own health care options. That is their right and for people to take that responsibility is a positive conservative value. There is a huge difference between saying ‘the state will provide X’ and ‘the state will provide X and you must use it’. I dislike intensely the hypocrisy of New Labour seeking to drag every one down to the same level of mediocrity, whilst sending their children to private schools and purchasing private health care themselves.

  40. “I think again we are being told some giant size fibs.”

    Obviously. Big pharma companies want to make money. How do they make money? By selling drugs. And they make more money by selling more drugs.

    So they are lying to us to sell more MMR triple vaccine when in fact if they weren’t they’d have to sell us three times as many doses for the single vaccine and make even more money.

    2+2 makes 3, right?

    I dislike being talked down to by New Labour flunkies who clearly are jsut repeating what they have misunderstood from the briefing document. But I dislike even more people complaining about too much technobabble and jargon when it is precisely that which those who are competent need to hear in order to make a rational decision. Those who are not competent need to find people of good character who are competent to trust. We elect our MP’s hopefully to be competent in finding good people who are trustworthy to inform them. This isn’t always the case, but the truth does eventually have a nasty habit of leaking out, despite the best efforts of vested interests in the scientifically illiterate lobby to misrepresent it.

  41. David M – to respond to your comments please see my post above with the exception:

    “I would submit that people with these three qualities who are able to take a dispassionate view of the science are not common, possibly extremely rare”

    luckily I am not common at all, I AM extreemly rare. And the book I would recommend to you is ‘The Abolition of Britain’ by Peter Hitchens. It has a whole chapter dedicated to one particular drug.

  42. David M.

    PLease see the following extract from an American website which I think shows that there is indeed plenty of scientific evidence that there could well be a link between mercury in vaccinations and autism.

    (I’ll follow this up with another post immediately afterwards dealing with the points you make.)

    “The Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics have issued a statement asserting that

  43. David M.

    You will have seen the previous post which I think shows that this is not an open and shut case and that there is plenty of evidence for a potential vaccination/autism link.

    Here are some comments on your comments:

    “There is a difference between a specific risk and a significant risk. ‘Safe’ does not mean not risk. Just sitting at this desk is not safe.”

    There is a difference but I think if autism is running at say 1% to 2% of children, I think any parent would – quite rightly – consider that an enormous statistical risk. Furthermore, there is a complete difference between passive risk and risk that one wills into being. If I am being asked to pursue a certain course of action that entails risk, it is wrong for the advisor to imply that there is no risk. Would you think such behaviour acceptable in a lawyer advising a client – “Yes, go ahead, sue the company. It’s perfectly safe.”

    “The MMR issue (and many others) has been beset by intelligent, concerned, but ultimately scientifically illiterate people who are unfortunately not competent to assess teh information they are given.”

    Presumably you would have said the same 20 years ago about people who were concerned about feeding cattle remains to herbivore cows.

    It isn’t that difficult to grasp the issues.

    Mercury is toxic.

    A form of mercury has been used as a preservative in vaccinations.

    The mercury is being injected into the system (togther with the modified viral agent).

    There has been a rise in autism coincidental with the rise in vaccination (unless you buy the claim that all of the rise is an uncovering of hidden autism*).

    There are studies which suggest the modified mercury coudl be linked to autism.

    Really, the statistical surveys are a red herring, just as they would have been 20 years ago if we were discussing a link between scrapies and BSE. In fact such surveys can be highly misleading.

    You seem to be in awe of scientists! Anyone of an educated background can tell that Hawkings’ theories are little more than that. They may fit the facts – but then so do lots of other cosmological theories. Just as with religions these theories they can’t ALL be right and Hawkings could be just as wrong as a hudnred other cosmologist/physicists.

    The analogy with a Chelsea footballer or a classical pianist is completely off the mark. Neither of them are issuing advice which could lead to the mental crippling of a child.

    I think we need to have some serious grown up debate about these issues. Although Boris is usually to be found on the right side on this occasion I feel he has really made a very ignorant and unhelpful statement by claiming

    Furthermore, the discussion has so far centred on the risks of vaccination. The medical establishment then try and frighten people by making reference to the dangers of the main childhood diseases. I do not seek to underestimate the dangers, but let us be clear again we are not being told the truth. The reality is that healthy children have little to fear from measles. The children who are most at risk are those whose defence systems are already compromised.

    *Incidentally, if this claim of hidden autism is true it could easily be verified. Let’s do a study of people born in say 1950 and let’s see what percentage display autistic symptoms. After all, autism doesn’t disappear with age, although its symptoms may change. You might wonder if there coudl be a reason why this line of enquiry isn’t pursued.

