About Jabs

JABS as a self-help group neither recommends nor advises against vaccinations but we aim to promote understanding about immunisations and offer basic support to any parent whose child has a health problem after vaccination.

We want comprehensive information for all parents to make an informed decision on the benefits and risks of vaccination. JABS supports free choice and full information on the real risks of vaccination and childhood diseases. 

The current method of reporting adverse reactions is wholy ineffective. The system needs to be radically changed to ensure all reactions are reported.

The present UK vaccine damage payment scheme is inadequate. We are concerned that the minority that do suffer side effects are not always recognised by the Department of Health as vaccine damaged:

a) currently a child has to be at least 60% disabled before being assessed for the one-off payment of £120,000.

b) the period in which claims can be made is restricted to a child between the ages of two and 21.

JABS wants justice for our vaccine damaged children and will continue to campaign for a legal right to compensation. We also want Legal Aid to be reinstated for all families affected.

JABS was the first group to conduct a survey of UK children whose parents consider that their children have had an adverse reaction to a vaccination. We have produced reports based on the information provided by parents. These reports have been placed with parents, support groups, doctors, health visitors, MPs and the Department of Health.


The late, great Ms Janine Roberts, an independent investigative journalist, wrote a number of articles about vaccines in the mid-nineties. She wrote her first one in April 1995 which was published in The Independent, a major UK newspaper. It describes the origins of JABS.


Health: Vaccination: do you know the risks?: Jan Roberts meets parents who believe immunisation against measles, mumps and rubella injured their children

It all began in December 1992 when Robert, a healthy one-year-old boy, went with his mother, Jackie Fletcher, to have his measles, mumps and rubella injection.

'Ten days later he started convulsing. We went by ambulance to the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, Wigan,' says Mrs Fletcher, who comes from Warrington, Cheshire.

'When we suggested our son might be reacting to the vaccination, the doctor looked puzzled. He said the fit coming after the inoculation was a coincidence and would probably not recur. The consultant on the ward said much the same. However, our child continued to have fit after fit.

'Our son was eventually diagnosed as epileptic as well as having a very rare acquired immunodeficiency problem.' Robert, now two-and-a-half, has several fits a week. The Fletchers have been granted legal aid to take a compensation claim to court.

There were many hospital visits after the first crisis in December. In May 1993 Robert was again admitted but he was so ill that he was transferred to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. There Mrs Fletcher met another mother, Gill Dean, from Ashton, whose daughter Clare appeared to have a similar problem.

This seemed an extraordinary coincidence - like two needles meeting in a haystack. Both mothers had been told their child's sudden ill health was 'rare and nothing to do with the injection', but they decided to investigate.

One of Mrs Fletcher's first steps was to contact her local Community Health Council, which agreed to place an item in the local paper to find if any more parents had had a child suffer adverse reactions which they believed were connected to the MMR vaccination. Thirty responded.

By December the parents had formed a group called 'Jabs', for Justice, Awareness and Basic Support. Similar groups exist in the US, Australia, New Zealand and France. Mrs Fletcher stresses that they are not 'anti-vaccination' but they do want better information and compensation for their children.

'We don't want to damage the vaccination programme but if there is a problem it should come out,' says Mrs Fletcher. 'We know the majority of children go through the programme without any problems. What we want is more accessible information at clinic level so parents know about adverse reactions as well as the protective factors. Then we can make informed choices.'

Richard Barr, of Dawbarns, King's Lynn, is one the solicitors acting for Jabs. 'We are all saying that it is not wrong to vaccinate. But we are saying that parents must be given more information. The leaflets some parents saw said that there was no measurable risk. One parent told me that if she had been told there was even a remote risk, she would not have had her child vaccinated,' he said.

To date 180 parents have contacted Jabs, about 120 of them concerned about the MMR vaccination. All these were sent questionnaires from which Jabs has compiled a list of UK children and their alleged adverse reactions. They are now analysing the data.

Three makes of vaccine are implicated. Two of these ceased to be used by the Department of Health in September 1992, subsequent to reports of 'mild transient meningitis'. The Department has always denied formally 'withdrawing' the vaccines, stating that it had simply changed its source of supply. Mrs Fletcher and her colleagues want to know why Canada withdrew the two brands 18 months before the UK. Japan has also suspended use of the two vaccines.

One of these vaccines was called Pluserix-MMR, manufactured by SmithKline Beecham. Jabs has so far identified 24 children on the list who received this. The other withdrawn vaccine was Immravax, made by Merieux UK Ltd. Thirteen of the children on list were given it.

Jabs has identified seven children who received MMR-2 vaccine, made by the US company Merck. This vaccine is the one currently used in the UK. A Department of Health spokesman said last week the risk of MMR-2 causing meningitis was so small as to be 'unquantifiable' and there was no direct risk of epilepsy. Richard Barr confirmed that one of the cases granted legal aid was given MMR-2 as were four of his cases in the process of applying for legal aid.

A Merck US spokesman says: 'Three hundred million doses of MMR-2 have been distributed worldwide. There is no causal relationship established between meningitis, mumps and encephalitis and the MMR-2 vaccine. It has an unsurpassed record of safety.'

Jabs says that three Pluserix-MMR children in the UK died shortly after receiving the vaccine. Other reactions listed by the parents include arthritis, epilepsy, affected speech, deafness, delayed development, fits, convulsions, and attacks of measles and mumps.

Since 1988 about four million children have been through the MMR programme. The Government does recognise that children can be damaged by vaccination. Since 1979, when the Vaccine Damage Payment system was set up, some 600 have won state compensation. The maximum pay-out is pounds 30,000 but cases are difficult to prove and disability would have to be very severe.

