Baby clinics in the late 1990’s were a challenge for all involved. The baby check itself was fine – a well, happy baby is often light relief at the end of a busy morning surgery – but the discussion over MMR was never easy. Taking as long as the rest of the baby check put together, it was heart-breaking to see parents attacked by the twin spectres of measles and all it’s potentially devastating consequences on the one side, and the equally worrying and poorly understood condition of autism on the other. Parents were left in the unenviable position of feeling that whatever decision they made they were taking a risk with their child’s health.
As the story developed over the coming years, and the alleged association between MMR and autism was discredited, there was an almost palpable relief when I spoke to parents, as we mutually acknowledged that we didn’t have to go there anymore and could concentrate on the real worry that any parent has when they bring their child for vaccinations – how to look after them through an injection!
The MMR scare has left it’s legacy, though, and we were reminded of this in the news this morning. There has been an increase in the number of measles cases in the UK – numbering around 300 so far this year, which is as many as for the whole of last year. Parts of Europe have been worse hit, with several thousand cases in France, including incidences of measles encephalitis, where the brain itself is infected by the virus which can lead to death or brain damage. There are still many children in the UK who missed their MMR in the 1990’s and early 21st century and remain at risk. These children are fast approaching adulthood, and I worry about Rubella as the age of child-bearing comes near.
Many parents might now feel comfortable about catching up on the MMR vaccination, now the scare is over and their child is that much older. It really is never too late to have the MMR vaccine – there’s no upper age limit and it is always worth catching up. For patients at Binscombe, simply make an appointment to see the nurse if you or your child have not received two doses of MMR, and we can sort this out for you. If you are not sure what vaccinations you have received, we can easily check your record and let you know.