  44. Jaq: “I would submit that people with these three qualities who are able to take a dispassionate view of the science are not common, possibly extremely rare”

    Jaq: luckily I am not common at all, I AM extreemly rare. And the book I would recommend to you is ‘The Abolition of Britain’ by Peter Hitchens. It has a whole chapter dedicated to one particular drug.

    Indeed you are unique, as are we all, and far the better for it.
    I would certainly like to read that book. Do you have an ISBN for it?

  45. I am trying to keep the comments short tonight 😉

    field:
    The evidence you cite indicates a potential link between thimerosal and autism, not vaccination. Thimerosal is an organomercury compound, used as a preservative.

    The removal of thimerosal from vaccines would be a good thing, if the alternative doesn’t pose additional risks.

    You quote me then state:
    “There is a difference between a specific risk and a significant risk. ‘Safe’ does not mean not risk. Just sitting at this desk is not safe.”

    field: There is a difference but I think if autism is running at say 1% to 2% of children, I think any parent would – quite rightly – consider that an enormous statistical risk. Furthermore, there is a complete difference between passive risk and risk that one wills into being.

    Are you claiming a 1-2% increase in autism from the vaccine? or a 1-2% rate of autism in the population as a whole. even the second of those figures seems high (Estimates of the upper bound for developmental disorders being on the order of 0.6%)

    You are right about there being a difference between risks over which we have control and risks over which we have no control. And you allude to the precautionary principle which is commonly misstated as “don’t do anything until you are sure it is safe to do so”. This falls down as there is no analysis of the risk of doing nothing. The status quo has a risk.

    Again you quote me and state:
    “The MMR issue (and many others) has been beset by intelligent, concerned, but ultimately scientifically illiterate people who are unfortunately not competent to assess teh information they are given.”

    field: Presumably you would have said the same 20 years ago about people who were concerned about feeding cattle remains to herbivore cows.

    No, not at all. I was against it then (appalled by it in fact) and am still against it. There was no proper risk assessment done for that kind of industrialised farming.

    Your stement of the basic facts surrounding the mercury issues is generally correct. The fact that mercury binds well to and modifies thiol groups has been well known for most of the last century (the caspases you reference in your earlier post rely on free thiols for their activity and these are ireversibly blocked by mercury.) It was thought that low enough doses of mercury were safe. Whilst the evidence is not strong enough to suggest they are not safe, it is strong enough to bring the use of it into question when there are safer alternatives.

    You seem, like many people, to be overly dismissive of statistics. It is right to be sceptical about their use. If you do not have the raw data and skills with which to analyse them then you have to make a chaacter judgement about the person using them. However it is not right to dismiss them out of hand. When used correctly they are a powerful tool for identifying mechanism, and for moderating overblown opinion (ie extrapolation from studies involving only a small handful of subjects) by giving clear limits on the weight which should be applied to such studies (Basically the bigger the study the better, though this is a gross simplification).

    field: You seem to be in awe of scientists! Anyone of an educated background can tell that Hawkings’ theories are little more than that.

    I would suggest that there are probably less than a dozen people who can explain why Hawking’s theories may be correct or may be wrong.

    field: They may fit the facts – but then so do lots of other cosmological theories. Just as with religions these theories they can’t ALL be right and Hawkings could be just as wrong as a hudnred other cosmologist/physicists.

    And here you do fall down. Understanding how a theory comes into being, what are it’s key tenets and how that theory may be tested (an untestable theory is a religious dogma, not science) are key to evaluating the theory for validity. I am nowhere near competent to attempt to examine the complexities of his theories. It typically takes a research student a year to get up to speed in the field they are studying (yes that long) before they can really start to explore and test the theories in a very specific area.

    You seem unwilling to try to quantify the difference in risk between vaccination and the diseases, claiming that healthy children have little to fear. In my evaluation as a parent, I’d rather take the MMR with mercury over non-vaccination. I’d prefer no mercury, but I’d also prefer the triple jab rather than three times the dosing of preservative from the single jab regime.

    Your comments on the relative levels of autism between now and the 1950’s are also somewhat naive. There is a huge cultural change in the reporting of behavioural disorders. There have also been massive environmental changes that confound teh slight effects your simplistic study would be looking for. far better is to attempt to look at a population at specific matched age points, getting sufficeint numbers of those who have and have not been vaccinated with the triple jab to evaluate the hypothesis. This was done in Iceland (If my memory serves me correctly) and indicated that slightly incresed autism was correlated with non-vaccination.

    Now, correlation does not imply causation. And one also has to beware of the post hoc ergo propter hoc (A follows B therefore A caused B) fallacy. So in the end you are left with having to carefully weigh the evidence, and if you do not have the tools to evaluate that evidence, you make a judgement call about the people who bring that evidence to you.

    This post was far too long. As with difficult subjects, discssions cannot happen in soundbites, but require longer, more thoughtful discussions that won’t give the kind of answer you want to hear. No one can give a yes or no answer to the question ‘is X safe?’ without simplifying a huge range of caveats.

