Letter of the week: The other side of vaccination

A selection of the best letters received from our readers this week. Email letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

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Four decades in general practice, reassuring parents at baby clinics that NHS advice to vaccinate their children was a safe and effective choice, makes me sympathetic to the errors and omissions of Sophie McBain (Observations, 18 April).

A decade on, with time to read and consider, as the vaccine load on children increases, the situation is less clear. The US, with the biggest mandatory vaccine schedule, has very poor child health by developed country standards. The safety and testing of vaccines is easily researched, and not reassuring. The immunity from vaccination is often poor, and usually brief. Most measles outbreaks in the West affect the vaccinated.

Surprised? The vaccine industry is a huge earner for big pharma. They are profit-driven, with a vast advertising budget that ensures the media play ball. Vaccines’ ambivalent safety record should be made clear in the process of gaining informed consent to every vaccination, as the law dictates. It rarely happens. The anti-vaxx smokescreen may be intended to obscure that regular professional illegality.

Noel Thomas
Maesteg, Mid Glamorgan

Being European

Antonia Fraser (Diary, 18 April) reawakened my own memories of becoming European a lifetime ago. Travelling with my parents from the age of ten, at first in France, was – I now understand – an instructive and exhilarating rebirth. People in villages, seeing our British car, would stop and wave the most joyous of welcomes; others – to our astonishment – would cross restaurants to shake us by the hand and thank us for liberating them.

Our new friends in Alsace had been able to reclaim their house, commandeered in the war by the Nazis and fitted with gun ports under the bay windows. The family had been scattered. In his time their father had had to fight in both the French and the German armies, according to the shifting frontier. An uncle, mayor of another town, was one of the few men left in it: the others had been locked in the church and incinerated.

Later we navigated the endless potholes in Catalonia, where General Franco was still punishing the inhabitants for their opposition. Soon we experienced the undercurrents in Italian communities struggling above the divisions of civil war while working to overcome impoverishment. During the day there was no water, but our lives were immeasurably enriched by immersion in the glorious cultural heritage from which our own had sprung.

Khrushchev’s mini-thaw allowed me to visit Poland on a bridge-building mission between universities. Daily life was basic but our student hosts proudly explained the rebuilding, brick by brick, of the beautiful Old Town in Warsaw, and took us to see Auschwitz. On the return journey, the train stopped long enough in East Berlin for a brief reunion with my German friend Cornelia; we had studied together in Italy. I have been immeasurably lucky and wouldn’t want to see the young in future denied life-enhancing, mind-altering experiences.

Ann Lawson Lucas
Beverley, East Yorkshire

Fresh prince?

Ian McEwan’s rather confident assertion that  Hamlet “just springs into world literature with no precedent” (The NS Interview, 18 April) and that  “he was the first person to really express doubt about himself” seems to ignore not only the whole genre of revenge tragedy in the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre, but other Shakespearean characters such as Lear and Richard II who were plunged into self doubt by tragic circumstance. Hamlet may be our “ur-modern human” from one perspective, but even doubting robots are not really new on the literary scene.

Hugh Weldon
London N11

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This article appears in the 03 May 2019 issue of the New Statesman, A very British scandal