Vaccine 'Risk To Children' - Telegraph 1/2/1974

By the Telegraph's Parliamentary Staff.

An end to the "conspiracy of silence" about the way vaccines can react on children was demanded by Mr Ashley (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent, S) in the commons last night.

He challenged the Department of Health and Social Security during an adjournment debate to deny that between 1,000 and 2,000 children in Britain had suffered brain damage for life as a result of the whooping cough vaccine.

Mr Ashley, who expressed full support for the general immunisation programme, said he wanted to tear aside the veil of obscurity which had shrouded the fate of thousands of children. He called for urgent action to reduce the risk of future tragedies and State compensation for those already injured.

"While I recognise the fear that my discussion of risks may impair the public's confidence in immunisation procedures, I believe it is time the conspiracy of silence was ended because too many young lives are being devastated."

Mr Ashley quoted from the letter from a mother whose daughter born in 1960 was taken ill after a triple vaccine injection for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. The letter said that at 13 Carolyn could not walk, talk or help herself in any way, and could not even hold her head up and was of no mental age at all.

"Tragedy for a child, heartbreak for her parents," said Mr Ashley. "Yet the Government and the medical profession have the insolence to discourage discussion of these effects."

He said the Government's "shattering complacency" was revealed when the Parliamentary Secretary admitted in a written reply that the majority of adverse reactions were not reported.

"The Minister has already admitted to me that the machinery for notification is not working properly. He is, therefore, conducting a national immunisation service without full knowledge of the terrible risks involved for some children."

The Government should take firmer measures to ensure that no child obviously at risk was vaccinated.

Compensation should be provided for those already damaged, and a State compensation scheme set up to underwrite the immunisation programme.

Mr Alison, Under-Secretary, said no immunisation procedure was entirely free from risk of ill-effects. The balance of risks and benefits was kept continually under review.

All vaccines carried risks substantially less than that of remaining unvaccinated. He understood about 170 reports of adverse reactions to vaccines of all types were received each year.

Mr Alison rejected the suggestion that compensation should be paid in these cases as neither appropriate nor feasible. Great difficulty arose in deciding whether a particular disability was directly attributable to a particular procedure, and in deciding what degree of disability was admissible.

He pointed out, however, the Royal Commission on Compensation and Civil Liberties was interested in this matter and was prepared to take evidence. © John Fletcher 2012