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Interview 35

Brief Outline: For all immunisations' Her medical training and her experience of growing up in a third world country helped her to make decisions about her daughter's immunisations.
Background: At time of interview' married, one daughter, aged 15 months. Parent's occupation' Mother- Doctor, Father- Software manager. Ethnic background' Latin American (Mother), Father (White-British).

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Parents need to be given comprehensive information from health professionals.

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There are lots and lots of people who have never really been educated about this. And why should they be? This is a matter of health, public health. So it's only those who are in this field who know a lot more about it. But the majority of people just know what they read on the papers or, or are told on TV, which is not always the right amount of information and is never all the information available. Yes, you can find it in the Internet, but that is also I think limited to a certain type of population. Not everybody goes and makes an Internet search when they want to know something. So I think the, the main responsibility is for the health personnel, because these are the people who are absolutely obliged to provide you with the right information. It's their job to do it. And it's their job to help you to reach that decision. Even if, if you have received all the information available, with all your questions addressed, and still you've decided you don't want it, fine, you are free in this country to decline the, the vaccine. But you shouldn't decline it because you haven't been given the, the right information and you have still some vague ideas and some obscure fears about vaccines.

 

Put yourself in the frame of mind of a parent.

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Also I am inclined to believe that junior doctors, they tend to be in their twenties, you know, many of them do not have families yet. So it's more difficult for them to perhaps, to put themselves into the frame, the mind frame of a parent. So it's very easy for you as a doctor to just say, 'Well, you know, have the vaccine. That's it. Because I say so'. While as a parent you have so many worries about your child. Just the idea of putting a needle inside them is painful for you. It is heart-rending. And so you won't accept anything like that unless you are totally convinced that it is absolutely necessary and good for your child. So I think there is more need of empathy and volunteering the information even without it being asked, to try and make parents feel more comfortable about it and more open about it.

 

Suggests there are better places than the media for getting information about MMR and other...

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So I think it is very, very, very important here and everywhere else to educate people, to inform them. Not misinform them, which is what the media usually does. If you buy a tabloid, they just care about selling papers, and the best way to sell them is to shout horrible stories, you know, and, and pick the one in a million case where something went wrong, instead of stressing that the other 999,999 actually didn't have any problems and were protected, yes. The media are always using sensation to sell. But on the other hand you are the parent, you have your child to look after and you want the best for your child. You shouldn't listen to sources of information which are not the right ones. And I think if, if we don't know much about something, we should go and ask the right people. There's always your GP, your health care or a nurse that can give you the information you require, can actually, not just tell it to you but give you access to documentation, where you can make your mind up by yourself without just listening to it on TV or on tabloids. So I think it's very important to educate people the right way, to give them the proper information. And, yes, even then people are still reluctant to do that well it's very difficult. But I think in this case of the MMR vaccine there was a lot of misinformation, which led to people having these problems.

 

Believes that when you want expert advice you should talk to the professionals who have spent...

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So I think it is very, very, very important here and everywhere else to educate people, to inform them. Not misinform them, which is what the media usually does. If you buy a tabloid, they just care about selling papers, and the best way to sell them is to shout horrible stories, you know, and, and pick the one in a million case where something went wrong, instead of stressing that the other 999,999 actually didn't have any problems and were protected, yes. The media are always using sensation to sell. But on the other hand you are the parent, you have your child to look after and you want the best for your child. You shouldn't listen to sources of information which are not the right ones. And I think if, if we don't know much about something, we should go and ask the right people. There's always your GP, your health care or a nurse that can give you the information you require, can actually, not just tell it to you but give you access to documentation, where you can make your mind up by yourself without just listening to it on TV or on tabloids. So I think it's very important to educate people the right way, to give them the proper information.

 

Some Internet websites may not give the right amount of information and all the information...

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There are lots and lots of people who have never really been educated about this. And why should they be? This is a matter of health, public health. So it's only those who are in this field who know a lot more about it. But the majority of people just know what they read on the papers or, or are told on TV, which is not always the right amount of information and is never all the information available. Yes, you can find it in the Internet, but that is also I think limited to a certain type of population. Not everybody goes and makes an Internet search when they want to know something. 

So I think the main responsibility is for the health personnel, because these are the people who are absolutely obliged to provide you with the right information. It's their job to do it. And it's their job to help you to reach that decision. Even if you have received all the information available, with all your questions addressed, and still you've decided you don't want it, fine, you are free in this country to decline the vaccine. But you shouldn't decline it because you haven't been given the right information and you have still some vague ideas and some obscure fears about vaccines.

 

Believed the risk of the diseases and complications of the disease to be a greater risk than the...

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I was also aware, and my husband too, of the controversy raised here about the MMR. I always thought, sorry to say so, that that was rubbish. And I think later on that was confirmed. Now the evidence shows that that study reporting MMR association with autism and IBD is completely wrong. Even if it was so, the incidence of autism and inflammatory bowel disease in children who have been vaccinated with MMR was far, far lower than the consequences, the, the possible consequences of.... for not having received the immunisation and having had the infection. Measles is one of the most immunosuppressive viruses around and when a child gets measles his whole immune system is affected. So they can get any infection. In my country they often die of bronchopneumonia. And it's just terribly sad to see a child die because he wasn't given the immunisation in time. So you can have much worse consequences for not having the vaccine than for having it. 

Autism is a very rare occurrence. Probably we are seeing a bit more of it because now we are diagnosing it more. It was completely unknown thirty years ago. Nowadays there are more criteria and more knowledge so we are diagnosing it more. It's not that it's just out there increasing now. It is just that we are now seeing it. The same happened with the cancer. Before, people said, 'Oh, no, nobody died of cancer fifty years ago'. It's just that we didn't diagnose it. People still died of it. But people said, 'Oh, they just died of something'. And, and it's the same with autism and, and inflammatory bowel disease. They happened coincidentally to start being diagnosed about the same time as MMR was starting to be applied, and also they tend to be diagnosed at about the age when the MMR is administered. So it's coincidental. But there is absolutely no evidence, and there have been lots of studies done with a lot of children that proved that there is no connection. It's just totally coincidental.

 

Young babies not old enough to be immunised against measles and mumps are more at risk of...

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It's just so terrible that the levels of global or you know, general immunity against measles for example have gone down below protection levels. That means that even if my daughter has been immunised, she might be exposed to the virus. She, well, because she has been immunised she will be probably safe. But other children, who haven't yet been immunised because they haven't reached the age when they can be immunised, MMR cannot be given before 1 year old. But if there are more and more children in the community that haven't been immunised because the parents thought that vaccine wasn't good, that makes, that increases the chances for children whose, whose parents will give them the vaccine a bit later on when they get to 1 or more, that these children can get the infection because others didn't get vaccinated. So I think that's terrible. I think it's irresponsible. If you take a decision on your life or your child's life, because you are the parent, you should also consider others. And this is a matter of public health and that's why I'm surprised that the government doesn't have a more strict position about this.  
 
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