Caring mother rounds on Alistair Darling's 'insult'

LORNA MARTIN http://www.theherald.co.uk/

THE mother of a 12-year-old boy profoundly disabled by the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis/whooping cough and tetanus) vaccine described Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling's announcement yesterday as an insult.

Jan Barras and her husband, John, took early retirement 10 years ago to care 24 hours a day for their son, Andrew, at their home in Alexandria.

They are one of about 60 families in Scotland believed to have been affected by disability as a result of the DPT vaccine. Their son suffered cerebral ataxia and epilepsy after reacting to the whooping cough vaccination in his third triple jab when he was 10 months old.

Mrs Barras had expressed serious doubts about the safety of the vaccination but, after the death of Andrew's twin at birth and arguments from medical practitioners, she was persuaded to go ahead with the inoculation.

Andrew takes at least 10 severe seizures every day and stops breathing during about four of them. He is doubly incontinent and has to be fed and dressed.

His parents receive only a couple of weeks' respite care each year - the last time they were out for a meal was 11 years ago - and one of them sleeps with him every night in case he takes a seizure.

In 1994, after a long legal battle to establish that Andrew suffered post-vaccine encephalopathy after receiving the triple jab, the family was awarded a one-off compensation payment of 30,000.

Yesterday, Mrs Barras, who estimates that it costs 80,000 a year to look after a vaccine-damaged child, said she was "disgusted and furious", and challenged Mr Darling to care for her son for one day.

She said: "My son's life has been absolutely destroyed and we have no semblance of a normal family life because we took part in a government vaccination programme that resulted in a medical accident."

She would meet Mr Darling "anywhere in the country during the recess and invite him to look after my son for 24 hours, but I doubt he would take up the offer".

She said the announcement was also a bitter disappointment to vaccine-damaged children who are now over the age of 21.

There are at least two carers in their early 80s in Scotland who are looking after children in their 40s who were affected by the dpt vaccine but who will not be entitled to any compensation under the new scheme.

- June 28, 2000

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