Parents denied better but dearer vaccine


DOCTORS are facing intense pressure to tell parents about the
existence of a safer whooping cough jab after it emerged that the
standard vaccine is ten times more likely to trigger side effects
than its more expensive alternative.

Parents are being deliberately kept in the dark about Infanrix, a
new, British-made injection, despite the fact that it is available
free on the NHS for those who know to ask for it by name.

The Scotsman has also established that using Infanrix's cheaper
rival, the French-produced DTwP, has enabled health officials to
slash the cost of protecting infants from diptheria, tetanus and
pertussis (whooping cough) by almost 50 per cent.

Under UK policy, all babies receive the DTP vaccine at eight weeks,
12 weeks and 16 weeks, together with the HIb vaccine for flu. Doctors
are required to make the cheaper DTwP the routine jab.

Last month, The Scotsman revealed that DTwP contains a highly
controversial preservative known as thimerosal, which has been
ordered out of medicines in the United States amid fears of its links
to autism.

Numerous doctors are rebelling against NHS advice and figures suggest
that Infanrix is now given for one in four triple DTP jabs in
Scotland, with some GPs refusing to order the mercury-laden DTwP.

The Scotsman has established that tests on DTwP show it induces a
string of side effects as it includes whooping cough virus cells
which can play havoc with a baby‚?Ts immune system.

Files of safety trials in 2,500 children show that babies injected
with the first dose of the DTwP are ten times more likely to suffer
fever, defined by high temperatures of 38C or above, or start a
sustained period of crying lasting more than one hour.

In addition, every dose of the DTwP jab injects infants with 25
micrograms of ethyl mercury, a neurotoxin which never fully leaves
the body.

While parents have the right to ask doctors to use the more expensive
vaccine, few know about Infanrix or are even aware they have a

A further document obtained by The Scotsman is an internal safety
sheet from Eli Lilly, the US company which makes thimerosal, to be
read by its scientists handling the substance in its own

It says: "Mercury causes mild to severe mental retardation and motor
co-ordination impairment.

"This product contains a chemical known to the state of California to
cause birth defects and other reproductive harm."

Parents groups last night reacted in fury that Infanrix is being kept
secret. Olivia Cooper, from the JABS group, said: "This is
horrifying, but if one jab costs a tenner and the other one costs
twice as much, you can see why the government want to keep the
expensive choice quiet."

Bill Welsh, the head of the Action Against Autism group, said the
leaked memo from Eli Lilly is damning enough to force Scotland to
have thimerosal withdrawn from all medicines.

Politicians from all parties are tonight expected to add to the call
on ministers to reveal the full facts in a Holyrood debate so every
parent can make an informed choice.

The Executive last night suggested it may be open to such a move -
making Scotland the only part of the UK to give parents the choice to
avoid exposing their child to mercury.

"Parents should be given a full explanation for immunisation and the
alternatives," said an Executive spokesman.