In any debate there are bound to be different interpretations of the facts. If the debate gets really heated the facts themselves may be called into question. But when it come to MMR and autism it seems that one side of the debate is able to ignore facts that are a matter of public record and ought to be beyond dispute.
Much was made of Tony Blair’s refusal to publicly state whether or not his children had had the MMR vaccination. MMR activists used this to imply that the Blair children had been given separate jabs and to berate the goverment for hypocrisy. But in February last year, Gordon Brown, who has now succeeded Blair as Prime Minister, publicly stated that his son had been given the MMR jab. The Daily Telegraph reported that
Gordon Brown yesterday made it clear that his two-year-old son John had been given the MMR jab after the publication of a report showing that, in some parts of the country, as few as one in nine children were being given the triple vaccination.
The Chancellor said parents had obligations to the rest of society to protect children from disease.
So imagine my surprise when I looked at a recent story in the Mail that reported that Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and a close ally of Prime Minister Brown had also given his children the MMR vaccine. The surprise came later when the Mail reported that,
Campaigners are now calling on the Prime Minister to declare publicly that his children, too, have had the MMR inoculation.
Now, I can accept that a few MMR believers may have missed the news that Gordon Brown had given his son the MMR. But the way the Mail reported their views suggests that it missed this nugget as well. The Mail has been a consistent defender of AndrewWakefield over the years and done much to keep the MMR scare in the public mind. How could they have missed this? And the MMR campaigners who are usually so assiduous in collecting every snippet of news related to vaccines – how could they forget this? Anyone who googled “Gordon Brown MMR” would be taken straight to the story.
The comments section of this story and an earlier story that reported on the recent measles outbreak are replete with demands for Brown to come clean on MMR and his child. He already has, 18 months ago. But the belief in a government conspiracy/cover up over MMR is so strong amonsgt the true believers that they automatically believe the worst even when it is demonstrably false. It makes sense to them that Brown would prevaricate over his son’s vaccination record if he was part of the cover up. In other words if, according to my prejudices it ought to be true, then it has to be true.
At the beginning of this article I referred to the MMR debate. But there can be no debate if one side not only refuses to listen to its opponents but is also deaf to relevant facts from independent sources that do not support its point of view.
Dr Mike Fitzpatrick has two commentaries on the recent upsurge in measles; one in The Times and one in The Guardian. Both have provoked similar dispiriting responses from within the ranks of the MMR faithful. But there has also been a spirited defence of evidence based medicine and scientific principles. Please go there and add your comments. Reason needs to make its voice heard.