The MMR vaccine should be made compulsory

In the wake of a recent measles outbreak centred at the University of Edinburgh, doctors have strongly urged students to have the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccination. The disease has so far been diagnosed in nine people, the majority of whom are students at the University of Edinburgh – none of whom had received their follow-up MMR jab, offered to all new-coming students at the university.

The MMR vaccine has been under scrutiny ever since the scientific journal The Lancet published an article by Andrew Wakefield along with 12 other scientists claiming to have conducted a study proving a link between the rise of autism and the MMR vaccine. Debate ensued over the next twelve years as opposing scientific trials hastened to prove the article’s transparency; journalist Brian Deer also headed the manhunt against Wakefield, exposing the fraudulence of the trial as he discovered that not one of the 12 cases reported were documented without some degree of alteration or distortion of the facts.

However, by the time the article was rescinded 12 years later, the damage had already been done; anti-vaxxers are posing more of a threat than ever before to the health of their own children, themselves and others, and something must be done. Wakefield’s study would indicate that there are less cases of autism in age groups older than those administered the MMR vaccination as a child than those young enough to have received it – but of course this is not the case.

In light of The Lancet and Wakefield’s exposure, there can be no excuse for parents’ refusal to vaccinate their child. It represents a selfishness, a neglect of what is best for not only their own children but also for those who cannot have the vaccination for medical reasons; these people depend upon pack immunity, without which they are unfairly put at risk.

Yes, measles in itself is not so much of a threat to those who contract it, and neither are mumps or rubella, but it is cruel to put children at risk – the complications which sometimes ensue can be fatal to those most at risk, including pregnant women, the elderly, and the very young. The only major risk involving the MMR vaccination is a severe allergic reaction, which occurs only in exceedingly rare cases and poses far less of a risk of long-term impairment or indeed death than any of the three diseases it protects against.

Already in the US children are not legally allowed to attend schools unless they have received the MMR vaccination, and after an attack so close to home we should be considering extending this policy to the UK. As the NHS find themselves under more strain than ever before, we as a country cannot afford to expose our children or ourselves to deadly diseases when they are so easily prevented; it is a mockery of the health system we are so proud of, and of the scientific community who have slaved themselves away ceaselessly for over a decade to prove the disreputability of Wakefield’s article.

If we do not make the MMR vaccine compulsory, we will all suffer the consequences – and with the  University of Edinburgh at the centre of the latest outbreak, it is now our responsibility more than anybody’s to enforce the administration of the MMR vaccine before any more damage is done.

Image credit: jochenpippir

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