Writing to your MP or MSP

Writing to your local MP is an effective way of drawing attention to your child's adverse vaccine reaction or other vaccination issues. The following is a suggestion of the kinds of points that may be made in such a letter/email. The letter should be addressed to your own MP. If you don't know who he/she is you can check the following:

Alphabetical List of Constituencies and Members of Parliament http://www.parliament.uk/directories/hciolists/alcm.cfm

Writing on Vaccination Issues

Introduction
You could start by explaining who you are and why you are writing. You may like to express the hope that your MP will draw to the attention of the Minister of Health your concerns.

Background Information
Be as precise and factual as you can - giving for example:  the name and age of your child.

  • the type of vaccine to be given.
  • the due appointment date.
  • your child's general health. 
  • family history (e.g. - egg allergy). 
  • your views/concerns about the proffered vaccine.
  • your medical advisor's response about your concerns. 
  • your right to exercise parental choice.

The Advice And Information Provided.
You may want to refer to any advice (or lack of it) given prior to your child's vaccination appointment. You may like to refer to the original clinic or campaign leaflets provided. Example in the Health Education Authority's 1998 'MMR The Facts' leaflet states: "Occasionally, children do have a bad reaction to the MMR vaccine. About one in a thousand will have a fit after becoming feverish. There is no evidence that this reaction causes long term problems." It may be relevant to compare this with the Public Health Laboratory's Service Statistics Unit's published report (Lancet March 4 1995, Volume 345, Pages 567-569) which stated that "67% of (hospital) admissions for a convulsion 6-11 days after MMR vaccination were attributable to the measles component of the vaccine". When questioned by JABS about the long term consequences for these children the PHLS stated that their remit was just to look at the 6-11 day period. If the PHLS do not look for evidence there will be "no evidence". The leaflet goes on to say, "A child who has measles is ten times more likely to have a fit as a result of the illness. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) has been reported very rarely after immunisation (about one case in every million immunisations), but the risk of children developing encephalitis after the measles immunisation is no higher than the risk of children developing encephalitis without the vaccine." The phrase "reported very rarely" implies that this does not happen very often. In fact JABS states that the phrase should be taken in its literal sense - vaccine reactions are very rarely reported as corroborated by the PHLS study in the same Lancet article "there is an urgent need to find more reliable methods of adverse event surveillance".

Emphasis
Be as demanding as you like about the urgent need for research into, for example:

  • why is such a vaccination campaign thought necessary?
  • how many children have had a serious reaction to the vaccination?
  • what pressure is the Minister putting on drug companies to investigate the causes of these reactions in order to minimise the likelihood of future ones?
  • how substantial is the evidence for vaccines acting as a booster in the case of children who have already had either the natural disease and/or a previous vaccination?
  • what financial safety net is in place for parents when a vaccine does seriously harm a child in any way?

Preventing Adverse Reactions 
You may like to ask why, as the Department of Health knows there can be some serious adverse reactions to a vaccination, single dose vaccines are so difficult to obtain in the UK when parents in other European countries have the choice. Also, why are blood tests not routinely offered, prior to the jab, to those children whose parents suspect that they are already immune or have had the disease. A blood test could possibly reduce substantially the numbers of children adversely affected and would, therefore, justify the time and cost. Remember MPs respond to public pressure - no pressure - no response!!

Writing About Your Own Child's Experience

Introduction
You may like to express the hope that your MP will draw to the attention of the Minister of Health what has happened to your child.

Background Information
Outline the case history of your own child. Be as precise and factual as you can - giving for example:

  • The date and place of his/her vaccination (your G.P. should have a record of this).
  • The state of his/her health immediately prior to the vaccination and also mentioning his/her general health.
  • Describe the onset of symptoms:
how much time elapsed between the jab and the onset of the symptoms?
how did your child feel?
how severe were the symptoms?
what did you do when symptoms began?
at what stage was a doctor involved?
what action was taken and by whom?
what were you told?
at what stage was the link between your child's illness and the vaccination first suggested?
what diagnosis, if any, was given to you?
what tests were done to back up the diagnosis? was a Yellow Card report sent to the Medicines Control Agency? If you don't know about this, try to find out from your G.P.

Don't Be Afraid To Be Emotive 
Describe the effect of the illness on your child and on you and on other members of the family. This kind of information, though sensitive, is important if concerned parents are not to be brushed aside as agitators or activists. Your MP needs to know of the stress, distress and disruption to normal life an illness such as this can cause. It is probably best to avoid any kind of threatening tone or demand for compensation - while not, of course, ruling out the possibility of making such a claim in the future.

The Advice And Information Provided  
You may at this point, refer to any advice or lack of it you were given prior to your child's vaccination. You may like to refer to the original clinic or campaign leaflets provided. For example, in the November 1994 Measles Rubella (MR) vaccination programme side effects were referred to as: "uncommon. They are usually very mild and disappear quickly. A few children may get a mild fever, a rash, sore or aching joints, or feel a bit 'off-colour' a week to ten days after the jab. But this should only last two or three days." The leaflet goes on to say, "Side effects are even less likely with a booster injection" (i.e. if your child had been vaccinated against measles and/or rubella prior to the November jab). It may be relevant to compare this with your own experience.

Emphasis
The most important information you can give is anything which points to a link between the vaccination and your child's illness. The fact that the one preceded the other is not enough, on its own, to obtain any admission of cause and effect from the Minister. Be as demanding as you like about the urgent need for research into, for example:

  •  why vaccination campaigns are thought necessary?
  • how many children have had a serious reaction to the vaccination?
  • what pressure is the Minister putting on drug companies to investigate the causes of these reactions in order to minimise the likelihood of future ones?
  • how substantial is the evidence for vaccines acting as a booster in the case of children who have already had either the natural disease and/or a previous vaccination?
  • what financial safety net is in place for parents when a vaccine does seriously harm a child in any way? 
Preventing Adverse Reactions 
You may like to ask why, in the light of the fact that the Department of Health knows there can be some serious adverse reactions to a vaccination, a blood test is not routinely offered, prior to a vaccination, to those children whose parents suspect that they are already immune or have had the disease. A blood test could possibly reduce substantially the numbers of children adversely affected and would, therefore, justify the time and cost.
(With thanks to Sue Hamlyn for her guidance notes)

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