Couple's MMR jab anguish

April 2002

LITTLE Abbie Mae Howell was a normal healthy child until she was hit by autism - just 21 days after having the controversial MMR jab.

She turned from a blonde-haired angel into a screaming ball of anger. Instead of happily playing, Abbie Mae, then two, began scratching herself and pulling out clumps of her hair.

A health visitor spotted the signs of autism and her parents' world fell apart when a consultant confirmed it.

Now parents Mark and Debbie, from Warrington, are haunted by the possibility that Abbie Mae's condition stems from the jab.

"She had been normal and healthy until a few weeks after the jab," said Debbie. "It's in the back of our minds that the MMR injection has resulted in the autism, but obviously we can't prove it."

Debate has raged over the combined vaccine to prevent measles, mumps and rubella. Government experts insist there is no proven risk and say it is the most effective way to prevent an epidemic.

But safety fears have been raised since London-based Dr Andrew Wakefield took on the cause of parents who claim the jab led to autism and other serious side effects.

Now Abbie's parents are prepared to invest 25,000 to fly a consultant from the US and paying a team of home tutors to give Abbie the best chance.

Internet search

After researching autism on the Internet, they are eager for their two-and-a-half year-old to embark on a new intensive teaching programme.

The family from Appleton, Warrington, were on a dream trip to Disneyland in Florida when Abbie started to show "tell-tale" signs a matter of weeks after the controversial MMR jab, pulling her hair out, throwing screaming tantrums and scratching her skin.

Back home, a specialist saw her and their fears were realised. With son Elliott, three and a half, due for his booster jab, the pair face the agonising choice of whether to go ahead.

Anyone interested in helping the family should call 01925 653825.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "MMR is the safest and most effective way to protect children against measles, mumps and rubella. Separating the vaccines leaves children unnecessarily at risk of infection while waiting between doses."