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Have I somehow lost an entire year of PGEA payments?

Tabloid scare stories under headlines such as 'Chaos over five-in-one baby jab' (Daily Mail) are totally irresponsible and over the top and have raised unnecessary doubts on the motives for introducing this vaccine.

Now Michael Langman, chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, has declared a 'non-personal interest' in Merck Sharp & Dohme, one of two drug companies that own the vaccine's sole supplier, because it provides 'industrial support' for his work as a professor of medicine at the University of Birmingham.

I have no doubts on the integrity of the professor but after the fiasco of MMR this knowledge of his association with MSD is not helpful to GPs answering parents' concerns in accusing doctors of their interests in promoting vaccines. It would be far better if decisions about vaccines and their use by the NHS were made by some independent body like NICE.

Up to 550,000 babies a year in Britain are called in to GP surgeries for these inoculations, and more than 90 per cent have their full complement of injections by the time they are a year old. Even with MMR, taken early in a child's second year, uptake is now over 80 per cent.

Such controversies once again could make life difficult for the 40,000 GPs of this country.

Five-in-one jabs have been given to millions of children in Canada and proved to have an excellent safety record. All the anti-vaccination voices who have opposed the MMR vaccine turned out in force and repeated their pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. They have not learned their lessons despite knowing the facts that MMR scare stories were totally descredited and baseless.

Public health officials had identified three ways in which the immunisation of infants could be improved with a new five-in-one jab (I support their effort to increase the uptake of the vaccine): 

•By replacing the live oral polio vaccine, which carries a small risk of causing paralytic polio, with an inactivated vaccine.

•By bringing in a new whooping cough vaccine, which would produce fewer sore arms, fewer increased temperatures, and fewer grizzly children in the 48 hours after immunisation.

•By removing the mercury-based preservative thiomersal from the whooping cough vaccine as part of a worldwide aim of reducing exposure to the element in preparation for the switch from the current four-in-one jab (for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping, hib) to a five-in-one (that would include polio).

The concerns that babies' immune systems would be overloaded by the change is a load of rubbish. Children already have five vaccines at the same time – the four-in-one jab and then the oral polio vaccine. This will just mean they will have them in one jab. I very humbly plead to all the parents to take babies for immunisation exactly as they would have today, tomorrow and the day after, until the new vaccine comes in.

The risk from vaccines is tiny. Leave your baby unprotected? – Not a good thing to do. Whooping cough does kill, normally babies who are too young to be immunised or who have not been immunised because of delay.

Dr Kailash Chand

Ashton-U-Lyne

Lancashire

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