  46. I hear , almost constantly , the voices of some Jonahs, who insist ,” They’re all the same”,when speaking about almost any group of people. How boring must their lives be, never really listening to what is said,about anything,because they’ve heard it all before.

    I believe that everyone is unique, despite some political clones being set free amongst us ; in reality ,even the clones are unique.

    If the similarities between people were so close as some would have it, there would not be a platform such as the Boris Blog for all to air their views: it would not make sense to have to read the same words , written by a seemingly endless line of the same person , constantly running to the back of the queue of one, in order to repeat what was just written.

    This view is , I suppose , almost pythonesque in its inanity. I cannot help imagining a spinning top of a person, periodically stopping the spinning process just long enough to pen a ditto piece for Boris.

    It is clear that the contributors to this thread, and others on the blog site are unique , and three cheers for that, I say.

    Each mistake which you make sets a problem; solve it , since you have a brain.
    Learn the lesson it teaches, but quickly, or your standing goes right down the drain.
    It separates you from the others, personality plus looks equals you,
    You’re unique just because there’s no other, accept it or leave it;it’s true .
    Uniqueness for you is your being,it’s your value as part of the race,
    Uniqueness is not so unusual,since everyone’s known via the face.
    An original; a one off; an alloy, you were forged from the genes in the pool,
    Whatever is shaping your story, must take heed of the Charles Darwin rule .
    The proof you’re unique should be easy, and we’ll keep all the doubters at bay
    Documentation will prove you’re the only one born ,of that girl, at that time, on that day.
    Take pride in the fact that you are truly unique, you’re one of a kind; that’s not weird:
    It means that each person is also unique, so there isn’t the problem you feared .

  47. David M –

    I’m sure I would bore myself to death if I covered every point made in this discussion I could take issue with. Suffice to say that

    your qoute
    I would suggest that there are probably less than a dozen people who can explain why Hawking’s theories may be correct or may be wrong /unqoute

    does not mean they are not here, commenting on Boris’s blog. Neither does it mean that Hawkings theories or your argument cannot be proved wrong simply because the argument/discussion is here, with us.

    Whatever you protest to be true I disagree for the reasons stated and MY point was that I should be allowed by this government to exercise my right of choice. I hope Field will allow me to say that all the long words and statistics in the world can’t detract from the bleedin’ obvious, which I think is part of his point. I’ve been around this blog long enough to have the UPMOST RESPECT for Field and Mac and Jack Ramsey et al. As Mac so beautifully points out, we all have our own opinions, I’ve stated mine and there endeth my lesson. But you really should read Peters book – ISBN 0 7043 8117 6. He describes the effect that scientists with their own agendas can have on society. As Jack Ramsey has previously pointed out – the law of unintended consequences can be catastrophic. Really, you should read Peter Hitchens.

  48. David M.

    I think this thread is gradually coming to the end of its natural life, but just a few finals for me to make:

    1. You seem to have misunderstood my point about surveynig people born in 1950. I don’t mean see how they were categorised as infants – I mean see what percentage NOW show signs of autism. According to the medical establishment it should be roughly comparable to now (making due allowance for the higher mortality rate of autistic people). But I don’t think it is.

    2.I think more than 12 people understand what Hawkings is on about and I can read the opinions of those people who do understand his opinions. Further, I can, where legitimate, apply rational tests to what people are saying. For instance theorists who argue for a “Multiverse” cosmos are always vague on how many multiverses there are potentially and on the process by which any particular multiverse comes into being. I can quite legitimately query this from a philosophical point of view. The key point is that Hawkings’ cosmological theorising has not even established a consensus in the scientific community.

    3.Regarding the use of statistics, I am not against their use, but one has to be assured that they are being used in an honest and disinterested way. I really do not feel this has been done with vaccination. One can see why this has been so – in order to maintain high levels of vaccination – but it is not jsutifiable.

    I seem to recall the Iceland study as well, but one fact immediately leaps out at me. Icelanders are from a very limited gene pool – that is precisely why they are used in a lot of scientific studies. But it could be very misleading when considering the effects of vaccination or mercury on the body.

    If one wants to know why it is so difficult to trust what we are told, take a look at the NHS website. It discusses the risks of vaccination and then says IN BOLD thiomersal is not used in MMR. This is completely disingenuous since it was used in MMR until v. recently as far as I am aware.

  49. I believe so too Field and whilst thiomersal is being withdrawn the stocks containing it are not being thrown away but replaced with different vaccine when all used up. I know this to be true. So when you go to a surgery and you get the irritated general response of “it’s fine, we wouldn’t give it if it wasn’t” THEN you find out it’s just been injected into your child and you’ve effectively been bamboozled it doesn’t do much for patient trust does it?!