Meanwhile the pressure is on for GPs to achieve their vaccination targets. They receive a bonus of pounds 1,905 if 90 per cent of children under two on their list are vaccinated. If only 70 per cent are vaccinated, they receive pounds 635. Below this they get no bonus. Mrs Fletcher says these payments threaten the objectivity of medical decisions.


Bolton Evening News 17 August 1999

We are against damage - not vaccination

I REFER to the letter from Dr Robert Aston: Our only motive is to protect your health (BEN, August 10).

Dr Aston's comments were directed towards groups like ours, and JABS is the largest group in the UK, campaigning for safer vaccines and justice for vaccine damaged children.

As Dr Aston knows, my youngest son has been severely brain-damaged, we believe, as a direct result of the MMR vaccination he received when he was 13 months old. He is also aware of other parents in his own health area with children severely disabled as a result of childhood inoculations.

I would like to make it quite clear that our group is not against vaccination, we are against damage. If there is a problem with a vaccine or a particular combination of vaccines who better to express it than the parents of children who have been on the receiving end.

The Jabs group represents over 1800 families from around the UK who believe that their children have suffered severe health problems following childhood vaccinations. The diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis (whooping cough) (DTP) and Measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) combination vaccines are the most often reported to our group by worried parents.

1. Parents are usually only told of the minor side effects that might occur following vaccination, eg slight rise in temperature, which is supported by the Health Education Authority's clinic pamphlet. The pamphlet plays up the seriousness of the diseases, and plays down the possibility of serious reactions. What the GP gets is a product insert sheet direct from the vaccine pharmaceutical company, which states the minor and serious problems that have been reported to them during the production and safety trials. In the main, it is the serious adverse reactions that are reported to JABS.

2. There appears to be a massive under-reporting of serious adverse reactions to the Committee on Safety of Medicines, therefore, statistics on side effects are unsound. This view has been endorsed by the Public Health Laboratory Service in the Lancet.

3. Our group has met the most senior medical advisers and the Health Minister, Tessa Jowell, calling on them to undertake a scientific study of the 1800 children registered with JABS. The then chief medical officer, Sir Kenneth Calman, took the line that our information was anecdotal as it was coming from parents and he was prepared only to look at scientific evidence. How can anecdotal information become scientific evidence unless a credible, independent, scientific study is undertaken?

4. Vaccine damage does, of course, exist and is accepted by the Government. Following the Vaccine Damage Payment Act 1979 a vaccine damage payment unit was established as a branch of the Department of Health. We have called for the Department of Social Security Minister, Hugh Bayley, to meet pharmaceutical companies with a view to them making a financial contribution to the scheme as they do in the United States. At present a child has to be damaged at least 80pc to even be assessed by the unit for a one-off payment of £40,000. Even with this strict criteria almost 900 children have been awarded payments so far. MMR vaccine damage payments have been awarded for various adverse effects including: epilepsy, Guillain-Barre syndrome (a paralysis condition), SSPE (a brain-wasting condition), profound deafness and death.

5. Any debate on vaccine damage will have Department of Health officials and doctors quoting the massive number of doses given to children in the United States. What is never stated by UK officials is that in the US they have a National Vaccine Compensation Programme. In the last 10 years this programme has paid out over $1B in payments to vaccine damaged children. The drug companies have to contribute to the programme and up to August 1997 they had to pay an excise tax on each dose using a risk-based formula. The DTP and MMR were taxed at $4.56 and $4.44, polio vaccines at $0.29 and DT vaccines at $0.06. This must surely give an indication of which vaccines carry the highest risk of a serious adverse reaction The US administration will not pay out compensation because of "quite unfounded scare" stories.

6. Also in the US two American parent research organisations, Autism Research Institute and Cure Autism Now Foundation, have recently joined with the National Vaccine Information Centre in calling for independent studies conducted by non-Governmental researchers into the possible link between vaccines and autism.

7. With very young children it is extremely difficult to prove vaccine damage. The JABS group also has older children registered with us. In November 1994 the Department of Health announced the decision to re-vaccinate seven million schoolchildren to thwart an expected measles epidemic. The officials at the time stated that it did not matter whether the children had had the disease or a vaccine against measles before, they could all be safely re-vaccinated. The children were given the measles/rubella (MR) vaccine. After the campaign the Committee on Safety of Medicines stated that serious reactions to the MR vaccine were very rare, but then admitted that there had been 530 serious reactions. Given that the chief medical officer's figure of 'one in a million' for vaccine encephalitis is usually quoted for adverse reactions and only seven million - not 530 million - pupils were vaccinated, there appears to be something wrong with their definition of 'rare'.

The issues are very complex and difficult to summarise in a small space. Meningitis C vaccine is soon to be included in the vaccine programme. As a parent, myself, I welcome any scientific developments to reduce the incidence of serious disease. My concerns are though that in the fight to beat childhood diseases some children are being caught in friendly fire. I do not not want any child damaged by disease, but as one of the 1800 families caring for a vaccine damaged child I do not want a child damaged by a vaccine either! Playing the numbers game we have looked at the track record of both the single measles vaccine, and the combination MMR. The single measles vaccine was used in Britain for 21 years (between 1967 and 1988). We have 27 children registered with us from that period believed to have suffered severe problems. The MMR has been used for 11 years (1988 - to date). We have 1670 children registered with us from this period. The Department of Health want to offer the Meningitis C vaccines at the same time as children receive DTP+Polio+Hib meningitis vaccines or with MMR vaccines. In the doctors' magazine, 'Pulse', Dr Richard Nicholson editor of 'The Bulletin of medical Ethics' and a paediatrician said "There should be more extensive investigation, particularly if it's going to be given in combination with other vaccines."

Jackie Fletcher, JABS


jackie@jabs.org.uk © John Fletcher 2012