I was recently taken to task by the redoubtable drag artist, often thought to be the alter ego of Brian Deer, Becky Fisher for alluding to the Savile affair in the context of religious exemptions against vaccination. For those who have not heard the story, Jimmy Savile was a BBC disc jockey who became a national institution, raised millions for charity, received a knighthood and last year was accorded a public funeral which was perhaps the grandest since that of the Queen Mother. But all his public acts of goodness were really just a mask for sexually abusing vulnerable people of both sexes: children, the sick, the disabled, the institutionalised, even according to some accounts the dead, while he remained protected and possibly assisted for more than 50 years by the great and the powerful - with no one able to say a word against him. I was making a point about conscientious objection: that ultimately our religions do not call on us to accept everything the state throws at us. It is also a salutary reminder of how easily ordinary people can become the victims of the powerful, and are left without a voice.
But there is another parallel between the Savile affair and MMR. It was under the watch of Secretary of State for Health, Ken Clarke, that in 1988 Savile was given the keys and unlimited access to the criminal mental asylum, Broadmoor (Clarke, who is still a government minister, and until very recently Justice Secretary). It was also under Clarke’s ministry that indemnities were signed by the National Health Service for GSK’s Pluserix MMR vaccine against advice from Canada that it was already causing harm.
This was not the only bad thing going on in the Department of Health at the time. For instance, there was the Camelford water incident in which the Department of Health has maintained for decades that the population were not injured by water heavily contaminated with aluminium sulphate. In 2005 a Mrs Elizabeth J Sigmund wrote to British Medical Journal:
“In late July 1988 I made contact with a senior toxicologist at the DoH, Dr G K Matthew. We spoke many times: he told me that he had attended committee meetings about the Lowermoor acid water incident and had urged the department to send an expert team to North Cornwall to gather samples of the water and other relevant data, and to make clinical assessments of the health of the people. His words to me were: “I am constantly being overruled”.
The strategy of official turning a blind eye to injury and pretending it hasn’t happened is all too familiar. In her classic account of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (which reports to the Department of Health) Lucija Tomljenovic wrote last year:
“Here I present the documentation which appears to show that the JCVI made continuous efforts to withhold critical data on severe adverse reactions and contraindications to vaccinations to both parents and health practitioners in order to reach overall vaccination rates which they deemed were necessary for “herd immunity”, a concept which with regards to vaccination, and contrary to prevalent beliefs, does not rest on solid scientific evidence as will be explained. As a result of such vaccination policy promoted by the JCVI and the DH, many children have been vaccinated without their parents being disclosed the critical information about demonstrated risks of serious adverse reactions, one that the JCVI appeared to have been fully aware of. It would also appear that, by withholding this information, the JCVI/DH neglected the right of individuals to make an informed consent concerning vaccination. By doing so, the JCVI/DH may have violated not only International Guidelines for Medical Ethics (i.e., Helsinki Declaration and the International Code of Medical Ethics)  but also, their own Code of Practice.”
Meanwhile, further evidence emerges of the unholy alliance between the British government and the Murdoch empire which employed Mr Deer. It turns out the Leveson Inquiry, which is due to report this month, and refused to hear parents complaints about Mr Deer’s activities, also failed to publish embarrassing correspondence between the Prime Minister, David Cameron and News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, including sexual innuendo. The question arises once again whether the Leveson Inquiry was appointed to investigate media abuse, or whether it was all along only there to cover up the things most sensitive to government.
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.