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Why I won’t give my child the MMR jab: Brutally honest verdict of mother who insists she is not an anti-vaxxer – as a top expert debunks her widely-believed concerns in hope of convincing hesitant parents to get their kids jabbed


A leading doctor has today debunked some of the biggest fears surrounding the MMR vaccine, using the case of a mother-of-two who fears the jab would do ‘more harm than good’.

Stacey Victoria, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, claims the vaccine — proven to be extremely safe and credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands of kids — was made too quickly.

‘Forcing’ her daughters Emily (nine) and Isabella (six) to get jabbed is ‘not fair’, she added.

The 36-year-old hasn’t given her children any of the NHS-approved vaccines they’ve been eligible for. Ms Victoria has not had an MMR jab herself.

Responding to her comments, Dr David Elliman, a consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, has warned that people ‘underestimate the seriousness of measles’. 

Cases have soared to a 10-year high, with outbreaks now cropping up across the country.

In a detailed piece for MailOnline, Dr Elliman has debunked myths around the MMR jab – including some of the thoughts spouted by Ms Victoria – in hope of encouraging millions more hesitant parents to come forward amid escalating cases of measles.

Stacey Victoria, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, argued the vaccine — proven to be extremely safe through rigorous trials and credited with saving the lives of thousands of kids — was made too quickly. The 36-year-old hasn't given her kids any of the NHS-approved vaccines they've been eligible for. Ms Victoria, who insists she isn't an anti-vaxxer, isn't vaccinated herself against measles, mumps or rubella

Stacey Victoria, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, argued the vaccine — proven to be extremely safe through rigorous trials and credited with saving the lives of thousands of kids — was made too quickly. The 36-year-old hasn’t given her kids any of the NHS-approved vaccines they’ve been eligible for. Ms Victoria, who insists she isn’t an anti-vaxxer, isn’t vaccinated herself against measles, mumps or rubella

'Forcing' her two children, Emily (nine) and Isabella (six), to get jabbed is 'not fair', she added. The 36-year-old hasn't given her kids any of the NHS-approved vaccines they've been eligible for. Responding to her comments, leading experts today warned that people 'underestimate the seriousness of measles'. Pictured, Ms Victoria with her daughter Emily

‘Forcing’ her two children, Emily (nine) and Isabella (six), to get jabbed is ‘not fair’, she added. The 36-year-old hasn’t given her kids any of the NHS-approved vaccines they’ve been eligible for. Responding to her comments, leading experts today warned that people ‘underestimate the seriousness of measles’. Pictured, Ms Victoria with her daughter Emily 

Recycling some common conspiracy theories, she added: 'It's not fair on any child to force them through this pain of a vaccine just for government statistics. All it is, is for them to say they've handed out a certain amount and met their targets.' Pictured, Emily and Isabella

Recycling some common conspiracy theories, she added: ‘It’s not fair on any child to force them through this pain of a vaccine just for government statistics. All it is, is for them to say they’ve handed out a certain amount and met their targets.’ Pictured, Emily and Isabella 

Since the late 1990s millions of children have missed out on the MMR jab because of now-debunked autism fears raised by discredited medic Andrew Wakefield.

A rise of anti-vaxx beliefs in the wake of Covid has only fueled the crisis, experts have also warned.

Measles, which mostly produces flu-like symptoms before the tell-tale rash emerges, can cause very serious and even fatal health complications if it spreads to the lungs or the brain. 

One in five children who get infected will be hospitalised, according to estimates, with one in 15 developing serious complications like meningitis or sepsis.

Explaining her decision to not get her children vaccinated, Ms Victoria said: ‘I do feel worried about my girls getting the virus, especially while at school. But if they do catch measles, it’ll only build their immune system naturally.

WHAT JABS SHOULD I HAVE HAD BY AGE 18?

Vaccinations for various unpleasant and deadly diseases are given free on the NHS to children and teenagers.

Here is a list of all the jabs someone should have by the age of 18 to make sure they and others across the country are protected:

Eight weeks old

  • 6-in-1 vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and hepatitis B.
  • Pneumococcal (PCV)
  • Rotavirus
  • Meningitis B 

12 weeks old

  • Second doses of 6-in-1 and Rotavirus 

16 weeks old

  • Third dose of 6-in-1
  • Second doses of PCV and men. B 

One year old 

  • Hib/meningitis C
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Third dose of PCV and meningitis B 

Two to eight years old

  • Annual children’s flu vaccine

Three years, four months old

  • Second dose of MMR
  • 4-in-1 pre-school booster for diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough

12-13 years old (girls)

  • HPV (two doses within a year)

14 years old

  • 3-in-1 teenage booster for diphtheria, tetanus and polio
  • MenACWY  

 Source: NHS Choices

Recycling some common conspiracy theories, she added: ‘It’s not fair on any child to force them through this pain of a vaccine just for government statistics. All it is, is for them to say they’ve handed out a certain amount and met their targets.

