The Daily Telegraph has printed a monumentally stupid article calling for single vaccines to be made available. Incredibly, Cassandra Jardine has claimed that the only reasons that the triple MMR vaccine is given instead of single jabs are money and simplicity.
Only one doctor, Richard Halvorsen, author of The Truth about Vaccines, offers single vaccines to his patients on the NHS. The rest of us have to pay about £100 a shot.
But why? Combined vaccines suit the companies that make more profit on them because the patents on single vaccines have expired. But that can’t be why the Department of Health refuses to offer parents choice, when in other areas of care choice is the watchword.
The real reason it is so stubborn is that it is simpler and cheaper to get children into the surgery when they are very young and administer three vaccines at once. Otherwise, there seems no good reason not to revert to the old practice of separate vaccines, most of which could be given at a later date when children are more robust.
No, Cassandra – I think you’ll find that following a schedule of single measles jasb (e.g. measles one year, mumps the next, rubella the year after that) leaves children exposed to two-out-of-three of these diseases for 12 months and to one-out-of-three for 24 months. Perhaps that could be a consideration?
Cassandra also refers to children being given the other single vaccines when they “are more robust”. This seems to be a reference to “immune overload”. The World Health Organisation has a useful page on immune overload that states that “evidence to support the concept of “immune overload” is lacking” and there are links to three abstracts of papers on immune overload. According to both the Offit et al and Miller et al papers, vaccinated children in fact have fewer infections than unvaccinated children. The pdf of the Offit paper is here and in it, the authors state that:
Current studies do not support the hypothesis that multiple vaccines overwhelm, weaken, or “use up” the immune system. On the contrary, young infants have an enormous capacity to respond to multiple vaccines, as well as to the many other challenges present in the environment. By providing protection against a number of bacterial and viral pathogens,
vaccines prevent the “weakening” of the immune system and consequent secondary bacterial infections occasionally caused by natural infection.
The paper from Miller et al tells us that “Combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine did not increase the risk of hospitalisation with invasive bacterial infection in the three months after vaccination; rather there was a protective effect. These results provide no support for the concept of “immunological overload” induced by multiple antigen vaccinations, nor calls for single antigen vaccines.” While Hilton, Petticrew and Hunt point out that we don’t actually know “how British parents conceptualise the notion of ‘immune-overload’ or how they relate this concept to their own children”. Link.
Incidentally, this NHS pdf has a chart on page two showing levels of measles infection prior to (a) the introduction of a single vaccine and (b) the MMR triple jab. It also shows levels of mumps and rubells prior to the introduction of MMR. Notifications of measles infection dropped significantly following the introduction of the single vaccine, but can be seen to have dropped even further on the introduction of MMR. This vaccine is doing a very good job of keeping our children safe from three not insignificant diseases. I don’t want to get all shrill and hysterical, but frankly I think that papers like the Telegraph are jeopardising children’s health by printing ill-informed articles such as the one by Cassandra Jardine. Won’t someone, please, think about the children?