Return of the measles parties (or why parents fear MMR jabs)

DAILY MAIL Feb 15, 2000

WHEN Richard Thomas’s four children returned home from a friend’s party, instead of clutching goodie bags, they brought back something different —mumps.

But this was no unlucky coincidence. The children, aged from 12 to five, were invited to the party in the hope that they would catch the infection and acquire a natural immunity.

The ‘measles party’, once an accepted way of helping your child gain immunity from childhood ailments in the Fifties and Sixties, is making a comeback.

Before mass childhood immunisation against measles began in 1968, these parties were a way of acquiring infectious diseases. Mothers sent their children to play with pals who had mumps or measles, hoping they would become infected.

‘These parties used to be the normal way of catching mumps and measles before vaccination became the norm,’ says Lesley Dove, co-ordinator of the Contact Network, which puts parents in touch with infected parties.

THE resurrection of the parties is a result of the growing concern of parents worried about the safety of vaccines, particularly the MMR jabs. Controversial stories connecting MMR (the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) to autism and Crohn’s disease (a bowel disorder) are worrying enough for some parents to opt out of vaccination.

Two independent studies last year found no link between these disorders and the MMR jabs. But many remain unconvinced.

Vaccination rates for the triple vaccine have fallen in the past two years, from 90pc to 88pc. Some parents looked for single vaccinations they believe are safer.

Some have made the drastic step of taking their children to private doctors in France, where they could obtain the three-in-one vaccine in three separate doses.

Isabella Thomas from JABS (Justice, Action, Basic Support) says: ‘The Medicines Control Agency has overturned the ban In this country on single-dose measles and mumps vaccinations.

‘Children can get these If they have already started on a course of single-dose vaccines, or if the child has a special need such as an allergic reaction that makes the licensed product unsuitable. Parents should contact their GP for more information.’

But some have eschewed vaccinations. Lesley says: ‘We have 300 parents on our register who prefer their children to acquire a natural immunity to childhood diseases early in life. These parties are a helping hand. ‘It is much better to catch mumps and rubella [German measles] in childhood rather than later. Mumps can cause infertility in men after puberty and rubella can damage the foetus of pregnant women.’

Richard and Lucinda Thomas agreed to vaccinations for their first-born babies. But when they had more children, they questioned immunisation for normal childhood diseases.

None of their five children has been vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough. And later vaccinations have been stopped gradually.

Richard, 41, an osteopath, says: I believe immunisation is working against all nature’s safeguards.

‘It bypasses the body’s first-line defences and introduces toxic products into the bloodstream. Childhood diseases are not normally fatal and neither do they produce long-term ill-effects in most cases. It is better for children to acquire immunities naturally

‘When they do catch something such as mumps, they will get a routine infection. But I am confident about my children because we give them appropriate alternative health care, especially when they are ill, to keep their immune systems healthy and ensure the course of the illness Is relatively normal.’

Four of his children — Daniel, Jonathan, Samuel and HannahRivkah — caught mumps from a contact party where they were encouraged to play with infected children. Because mumps is contracted through the transfer of saliva, children are urged to taste each other’s food and drink.

Richard says: ‘We wanted all the children to catch mumps, especially the boys before they hit puberty. We took an infected hanky back for Sara, our youngest child. She slept with it on her pillow that night and also contracted mumps.’

BUT Helen Bedford, a research fellow at the Institute of Child Health, believes it is Irresponsible to expose children to diseases without proper Immunisation.

She says: ‘Measles is nasty. It can cause brain damage and, in some cases, can kill. If parents stop immunising their children, we will get outbreaks of disease within the next few years. There is no reason to suspect the MMR vaccine is not safe and effective, and there is no evidence of a link with autism and bowel problems.’

Richard believes his six-year-old daughter Hannah-Rivkah’s first inoculation, when she was less than a year old, compromised her immune system. She was unable to fight off a chest infection which developed into pneumonia with pleurisy. She was admitted to hospital and spent time in intensive care.