‘I don’t trust them at all with any vaccines, especially ones that have been made so quickly like the MMR jab.’

The MMR vaccine was introduced in the UK as a single dose in 1988, over a decade after trials began.

It replaced the standalone measles jab, which helped drastically reduce cases in the US, where it was first rolled out.  

Eventually the MMR vaccine was offered as two doses in the UK in the mid-90s. 

That same scheme still exists today. with kids given their first jab close to their first birthday before getting a second after they turn three.  

Two doses of the jab offer up to 99 per cent protection against the trio of illnesses, which can lead to meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy.

Those who have had measles previously have natural immunity to the virus. Studies have shown natural immunity is more long-lasting than vaccine immunity. However, the vaccine is the only way to prevent infection.  

At least 95 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated to prevent outbreaks, under public health guidance.

Thanks to vaccination efforts, the World Health Organization declared Britain had eradicated measles in 2017.

But the extremely contagious virus — one of the most transmissible pathogens known to science — has since made a resurgence, with experts warning that society has forgotten how dangerous the illness can be.

Latest UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data published yesterday revealed another 56 cases were confirmed in England last week.

It takes the total since the current crisis took off in October past 500, raising fears that attempts to contain the ‘national incident’ are not working.

Cases have soared to a 10-year high, fuelled by an escalating crisis in the epicentre of the West Midlands. But health chiefs said they are ‘now starting to see clusters of cases in other regions’. 

Ms Victoria said it was ‘each to their own’ on parents to decide whether to vaccinate their children.

She added: ‘I wouldn’t attend campaigns against vaccines and everyone is entitled to their own opinion and how they want to protect their own family.

‘But when it comes to myself and my kids, I am against them.

‘I feel we can completely live a life without any vaccinations and using foods, as well as natural supplements, most diseases and viruses can be prevented.

‘My concern with the jabs is the aftermath of them [my children] becoming poorly.

‘I believe that by giving kids the right diet and exposing them to potential illnesses, they can be perfectly healthy in a natural way.

‘We don’t know the long-term effects of the MMR vaccine and I don’t want them being injected with ingredients that their little bodies can’t take.’

In England, 89.3 per cent of two-year-olds received their first dose of the MMR vaccine in the year to March 2023 (blue line), up from 89.2 per cent the previous year. Meanwhile, 88.7 per cent of two-year-olds had both doses, down from 89 per cent a year earlier

In England, 89.3 per cent of two-year-olds received their first dose of the MMR vaccine in the year to March 2023 (blue line), up from 89.2 per cent the previous year. Meanwhile, 88.7 per cent of two-year-olds had both doses, down from 89 per cent a year earlier

The MMR vaccine is considered ‘very safe’ by health officials, with most side effects incredibly mild and short-lived. They can include the area where the needle goes in looking red, swollen and feeling sore for a few days.

Some babies may feel unwell or develop a high temperature around a week after the injection. This is a very mild form of measles and the symptoms are not infectious. 

This is because the MMR jab is a live virus vaccine, meaning it contains a weakened strain of the virus to teach the body how to fight it off. After injection, the viruses cause a harmless infection with very few symptoms before they are eliminated from the body. 

Two rare side effects are associated with the MMR vaccine.

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) affects 1 in 24,000 doses, according to the NHS. In children, it looks like a ‘small rash of bruise-like spots’ and appears around two weeks after the jab.

While it normally resolves itself, health officials advise getting advice from a GP as soon as possible.

The jab may also trigger a seizure in one in every 1,000 patients roughly six to 11 days after the vaccine, says the WHO. 

The NHS notes the risk of seizures associated with the jab are ‘less frequent than seizures that happen as a direct result of a measles infection’. 

Despite conspiracy theories linking the two, there is ‘no evidence of any link between the MMR vaccine and autism’, the WHO maintains. 

Uptake of the MMR jab collapsed in the late 90s and early 2000s in the wake of Wakefield’s 1998 study published in The Lancet. 

