All overseas students must be vaccinated against MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) before coming to Wales according to the national border regulations, in the light of growing national epidemic of measles which infected over 900 Welshmen so far.
Edwise Overseas Education Consultants in India said that maximum of international students must be vaccinated against measles with MMR vaccines manufactured by the British GlaxoSmithKline and French Sanofi Pasteur pharmaceutical companies.
Amoolya Rajappa, a student from India who currently studies in Wales said that the MMR vaccines were advised by the UK Border Agency.
“MMR vaccinations were advised to boosts the immune system especially for overseas students who are more prone to catching diseases in a foreign land,” she said.
Despite strict regulations imposed on the international students and foreign visitors by the authorities, the epidemic of measles in Wales raises many concerns.
Most of them regard the safety of the vaccination which has been raised after a private clinic based in Swansea, Children’s Immunisation Centre, offered single measles vaccinations.
The single jab, the clinic assured, gives a higher level of protection against measles at 97 per cent after the first vaccination, contrary to a series of MMR vaccines.
It also stated that they are the only safe way to get protection and avoid possible complications. It referred to autism as one of them.
Mandy Davies of Children in Wales, the national umbrella children’s organisation, said: “As a parent I am not sure what I would decide if I had a family history of Autism or learning needs.
“Personally my eldest child, who is 16, did not get his whooping cough vaccine due to his grandmother having epilepsy.”
The concerns were also shared by the foreigners. Ms Rajappa was shocked when she heard that the MMR vaccinations might cause autism.
“If I knew that it would cause autism I would not get it,” she said. “Risks are high. All we were told was that it might lead to high fever for a day or two.”
Despite such personal worries, the Welsh Government reassured of safety of the MMR vaccines and claimed that Health Inspectorate Wales has investigated the company currently providing the single measles vaccination in Swansea.
Sara Handley, the spokesman for the Welsh Government said: “It is disappointing that private sector providers should try and profit from a measles outbreak by asking people to pay for a vaccine [which] doesn’t protect you against as many diseases as the free and safe MMR vaccination available widely on the NHS.”
Wales had been given more than 10,000 MMR vaccines only in the last week.
The claims the Children’s Immunisation Centre has been making on its website started causing national panic after it said possible side effects of MMR vaccinations may include autism.
Dr Marion Lyons, director of Public Health Wales said: “There’s no evidence for that. I have reviewed all the literature and I haven’t seen a single peer-reviewed article which suggests that the single measles vaccine is in any way better than the MMR vaccine.”
National panics over the MMR vaccines emerged as over one million children in Wales and other parts of the UK were not vaccinated against measles for over a decade.
Mandy Davies said: “Parents should share responsibility for bringing up their child and they should always think about what is best for each child. Unfortunately the parents will reserve the right to their own beliefs in what they perceive to be the ‘right’ thing to do or what is in the ‘best’ interest of the child.”
Ms Davies said that mandatory vaccinations don’t take the right from parents to decide what they see is in the best interest of their own child.
“Everyone who works with children should always do what is best for each child,” she stressed. “An organisation working with children will have policies and procedures to follow, if a child is in care I assume the care system would see it ‘right’ to have the vaccinations,” she concluded.
Zofia Karkola, a former resident of Swansea and mother of her only child, Tosia supported this view. She said: “My daughter is vaccinated against measles. I think that not vaccinating children is not responsible. There would be no vaccinations if they were not safe. In fact, everything may cause complications, even flu or cold.”
The clinic’s claims were discredited as its website provided outdated information connecting autism and MMR vaccines.
Past Tuesday, the Children’s Immunisation Centre removed certain statements off its website after Public House Wales challenged it to validate the claims.
The fact that many teenagers were not vaccinated back then might explain why there is a measles epidemic in Wales and why hundreds of cases are turning up in England.
Measles was once almost eradicated in Wales but now the authorities initiate catch-up mandatory vaccinations as a part of the programme to prevent more serious national epidemic.
The vaccinations against measles in the United States are not mandatory. However, not getting a vaccine may result in paying some sort of societal price. The infected person may be banned from attending classes at public school or working at public hospitals.
By mandating vaccines, the United States clearly increased the vaccination rates. On the contrary, less strict regulations regarding the vaccinations against infectious diseases in Britain are now resulting in many children suffering from measles in Wales who are occasionally killed by it.