Measles outbreak result of bad science and bad media
The Swansea measles outbreak is receiving a lot of media coverage currently but few commentators have bothered to trace its roots.
In the late nineties, there was a major scare over the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine.
It began when Dr Andrew Wakefield published a study in the medical journal, The Lancet.
He claimed to show that the vaccine was associated with the development of autism and bowel disease in babies and toddlers.
The study was highly flawed, carried out on only twelve children, and should never have been published.
The vaccine is actually very safe but the media jumped on Wakefield’s bandwagon. The hyperbole that followed resulted in many parents losing confidence in the immunisation programme.
Vaccination rates fell below the critical level needed to protect those, such as very young babies, who were not inoculated.
Measles, Mumps and Rubella are potentially serious illnesses rarely seen these days because of the success of the NHS immunisation programme.
Measles can cause blindness and fatal brain complications; Mumps, deafness and infertility; and Rubella, severe deformities in the foetus if contracted by a pregnant woman.
The scenes of hundreds of worried families queuing at immunisation centres in Swansea in the face of the measles outbreak are the tragic culmination of bad science coupled with irresponsible media sensationalism.
The press played on the most deeply seated fears of parents for their children.
Those same parents are now made to feel anxious and confused again as they fear not for the effects of the vaccine but for the effects of the disease itself.
We must fight for a trustworthy, independent media—not one owned by multinational corporations with untold vested interests. The drive for sales mean they will lie to boost profits, whatever the consequences.
Jackie Turner, East London
Mauritius left wants your books
When flash floods hit Mauritius’ capital Port Louis last month, the offices of the Lalit left wing party were under three feet of muddy water.
When the waters receded there were inches of mud everywhere.
The biggest archives in Mauritius of the post-independence struggles were partly destroyed. We saved one third and another third is being dried page by page.
The history of organising homeless people for housing; field labourers for union recognition; women for abortion rights; and against communalism and capitalism are being salvaged.
This archive also contains over 90 percent of the first development of the Mauritius Kreol language in written form.
We would appreciate it if your readers could send us just one or two books by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Serge, Luxembourg, Gramsci in English or French.
This way we can put together one or two shelves of the great classics.
If you do send a book, please write an inscription in the front that says who sent it.
We know many of these classics are available digitally but most our members are not linked up with the internet yet.
Send books to:
153 Main Road
You’re wrong about Leeds’ heart surgery
Kambiz Boomla writes in his article on children’s heart surgery that shutting specialist units “should not be confused with cuts sweeping the NHS” (Socialist Worker, 13 April).
He is mistaken.
The fact that there are “not enough highly skilled surgeons for the number of children’s heart surgery centres” doesn’t mean there aren’t enough sick children who require their services.
We should instead argue for more training positions for junior doctors in order to provide the NHS with extra qualified surgeons.
The research which supposedly supports the model of concentration of specialist services does not foresee the shift in cost from the NHS to the patient, and how this is unequally distributed.
Services are being transferred to hospitals in the wealthiest cities, while working class people have to travel long distances.
Sophie Williams, Oxford
Ukip’s friends tell us all we need to know
The links between Ukip and other political forces is always worth pointing out (Socialist Worker, 13 April).
A former National Front organiser is standing as a Ukip candidate in May’s local elections in Kent.
This comes after a number of right wing Tories decamped to Ukip.
Now Tommy Robinson, leader of the English Defence League (EDL), has encouraged “all nationalists to stand aside” in elections to maximise Ukip’s chances.
Former Labour MP Alice Mahon notes the Nazi BNP stood down for Ukip in a local council election—an echo of what Robinson now argues.
As Tony Benn then said, “This tells me all I need to know about Ukip”. Though the BNP now resent Ukip for stealing some of their political clothes, the parallel still holds.
Ukip have just won their first London council seat. Many ex-Tory and ex-BNP voters switched to them. They are a British example of radical right wing populism seen across Europe.
Their poison means we have to be on guard when they appear—and be armed with facts to cut through their xenophobia.
Paul Sillett, East London
Migrants should strike
Sarah Cox is right to defend migrant workers (Letters, 6 April).
Migrants aren’t here as benefit scroungers or health tourists.
In fact, if all migrant workers went on strike for just 24 hours Britain would come to a stop.
Martin Webb, Swindon
We were the ‘enemy within’
I was brought up not to speak ill of the dead, but I think on this occasion I would be forgiven by my parents.
Margaret Thatcher was our enemy and openly declared her hatred of our class.
We owe it to our children to pass on the facts of what she did.
Pauline Wheat-Bowen, Huddersfield
Good bye and good riddance
I was blessed with the birth of a great nephew this year.
Sadly we live in a society where we can promise our children that their prospects will be worse than our own. Well thank you, Thatcher and good riddance.
JP, South London
Do cuts break the law?
Jobseekers allowance award letters explain that the law says that you are entitled to £71 per week to enable you to find work.
Now the government is taking money away from jobseekers allowance claimants in the form of bedroom tax and council tax.
It wants to force people to exist on less than the minimum legal entitlement.
Simon, by email
Ofsted targets poor children
Ofsted, the school inspectorate, could close thousands of nurseries that it says aren’t good enough.
It has even been open enough to admit that they are in poor areas.
So—another attack on poor children.
Lucy Green, Sheffield