Boy's parents sue drugs giant

Western Gazette 09/03/2000

Report by Tim Edmonds

THE parents of a boy who, they claim, contracted autism after being given a jab to prevent measles this week launched a High Court battle against the vaccine's manufacturer.

The Blandford couple remained tight-lipped yesterday, refusing to comment on the writ issued against Pasteur Merieux MSD Ltd, which faces similar claims from other parents across Britain.

The company denies its product is dangerous, claiming it saves 100 lives a year and prevents a further 800,000 cases of measles annually.

The writ, filed by Paul and Lesley Damon of Windmill Road, claims damages of at least 50,000 for their son Robert, aged ten, who was diagnosed autistic after he was given the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

It is one of a number of High Court writs claiming compensation from companies responsible for researching, producing and marketing the vaccine.

British researchers warned two years ago the jab could be linked to autism, bowel disease and other illnesses.

But yesterday the company's medical director, Mike Watson, said that all claims for damages against firms producing the vaccine were unfounded.

"There is no evidence to support any of the claims and lots of evidence to support the exceptional safety and benefit to be derived from this vaccine, " he said.

When asked why so many writs were being issued against manufacturers, Mr Watson suggested the vaccine was a victim of its own success.

He said: "More than 300 million doses of the vaccine have been administered worldwide in the past 26 years and measles is now an invisible disease.

"But now people concentrate only on the risk and not the benefits. Nothing in life is completely safe but we must weigh this with the vaccine's safety being very good and its benefits being very great."

He suggested that parents of autistic children had wrongly made connections with the jab being administered at the age of 15 months and the development of the condition around the age of 18 months.

Mr Watson also said that Pasteur Merieux MSD Ltd accepted all cases would have to go through the law process but remained confident it would not have to pay any compensation.  

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