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Blair defends child vaccine policy

LONDON, England -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended his refusal to reveal whether his 19-month-old son Leo had been given a controversial vaccine.

Blair has been under pressure from MPs and the UK media to clarify whether he has given his son the MMR vaccine which is recommended to parents of young children by his government.

But he and his wife, Cherie, have refused on the grounds that their children's health is a private matter.

On Sunday Blair hit out at two national newspapers for "horrible and unjustified" reporting on the issue.

Blair's strongly-worded statement was released in response to front page stories speculating on whether Leo had been given the triple vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella.

Some research has linked the MMR to an increased risk of autism and bowel disorders.

Blair said in his statement: "The reason we have refused to say whether Leo has had the MMR vaccine is because we never have commented on the medical health or treatment of our children.

"The advice to parents to have the MMR jab is one of scores of pieces of advice or campaigns the Government supports in matters ranging from underage sex to teenage alcohol abuse or smoking, to different types of advice for very young children on a huge range of activities from breastfeeding to safe play.

"Once we comment on one, it is hard to see how we can justify not commenting on them all."

The statement added: "The suggestion that the Government is advising parents to have the MMR jab whilst we are deliberately refraining from giving our child the treatment because we know it is dangerous, is offensive beyond belief.

"For the record, Cherie and I both entirely support the advice as we have consistently said throughout.

"It is not true that we believe the MMR vaccine to be dangerous or believe that it is better to have separate injections, or believe that it is linked to autism.

"On the contrary, the vaccine which is used throughout the world, helps prevent the spread of diseases that can, if contracted, cause very serious damage to children."

Blair said parents, including the Prime Minister and his wife, could not rely on the advice of the Government's Chief Medical Officer alone about the MMR vaccine, but on the "overwhelming advice from virtually every reputable independent source" including the World Health Organisation and the Royal College of Paediatricians.

"They can rely also on the again overwhelming research that has found the alleged link between autism and MMR to be unfounded.

"I am only sorry that my wife's family has had their privacy invaded in a way that is not only wrong in itself, but which, because the facts have been so totally distorted, can only be corrected by invading their privacy still further."

Leo was the first child born to a serving British prime minister for 150 years.

But Blair and his wife Cherie have closely guarded the privacy of Leo and their other children, Euan,17, Nicky,16, and Kathryn, 13.


• 10 Downing Street
• MMR Vaccine
• UK Department of Health

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