Well I’ve read quite a lot now.

I’ve also ruminated on things like vaccine safety, the autism controversy, the use of statistics in arguments about risk, and what we mean by “safe“.

And, thankfully for any readers I might have who are bored to tears with vaccination, I have reached some conclusions, and a decision, and will very likely bore you no more on the subject. At least, not quite so routinely…

The gist of my conclusions:

  1. Vaccines in general, and MMR in particular, are not completely safe. But they are not very dangerous either. The risk of an adverse reaction is very low, although it is almost certainly quite a bit higher than the vaccine manufacturers and health authorities would have you believe.
  2. The diseases in question – measles, mumps and rubella – are not completely harmless. But they are not very dangerous either. The risk of serious complications is very low, particularly with a healthy, well-nourished child like mine, who has good access to healthcare.
  3. Those diseases are also, currently, very rare in the UK. The chances of catching one of them is pretty small even for an unvaccinated child.
  4. Vaccines in general, and MMR in particular, tend to be effective, although they are not 100% effective and their effectiveness can vary.
  5. Children who are not vaccinated as babies can still be vaccinated when they get older. For example girls can get a rubella vaccine, if they need one, during or after adolescence so as to protect any future baby from congenital rubella syndrome.
  6. It is unclear whether vaccination or non-vaccination enables best development of a natural immune system. (I was hoping to find some research into what difference it would make if the child has breast-milk or formula, since breastfed babies tend to have better immune systems than formula-fed babies – but I didn’t come across anything on that topic.)
  7. It is unclear whether vaccination causes virus mutations or allows alternative viruses to proliferate in place of the one vaccinated against. However, even if that is the case, there does not seem to be any evidence that an individual decision about vaccination could make much or any difference to such a problem.
  8. There does not seem to be much evidence to support the “herd immunity” theory whereby it is said that vaccination rates of 95% or higher will wipe out a disease. As such the claim that each individual has a moral obligation to vaccinate in order to help wipe out the disease is a weak one.

In light of all the above, for the vast majority of babies in this country I do not actually think that it matters a lot whether one vaccinates or not.

(You might think that I would be kicking myself for having spent so much time and effort researching the issue. I’m not, because the reasearch has been both a stimulating journey and a great reassurance. Before I did it, I had no idea whether this was a big issue or not, and felt that it was. The conclusion that it is no big deal is just as useful as any other conclusion would have been!)

My decision – well, I think that’s my daughter’s business.

I’ve been going to all this trouble to make the right decision for her and have enjoyed sharing the process on my blog. But after some thought it has become clear to me that the decision itself is private to her, so if you don’t mind I will not be sharing it… at least not with this assembled mass of readers who wait, breathlessly, mouse in hand, ready to catch each pearl of wisdom as it drops from my, er, keyboard.

Sorry about that. 😉