The study, based on the cases of 12 patients, proposed a link between the MMR jab and autism and bowel disease.

It was eventually proven wrong and retracted by The Lancet 12 years later in 2010 but not before harm could be done. 

MMR uptake in England was about 91 per cent prior to Wakefield’s study being published but plummeted to 80 per cent in the aftermath.

He was struck off by the General Medical Council in 2010, which ruled he was ‘dishonest, irresponsible and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain’ of children. 

On the back of the measles resurgence, the NHS has launched a catch-up programme for jabs, with more than 3.4million children under the age of 16 unprotected.

It is also expanding its invitations to people up to the age of 25 in parts of the Midlands, Greater Manchester and London, who have not had both doses of the MMR vaccine.

Cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough and a runny or blocked nose, are usually the first signal of measles. A few days later, some people develop small white spots on the inside of their cheeks and the back of their lips. The tell-tale measles rash also develops, usually starting on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body

Cold-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough and a runny or blocked nose, are usually the first signal of measles. A few days later, some people develop small white spots on the inside of their cheeks and the back of their lips. The tell-tale measles rash also develops, usually starting on the face and behind the ears, before spreading to the rest of the body

UKHSA surveillance figures show another 56 cases were confirmed in England last week, matching levels seen in the previous fortnight. It takes the total since the current crisis took off in October past 500, raising fears that attempts to contain the 'national incident' are not working

UKHSA surveillance figures show another 56 cases were confirmed in England last week, matching levels seen in the previous fortnight. It takes the total since the current crisis took off in October past 500, raising fears that attempts to contain the ‘national incident’ are not working 

While the West Midlands, particularly Birmingham, accounted for more than half of measles cases in the past month, officials noted that rates have plateaued. Twelve per cent of cases were logged in London, with one in ten in the North West and a similar proportion in Yorkshire and The Humber. Pa rents have been urged to check their kids have had both doses of the jab

While the West Midlands, particularly Birmingham, accounted for more than half of measles cases in the past month, officials noted that rates have plateaued. Twelve per cent of cases were logged in London, with one in ten in the North West and a similar proportion in Yorkshire and The Humber. Pa rents have been urged to check their kids have had both doses of the jab 

Globally, the MMR jab has been credited with saving 56 million lives between 2000 and 2021. 

Dr Elliman told MailOnline that problems over vaccine hesitancy were brewing even before the pandemic. 

‘We’ve seen a gradual fall in the uptake of the measles vaccine, probably over the last 10 years,’ he said.

‘Covid highlighted vaccines, brought them to people’s conscious state and that had different effects on different people,’ he said.   

‘There was a slight fall in measles further than we had been expecting in terms of the vaccine during the Covid probably for a number of reasons. 

‘One is wasn’t quite so easy to get to the GP and people were quite understandably a bit worried about going to the GP, the hospital etc. in case they caught Covid.

He added: ‘Because of the controversy around the Covid vaccine, some of that did spill over into the routine childhood vaccines. That did make a bit of a difference.

‘There are some people undoubtedly, who have questions to ask about the vaccine. They’re not anti vaccine, but they want to know a bit more. 

‘And given the time to answer to ask those questions and have satisfactory answers, they usually go ahead.’ 

So, what does Dr Elliman think about Ms Victoria’s beliefs?  

We asked leading expert Dr David Elliman, a consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, to challenge commonly-believed claims she made about the MMR jab. 

The jab is painful and children will become unwell afterwards 

While injections can be painful, ‘though not enormously’, Dr Elliman told MailOnline it can often depend on jab technique. 

Among the NHS advice to reduce injection pain includes numbing the area, making sure the arm is relaxed and the angle the needle is inserted it.

Needles are designed so the sharp end is cut at a 45° angle. If the cut angle is facing upwards, the point will be inserted into the skin first making the jab less painful. 

‘You may have some soreness at the site of the injection, you may have a bit of temperature and be off colour for a couple of days,’ Dr Elliman added.

However, these symptoms — common with any type of jab — will subside naturally within two to three days. 

One 2020 study carried by the Cochrane Institute, considered the ‘gold standard’ of evidence-based review, assessed 124 studies on vaccine effectiveness.

It found two doses of MMR vaccine were 96 per cent effective in preventing measles, with one dose 95 per cent effective in preventing measles.

Two doses of MMR vaccine were also around 86 per cent effective against mumps, and 89 per cent effective against rubella.

