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Dear Sean O'Grady,
Re: Your article for The Independent, 'Want to get rid of measles? Make the vaccine compulsory for kids.'
I read your article dated 22nd January, 2024, despite my initial deep reservations regarding the headline. I hoped this sensationalist title was merely 'clickbait' to entice people to open it (I know The Independent struggles with low readership), rather than serving as an accurate reflection of the article's content.
Regrettably, my hopes were quickly dashed, as what I went on to read was perhaps one of the most egregious pieces of coercive and deceitful propaganda I have ever come across. This piece was plainly designed to do nothing but strike unmitigated terror into the hearts of the nation's parents, using a series of baseless and at times breathtakingly ludicrous claims.
You begin by asserting that unvaccinated children are at high risk of severe disability and death should they contract measles, and follow that up by declaring that society at large should practice overt and extreme discrimination towards these children by denying them an education and removing the child benefit payment from their parents.
To call this Dickensian would be an understatement: it is medieval, based on nothing but superstitious fear-mongering and the kind of virulent discrimination that is more redolent of racial segregation in the United States or the Indian caste system, than a 21st century liberal democracy.
You make a risible attempt to defend such extreme bigotry by stating: "Like Covid, measles, mumps and rubella (german measles) are not trivial complaints". You do not, of course, verify this bold assertion with a citation, because the assertion is false.
Measles is indeed trivial for the overwhelming majority of children who contract it, with official government resource NI Direct confirming measles: "will usually pass in about seven to 10 days without causing any further problems."
That is the very definition of a trivial illness: although it is true that the after effects of measles are not trivial, conferring as they do a strong association with protection from cardiovascular disease later on (mumps also offers such protection, and most protective of all is a childhood history of both measles and mumps).
Whilst, a very long time ago, measles could be associated with more severe disease, this association was effectively eradicated - not by vaccination - but by modern plumbing and general improvements in public sanitation.
By the time the measles vaccination was introduced in the 1960s, measles had long since stopped being associated with any significant risk of serious illness or death.
As anthropology scholar, Joel Edwards, said in a recent essay:
"Vaccines get all the glory, but most plumbers will tell you that it was water infrastructure – sewage systems and clean water – that eradicated disease, and they’re right."
This being the case - that measles is not a serious disease in modern first-world countries, and that it has protective effects against far more serious diseases later on - it is difficult to make a compelling case for a national childhood vaccination programme at all, but to suggest that this vaccination ought to be compulsory is simply indefensible.
You cannot ethically (or indeed legally) make compulsory a pharmaceutical intervention that carries with it risk. That is why no vaccination (or any pharmaceutical product) is compulsory in the UK.
The measles (MMR) vaccination, like all vaccinations, comes with a wide range of potentially severe risks, none of which you informed your readership of in your article, whilst grossly exaggerating the risk profile of measles.
Please allow me to correct that balance. The risks of the MMR include, but are not limited to:
The manufacturer of the MMR vaccination asserts that the frequency of the above side effects is 'unknown'.
To suggest that any child should be compelled, coerced, or threatened into taking a pharmaceutical product with such a devastating array of side effects is nothing short of abhorrent, and in fact - in the context of robust bioethics and human rights' laws - in some contexts would be criminal.
The approach to human health demonstrated in your article entirely flouts robust legislation around informed consent and human rights as exists in UK medicine. The Montgomery ruling, under which the NHS operates. stipulates very clearly that patients must be informed of all material risks of a treatment before their consent can be considered legally valid. This must be considered an especially acute obligation when applying an alleged preventative to a person who is not currently unwell, as is the case in vaccination.
Your article makes no attempt whatsoever to appropriately warn families of the risks of the MMR vaccination, and therefore would - were you dispensing this advice in a medical setting - constitute gross misconduct which could easily result in the termination of your employment and a summons to court. The Montgomery ruling was established as a result of such malpractice, when a patient who had not been warned of all risks of a treatment took the NHS to court and won.
In addition to notifying people of the risks, there are further obligations incumbent on health professionals when seeking consent to any medical treatment or intervention.
UNESCO's Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights, by which the UK abides (the UK having joined UNESCO in 1946) states at Article 6, section 1:
"Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice."
As you can see, attempting to coerce compliance with any medical intervention by threatening an individual with disadvantage or prejudice (such as their not being permitted to go to school or claim benefit payments) egregiously flouts this declaration and what have, for many decades, been non-negotiable and sovereign human rights.
These rights would remain equally as non-negotiable and sovereign, even in the event of a genuinely serious disease (which measles is not) or a safe and effective treatment (which the MMR is not).
Therefore, to attempt to forcibly manipulate parents by denying them crucial state services - deficits that would, of course, disproportionately affect less privileged families, as the wealthy do not rely on child benefit and can finance a private education for their children - is, frankly, contemptible.
You also go on to repeat in your piece the hackneyed old nonsense that high uptake of the MMR vaccination creates "herd immunity", by quoting the World Health Organisation's made-up figure of 95%.
Again, you include no citation to verify the claim that 95% vaccination rates create "herd immunity" because there is no evidence of this. The theory of herd immunity was developed in relation to natural infection and has never been proven to be achievable by vaccination. There are innumerable examples of disease outbreaks in highly vaccinated populations, including environments where the vaccination rate is 100% and the vaccinated cohort is in a sealed environment not in contact with any unvaccinated persons.
You talk in your article of "myth-making" and vaccine-induced herd immunity is a perfect example of this. A myth and a fairytale which has never been proven as a real phenomenon.
You also claim in your article that people who disagree with your sinister scaremongering and attempts at coercive control of children are "anti-science". Yet where is your scientific evidence to support the idea of withdrawing vital state services from the already disadvantaged as an effective strategy to improve the national health?
You do not strike me as somebody who is particularly scientifically adept, so please allow me to inform you that all scientific research requires the approval of an ethics committee before it can go ahead, and an experiment to test whether denying underprivileged children an education whilst forcing their parents into poverty might increase vaccination rates, would never be permitted.
Another myth you include in your article is that unvaccinated children can infect vaccinated children with a disease they may or may not have.
If vaccinated children can still contract the disease they are vaccinated against, then the vaccine has failed. This is the fault of pharmaceutical companies (most of whom have extensive histories of criminality and fraud), so they should be held accountable for retailing a faulty product, as a far more sane and sensible alternative to terrorising healthy children into receiving a product that plainly does not work (the MMR product insert itself acknowledges the vaccination can give the recipient measles).
Your article is, overall, not just scientifically illiterate pharmaceutical agitprop, promoting extreme disinformation and fear-mongering, it is also grossly offensive to anybody with even the most rudimentary grasp of basic ethical standards. It therefore should never have been published in any national newspaper.
Who commissioned this piece and why, and what "incentives" The Independent and its inordinately wealthy owners, may have been offered to publish it, is something we can only speculate upon.
In closing, please note that this is an open letter which I will share widely in my capacity as the co-founder and editor of Informed Consent Matters, the independent health resource prioritising non-coerced and informed choice in medicine.
Informed Consent Matters exists specifically to challenge individuals like you (and those who employ you). We exist to expose your clear agenda to further disenfranchise disadvantaged and vulnerable people with disinformation and threats. And, most importantly, we exist to protect those who are the most vulnerable of all: children.
We look forward to your prompt response.
Co-founder and Editor
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