My mother died of mumps - think hard about vaccinating your children
PUBLISHED: 10:06 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:27 04 October 2019
Nick Conrad's mum died in 1988 from complications following mumps. Here, he issues a plea to parents who may be being misinformed about vaccinations to consider the consequences of not having your children innoculated
Compulsory vaccination for school children has set parental tongues wagging.
This feverish (forgive the phrasing) debate has frustrated both the medical community and politicians. Sadly, we don't operate in a culture of reasoned debate, so evidence-based arguments are lost under a blanket of sensational news.
You only have to Google this issue to find hyped perspectives in support of either viewpoint.
You'll understand my reticence at giving a frank view - however I can offer a personal story.
Sadly, my family has been tragically affected by an illness, which most healthy humans brush off.
My mother contracted mumps in 1988. What should have been a routine, yet stubborn, illness to shift developed into a nasty inflammation of the heart, which ultimately took her life. Her post-mortem cited 'overwhelming viral infection of the heart' linked to the underlying infection.
For this reason, I'd urge people to think carefully on the wider consequences of not following medical advice.
All my children have had the full inoculations.
We are one of the few families adversely affected by mumps these days, but you don't need to go back too far to see how nasty this contagious viral infection can be.
Measles, Rubella and Polio fall into the same category.
Thankfully the cases of individuals being diagnosed with these conditions have reduced to such an extent that we may actually have forgotten how devastating these illnesses can be.
Those who take opposing views need to consider decades of accepted medical science.
Since 1988 there has been a staggering, and undeniable, drop in these infections in children.
Protecting the young and vulnerable in society must always remain the greatest priority but the recent suggestion that vaccinations for children could become compulsory has ignited a debate which etches away at parental rights.
Does a parent always have the final say when it comes to their children?
And if so, are there potential legal consequences for guardians who refuse immunisation but later face allegations, potentially from the child themselves, that they failed in their duty to protect their child?
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My concern is that reasoned debate, promoting good judgement, is lost in a culture of misinformation. I would ask everyone to consider our collective social responsibility.
We need to make individual decisions, which takes into consideration wider social consequences.
In other words, does your personal strength of feeling mitigate the risks of not inoculating your child? But how do we find ourselves at this juncture, especially considering the overwhelming evidence supporting a conventional immunisation programme?
Firstly, this story is not exclusive to the UK.
The uptake of the MMR vaccine in particular has been declining in many countries. Uncontested claims of harmful side effects and life debilitating illnesses have 'festered,' on social media according to proponents. Now they are trying to robustly challenge the so called 'vaccine-deniers.'
The language being used is clear and decisive. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told an event at the Tory conference that unvaccinated youngsters were "putting other children at risk." If we demanded children are inoculated before going to school, we'd be joining a list of countries who adopt this stance. Though this might sound dramatic, there is a credible risk these diseases could slip through the back door and back into our communities. The fact that the UK has lost its measles free status should be of great concern.
The simple truth is that we as citizens enter into an unwritten contract with the state.
Our free access to health services must be viewed as a two-way responsibility.
Part of that is playing our part in reducing our chances of suffering ill health by taking preventative measures.
It is testament to modern day humanity that a phenomenon like Facebook gives a platform to a wide range of views.
It can be a force for good - however it too can be an arena for unchallenged thought.
The truth can be smothered under a blanket of conspiracy. I'd argue that the medical community rely on the populace following their direction, and therefore don't spend enough time explaining why the process is so important.
As a BBC employee I'm duty bound to strike a balanced tone. I'm no expert on immunisation but the generally accepted result of societal inoculation is compelling. I'd request that we consider this issue, and its consequences, beyond the immediacy of our families.
Scientifically there is absolute clarity on what is the right thing to do.
My mother was born and raised in The West Indies where she didn't receive the mumps inoculation.
It is the view of my father that it is 'beyond reasonable doubt' that my mother would have lived had she been immunised.
I greatly respect the individual's right to choose the best course of action for themselves and their families.
However, our decisions made knowingly or not, have consequences.