Leading expert Dr David Elliman, a consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, has debunked the biggest myths around the MMR jab – including some of the thoughts spouted by Ms Victoria – in hope of encouraging millions more hesitant parents to come forward amid escalating cases of measles

Leading expert Dr David Elliman, a consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, has debunked the biggest myths around the MMR jab – including some of the thoughts spouted by Ms Victoria – in hope of encouraging millions more hesitant parents to come forward amid escalating cases of measles

Catching measles will boost natural immunity

Exposure to a wide variety of microbes early in childhood can help train kids’ immune systems to recognise what’s dangerous and what’s not. 

Parents are now also told to feed their babies allergens like peanut butter and eggs earlier rather than later in infancy, because doing so teaches baby’s immune system, little by little, that these foods are safe.

‘There’s a balance between the benefits and the risks,’ Dr Elliman said.  

‘If you compare the risks of having the vaccine with getting the disease naturally, the risks are less with the vaccine than catching the disease. 

‘So if you catch the disease, you are putting the child at risk of having convulsions for example, much more commonly than after the vaccine.’ 

He added: ‘The rarer side effects of the disease are going to be much more common after the disease than after the vaccine. Even in industrialized countries, there is a chance of dying after measles.’ 

Those who have had measles previously have natural immunity to the virus, which is thought to be life-long. 

Studies have shown natural immunity is longer-lasting than that acquired through a vaccine. However, the jab is the only way to prevent infection. 

Herd immunity is also difficult to establish against measles, given how contagious it is. 

On average, in communities with low protection, one person will spread the virus to 15 others. That makes it far more infectious than Covid, which has an R number — reflecting how quickly it spreads — five times lower.

The MMR jab was made too quickly

The MMR vaccine was introduced in the UK over 30 years ago as a single dose in 1988, over a decade after trials began. Eventually it was offered as two doses in 1996.

The UK followed the US in approving the jab, having offered a standalone measles vaccine since 1968. 

Britain, more cautiously, established a large-scale clinical trial to explore the benefits of the different available vaccines and possible immunisation schedules.

There was a fear that introducing a vaccine most parents did not see as needed could undermine popular confidence. 

But the popularity of the MMR vaccine in trial areas showed demand for the jab.  

Dr Elliman said: ‘They’d [the US] been using MMR for quite a long time before us.

‘So in fact part of the criticism was that we introduced it late, rather than rushed it.’

We don’t know the long-term effects of MMR jab

Given the jab was introduced in the 1980s, ‘if there were long term serious effects, one would have expected them to come to light’, Dr Elliman told MailOnline.

‘When we look for side effects, to some extent, we do it on the basis of what’s called biological plausibility.

‘If you’re giving a live vaccine, you look for the effects of the disease because you’re giving the virus that’s alive.’

He added: ‘So there is no logic, no plausibility that there should be a long-term effect that we don’t yet know about [from the vaccine] having experience with the disease.

‘All the side effects are predictable.’

Long term side effects people experience as a result of catching measles itself can include subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) — slow-progressing inflammation of the brain caused by the measles virus, which appears up to eight years after the initial infection.

The reaction occurs in around one per every 50,000 measles cases.

Symptoms are caused by the destruction of infected brain cells, which are initially subtle — such as untidy handwriting, difficulties with daily tasks and changes in speech.

There is no treatment or cure. However, people who have had MMR vaccine and then catch measles are protected against SSPE.

This side effect has been studied in the vaccine and ‘has not been found’, Dr Elliman noted.

Healthy diet and supplements can protect against most diseases and viruses

While those who are ‘well nourished’ are often ‘less likely to suffer the consequences of any infectious disease — not just measles’, vaccines themselves reduce the risk significantly, Dr Elliman told MailOnline.

In gold-standard trials completed before vaccines are introduced, one half of a cohort is given the vaccine and the other a placebo. 

‘What you find is the group that has been given the vaccine has much less chance of getting the disease and the complications,’ he said. ‘So that allows for differences in nutrition.’

‘There is truth in what she says, it does reduce your chances of having the complications if you are well nourished.

‘But it doesn’t totally protect you.

‘It’s not a question of “should we have a good diet” or “should we have a vaccine”. Go for both.

‘People underestimate the seriousness of measles and that’s understandable because the success of the immunisation programme means we don’t see it very frequently.

‘But we have had deaths from measles in the last five to ten years.’

There is no specific treatment for a measles infection once it occurs and diet cannot prevent against measles. 

Treatment includes providing comfort measures to relieve symptoms, such as rest, and treating or preventing complications. 



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