  50. jaq:

    I agree that there may be people here who can expound the detail of very complex issues. I think it is reasonably likely that there are extremely few with the tools and inclination though.

    In the end it is down to choice. You do have a choice. You can a) take the MMR offered on the NHS. b) not have your child immunised or c) pay yourself for separate jabs.

    If you HAD to take the MMR irrespective of desire, then that would be outrageous. Being given false information about medical treatments would also be wrong. By false I mean information that is intended to deliberately mislead. But when the vast weight of the evidence is on one side, why should we (the tax payer) pay for your choice when there is what is considered to be a perfectly acceptable treatment? You may not like it, but you have the choice to spend your money as you wish.

  51. field:
    1. I understood your point abut testing people from the 50’s. I was attempting to indicate that there are so many confounding factors that it would be extremely difficult to isolate the contribution (if any) from MMR.

    2. Whilst there are tens of thousands who can comprehend the broad thrust of Hawking’s work, there are probably only a few hundred who have sufficient knowledge and skill to have a detailed understanding of how it comes to be (I’m looking for a better phrase to describe the concept of a theory’s origin and nature) and I’d stand by there only being a tiny handful who can disect it with the intellectual rigour needed to make progress in the field.

    3. Stats are a very powerful tool in the right hands. In the hands of a scientist they can be used to understand what is going on. In the hands of the marketing charlatan they can be used as a tool to persuade and convince. Sometimes, unfortunately, these hands are the same.

    With Iceland, the population is very homogenous (the same is true of other parts of Scandinavia too) and exceptionally good records have been kept. Such a poputlation excludes by its very nature a lot of confounding variables. However, the appliccability of the study will diminish the further one is away from that genepool (I didn’t say that it would be worthless). Smaller studies (the icelandic one has a strong statistical power) have more confounding factors and are weaker statistically. One should be aware of this weighting when considering the applicability of the study to the current population as a whole and ourselves as unique individuals.

    I think I am going to leave it here. There was a quote from a senior scientist in the civil service to some politicians: ‘ I hate having scientists on my committess. You give them more data and they change their minds’. He was being sarcastic, but from what I heard, the politicians didn’t notice..

  52. David M: I believe what Jaq is complaining about, is the apparent lack of interest of CERTAIN G.Ps,( more than likely overworked ), as to the demands of a distinct band of mothers, who would , if necessary, pay for the individual treatment required.

    If these mothers feel so strongly as to wish to pay for specialised , individual treatment, different from that offered free on the NHS, there should be a recognised way for them to proceed , in order to avail themselves of such treatment. Information for such deviation from the NHS norm should be freely available. A disclaimer should also be prepared and signed, releasing the NHS from any subsequent resulting responsibility. In this way, everyone would be satisfied, and a satisfied customer is a repeat customer.

  53. I am happy to leave it here and ask those who read this thread to ponder, most carefully, whether David M.’s orignally confident assertions have really survived the test of debate.

  54. field: I don’t think there has really been any kind of informed debate. There has been an exchange of views which has served to highlight the ground on which people wish to stake their claim. I’m not sure that you have provided any kind of evidence beyond arguement by assertion that can credibly be assessed in a scientific manner.

    Mac: I concur entirely.

    By the way, I was quite interested to read Ben Goldacre’s ‘Bad Science’ column in the Guardian on Melanie Phillips Daily Mail article on MMR.

    jaq: I looked up the Hitchens book on Amazon. Lots of interesting comments which make me think it could well be worth a critical read.

    Nuff said. Looking forward to David vs David tomorrow.

  55. Read that an eminent Harley Street Medico has let the cat out of the bag , reference Leo’s separate single jabs for MMR, allegedly in France . This despite vigorous denials from Downing Street. Daily Express tells the srory.

  56. Further to my suggestion that we ought to look at people born in the pre-vaccination era to see if there really are “hidden autism” cases, it seems that there is in fact a quicker way of accessiing a perhaps even more telling body of evidence.

    It seems that the Amish communities in the USA generally don’t go in for vaccination. The media has begin investigating what is the extent of autism in these communities. I have seen on the Internet figures suggest that in Michigan the incidence of autism is something like 1 in 15,000 compared with 1 in 166, the average for the USA. The difference is less marked elsewhere but still of the order of several factors.

    It doesn’t seem that any fully scientific studies have been undertaken yet, but these figures are based on the tesitmony of local medical professionals.

    Of particular interest perhaps is that a high proportion of those few autism cases in the Amish community involve children who HAVE been vaccinated – unlike the great majority of Amish.

    Boris, I think you should take a look at this sort of evidence before clinging to the coat tails of the big pharmaceuticals on this issue and trying to bamboozle us into thinking that vaccines containing mercury were or are safe .

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