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Can a vaccine damage a child?

Published in Health Visitor the journal of the Health Visitors' Association February 1995

Question: can a childhood vaccination seriously damage a child?
Answer: yes! And this is accepted by government.

There is a vaccine damage payment unit (VDPU) based in Blackpool [Now Preston - click here for the address] set up to evaluate a parent's claim on behalf of their injured child. Unfortunately, the criteria are so strict that most claims are rejected. A child has to be at least 80% [now 60%] disabled by vaccine, and the onus is on the parent to prove it.
One boy within the JABS group is paralysed in his left leg; the limb is slightly withered, shorter than his other and will always need the support of a calliper. The VDPU has accepted that the polio vaccine caused the injury but the little lad is classified as only 50% damaged because his other leg is fine - therefore no payment.

In addition, the period in which claims can be made is restricted and the maximum award is only £30,000 [now £120,000] for a life of severe disability. JABS believes the introduction of a graduated scale of payments would be fairer.

Given that vaccine damage can occur, it is imperative that the risk to the child is reduced as much as humanly possible. This implies research. JABS has been conducting an on-going survey with parents who suspect a vaccine has damaged their child, and patterns seem to be emerging. With the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine, in the same period after inoculation children have been reported both with similar initial symptoms and similar long-term problems. Seven parents, so far, have reported the death of their child. One died of a massive fit in the night and the vaccine damage tribunal has accepted the child's epilepsy was caused by the MMR vaccination. Another child died from Guillain Barre syndrome, a condition mentioned in the drug companies' own list of adverse reactions.

Our survey has highlighted a number of common allergies in the families: asthma, eczema, hay fever, antibiotics or a history of febrile convulsions, fits or epilepsy. Is it possible the child has some allergy element and has an allergic response when presented with several viruses at once? Some of the younger babies are being given diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hib meningitis and oral polio vaccine all at the same time.
Although family history may be part of the reason, many children showing adverse reactions received the vaccine from the same MMR batch numbers, and in some cases share the same medical problem: for example, four children sharing one batch number all have varying degrees of autism; another batch was shared by three youngsters all suffering from epilepsy. How much of this can be 'coincidence'?

JABS feels that the monitoring of adverse reactions using the scheme known as the 'yellow card system' is currently ineffective. This could easily be improved by making parents aware of the reporting method at the time of immunisation, and by ensuring any completed cards are countersigned by doctor and parent.
In September 1992 two brands of MMR vaccines were withdrawn from supplies because of a risk of mild transient mumps meningitis. In the latest measles campaign the same manufacturers of these brands produced the measles/ rubella vaccine using the same Schwartz and Wistar strains, but of course leaving out the Urabe mumps strain. Concerned parents of school-age children are reporting similar problems following MR vaccinations: same time periods, similar initial symptoms: such as high temperatures, rashes, convulsions. Will we see the same long term problems?

JABS, as a self-help group, neither recommends nor advises against vaccinations but we aim to promote awareness and understanding about immunisations and offer basic support to any parent whose child has a health problem after vaccination. We also want justice for our vaccine-damaged children and will continue to campaign for a legal right to compensation.

This article was published in Health Visitor, the journal of the Health Visitors' Association February 1995 Vol.68 No.2:82