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Interview 41

Brief Outline: For all immunisations' Her experience of working in Public Health informed her decisions about immunisations. She believed much of the information from the media to be inaccurate and biased.
Background: At time of interview' married, one son, aged 22 months. Parent's occupation' Mother- Ph.D. Student (Public Health), Father- Civil Servant. Ethnic background' White-British.

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We are lucky to have immunisations available in the UK to prevent these diseases.

We are lucky to have immunisations available in the UK to prevent these diseases.

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I think also I, it's a, I see it as a little bit of a, as a responsibility to, it's not just about your child. You know, it's one of these things that it's like the Prisoner's Dilemma, if we all stop vaccinating, vaccinating these diseases would come back within, you know, within years we'd be, we'd be back to sort of Victorian kind of children falling ill from all these communicable, and I don't, I'm not sure, I think people seem to have a, sometimes a bit of a short memory about how much child, childhood health has improved in the UK and how large a part in, you know, injections have played immunisations have played in that. And, yeah, it's a shame, which just shows you how, you know, we're living in such kind of privileged times that we can even afford to think about, you know, whether or not to get our kids injections. Because before this, when, you know, it was just a real privilege to be able to protect your child like that.

 

Believes the media misrepresented the level of risk associated with MMR.

Believes the media misrepresented the level of risk associated with MMR.

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Again I think because I'm in research I always treat media representation of health results with quite large scepticism [laughs]. So the media like to get hold of this idea, this difference between absolute risk and relative risk they deliberately play on that. It was like when the pill scare came out and they said, you know, that the risk of thrombo-embolism was, the relative risk was, I don't know what it was, it was about twice or something if, it, on this pill rather than that pill, but they didn't say that the absolute risk was still tiny and actually still smaller than it would be if you were pregnant. And what happened was that all these women got pregnant as a result. So that whole representation of risk they deliberately play about with that.

And I always find whenever you read anything that you know anything vaguely about in the papers you always realise how many sort of [laughs] how biased it is or that it's coming from a certain angle and certain things aren't ' So I'm not so swayed by stuff in the media. 

I think I'm quite lucky at having access to research papers and if I read something in a  much more I don't know, reliable, if that's fair, source, then I would be more worried. But even then studies are funded but that's what swung it for me about the MMR was that this guy had  a serious conflict of interest. You know, he was representing the parents of children with autism and you can see how it happens. Somebody stakes their career on making a certain point and they get a certain reputation and they can't really back down. So, I think knowing that, knowing that background, that piece of information in itself was enough for me to really dismiss, I think [laughs]. Although I mean it's funny because you have a rational head and then you have your sort of mother head on and so it's not that I got him immunised and didn't worry about it. It was still, I was still looking for signs of [laughs] withdrawing from the world and not wanting affection enough to... which is ridiculous, I knew it was ridiculous but you still sort of do that, you still kind of watch afterwards to see if he's changed. But there was absolutely no sign of that.

 

Media reports of health studies often misinterpret the level of risk.

Media reports of health studies often misinterpret the level of risk.

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Again I think because I'm in research I always treat media representation of health results with quite large scepticism [laughs]. So, you know, the media like to get hold of, this idea, this difference between absolute risk and relative risk they, they deliberately play on that. It was like when the pill scare came out and they said, you know, that the risk of thromboembolism was, the relative risk was, I don't know what it was, it was about twice or something if, it, on this pill rather than that pill, but they didn't say that the absolute risk was still tiny and actually still smaller than it, it would be if you were pregnant. And, but you know, what happened was that all these women got pregnant as a result. So they, you know, that sort of, whole representation of risk they, they deliberately play about with that. And I always find whenever you read anything that you know anything vaguely about in the papers you always realise how many sort of [laughs] how biased it is or, well, that it's coming from a certain angle and certain things aren't' So I, I don't think, I'm not so swayed by stuff in the media. 

 

She didn't think for too long about MMR because she believed the benefits of immunisation...

She didn't think for too long about MMR because she believed the benefits of immunisation...

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Well, I'm not sure that I, there was really a decision to make. I didn't really waver for very long because I think I just believe that vaccinations are a good thing and that the risks of not having a child vaccinated vastly outweigh the risks of anything that might occur from the, the vaccination. And I think that in everything you do in life carries a certain risk and you've got to live with that really, you can't expect everything you do to be risk free.  

So I, you know, I was aware that there's, there's probably all sorts of research out there claiming that, you know, this side-effect and that side effect but every time we take drugs there are side-effects and people do it all the, all the time. And I think there is a little bit of slight unwarranted fear about injections just because of all the publicity and because of the, particularly obviously around MMR.

And actually for that reason I didn't really do any reading or [laughs] I didn't really want to look into it because I knew if you start looking you'll obviously find people who've written a report saying, link, you know, there's a link with autism or other sort of risks. And I knew I was going to do it anyway so there was no point in frightening myself or focusing on sort of tiny risks when actually the, I knew, you know, that the benefits were gong to massively increase that massively over-ride that. So I didn't really, I didn't really think about it too much.

 

There is no convincing evidence to suggest that MMR is not safe.

There is no convincing evidence to suggest that MMR is not safe.

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Well, I'm not sure that I, there was really a decision to make. I didn't really waver for very long because I think I just believe that vaccinations are a good thing and that the risks of not having a child vaccinated vastly outweigh the risks of anything that might occur from the vaccination. And I think that in everything you do in life carries a certain risk and you've got to live with that really, you can't expect everything you do to be risk free.  

Again, I think with MMR, just because of all the publicity I was bit more apprehensive about that. But even then I didn't really do much reading because, I think because I'd come from a research background and I know there's actually no that, you know, there are contradictory studies on everything and you've got to take the sort of weight of evidence and the weight of evidence is towards it being safe. And so there's this one very highly publicised study that was claiming these links but, but everything else suggested that it was absolutely fine. And for me the risk of a link with, of him contracting autism was so much smaller than him contracting mumps and him suffering sort of negative impact from that. So it wasn't too difficult a decision.  

I think I'm quite lucky at having access to research papers and if I read something in a sort of much more, I don't know, reliable, if that's fair, source, then I would be more worried. But even then studies are funded but, I mean, that's what, that's what swung it for me about the MMR was that this guy had a, a serious conflict of interest. You know, he was representing the parents of children with autism and you can see how it happens. Somebody stakes their career on a certain, making a certain point and they get a certain reputation and they can't really back down. So, I think knowing that, knowing that background, that piece of information in itself was enough for me to really dismiss, I think [laughs]. Although I mean it's funny because you have a rational head and then you have your sort of mother head on and so it's not that I got him immunised and didn't worry about it. It was still, I was still looking for signs of [laughs] withdrawing from the world and not wanting affection enough to, which is ridiculous, I knew it was ridiculous but you still sort of do that, you still kind of watch afterward to see if, if he's changed. But there was absolutely no sign of that.

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