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28 November 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 3:00pm

LETTER OF THE WEEK A doctor’s diagnosis

By New Statesman

Mr Thomas’s letter about vaccination (Correspondence, 3 May) strikes me as a chain of dubious statements. He is “sympathetic” to Sophie McBain’s “errors and omissions” in her article (Observations, 18 April) without, rather unfairly, outlining what these are. Next, he conflates poor child health in the US with the mandatory vaccination schedule.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, almost half of young children in the US live in poverty or near poverty. Poverty is a major determinant of poor health but has nothing to do with vaccinations. The assertion that the safety and testing of vaccines is “not reassuring” is not backed by any evidence. It is apparently easily researched but I could find nothing to justify his remark. Mr Thomas then asserts that most measles outbreaks in the West affect the vaccinated. This is simply untrue: the director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, said of the present outbreak in the US: “Most of those sickened in this year’s outbreaks have been unvaccinated.”

Finally, the remarks made about the great profitability of vaccines again goes against reality. In the early 2000s, there was great concern over the increasing shortage of some vaccines in the US as pharmaceutical firms were finding the cost of keeping their manufacturing facilities up to date to comply with safety specifications too great to make an acceptable return on investment. I am the last to defend Big Pharma against accusations of greed but it seems unjust in this case.

and I never saw any significant problems with vaccines in our group practice. It is sad to see a fellow doctor adding to the present travails of this peerless public health programme.

Dr Gavin Bullock

Anti-vaxx untruths

I feel obliged to write to complain about your most recent letter of the week (Correspondence, 3 May). Mr Thomas’s piece of ill-informed, anti-scientific drivel regarding vaccination should not go unchallenged. The scientific basis, effectiveness and safety of vaccination are not challenged by those competent enough to comment. The worldwide eradication of smallpox, the elimination of paralytic poliomyelitis and the vast improvements in child mortality are undisputed facts. Vaccination as an empirical practice pre-dates modern capitalism and “Big Pharma” by several centuries, being in widespread usage in the Ottoman empire. The elimination of these diseases from our lives is the greatest achievement of modern medicine and should not be undermined by the intellectually challenged.

During my career as a GP
I saw one case of measles and none of those great scourges diphtheria and polio. I did see a life destroyed by mumps encephalitis in an unvaccinated adult. I think the decision to publish this letter reflects the poor education of our journalistic and political classes, who often ignore science and develop a disdain for it.

Dr PJ Gregory
Via email

National trust

The article by Matthew Goodwin (“The end of trust”, 3 May) made many excellent points but could have benefited from mentioning the work of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, which shows that trust is closely related to inequality. The immigration debate is, at root, about access to resources. Leaving aside the small, overtly racist element of the Leave vote, my sense is that Brexit happened because a much larger section of the population felt economically threatened by immigration, whether that was true or not.

So, the only effective and humane way to allay these feelings and to snuff out populism or fascism (whatever you want to call it) is to have a more equal distribution of resources so that more people feel secure and justly treated.

Bill Kerry
Via email

The complete breakdown of trust in politicians we are experiencing led in the 2016 referendum to the highest turnout, by far, of any vote since 1992. This “huge” referendum turnout was a revelation. At last, the people had a voice. But, of course, the politicians were deaf.

Having ignored/dismissed the transparent wishes of swathes of the electorate that had refused to vote in earlier elections, politicians are now unable to implement the largest, most decisive vote in recent history. They do not wish to understand the implications of this pattern: that our democracy is not fit for purpose.

What Matthew Goodwin calls the “diffuse” support Westminster enjoyed in the past has evaporated. He explains that as diffuse support declines, politicians draw further apart: national interest gives way to party loyalties; and job security for the incumbents becomes paramount. Westminster’s only aim today is self-preservation.

In his piece William Lewis (“A very British scandal”, 3 May) maintains that, after the financial crisis of 2008, a chance to make radical reforms to our political institutions was overlooked. We are still, he points out, a duopoly with an antiquated electoral system. But any reform of a representative system, however radical, ignores the underlying oxymoronic meaning of the expression “representative democracy”: the people’s opinions are moulded by the representative system. Democracy cannot live under the shadow of representative government.

David Clarke
Via email

In his piercing and radical critique of the UK’s broken political system, it’s a shame that William Lewis doesn’t acknowledge the role of the American journalist Heather Brooke in exposing the MPs’ expenses scandal. It was her heroic pursuit of the House of Commons through the courts that forced public servants to collate, and then prepare to publish, details of expenses claims. Mr Lewis’s newspaper was merely the lucky recipient of a leak.

Steve Elliott
Via email

Game changer

Jason Cowley’s column on the beginning of the New Football has put a date on an abiding memory of mine (Left Field, 3 May). In 1989 I was living in Liverpool and running a rather beautiful arts centre there. Thankfully, I wasn’t at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster but everyone seemed to know someone who had been, me included.

On Friday 26 May that year, I stood outside Anfield blagging a ticket to the season’s final game. And then I stood on the Kop. To me, Liverpool looked a tired team that night. In the dying minutes, as Arsenal’s Mickey Thomas picked up a ball, I thought: “I don’t like the look of this.”

He scored a dramatic winner and Liverpool’s traumatic season was over. I didn’t have the heart to applaud Arsenal, as many others did. I may have the ticket stub somewhere.

Paul Kelly
Poole, Dorset

I enjoyed reading Jason Cowley’s column about the 1989 First Division deciding match between Liverpool and Arsenal. While he is right to reference the problems of hooliganism and racism, let’s remember that there was much more to Eighties football than this. My abiding memory is of watching four of the most attractive international sides ever in this time – Brazil in 1982, France and Denmark in the mid 1980s, and the Netherlands in 1988. And that’s without mentioning the genius Diego Maradona, who “singlehandedly” led an ordinary Argentinian side to World Cup victory in 1986.

Anand Shukla
London SW19

Queen’s theme

Helen Lewis (Out of the Ordinary, 12 April) suggests that, when seeking to tidy up the Brexit muddle, one could well start by removing the hereditary peers from the House of Lords. Might this not also be the right time to endow Britain with a worthy national anthem?

The tune attached to “God Save the Queen” is of the same dismal standard as that associated with “Three Blind Mice”. And if one ventures to sing it right through some of the words are disgusting.

The melodies adopted by Russia, the US and France are nothing short of inspiring; those of Luxembourg and Norway call for gentle patriotism, even though the words of many an anthem may here or there be a trifle silly (Holland’s anthem speaks of loyalty to the king of Spain).

For Britain, Edward Elgar’s march associated with “Land of Hope and Glory” might do very well, provided someone can tone down Benson’s bumptious text.

Graham Dukjes
Oslo, Norway

NHS successes

Further to Dr Phil Whitaker’s masterly dissection of what lies behind the NHS’s constant restructuring (Health Matters, 3 May), I would like to add a word of praise for those exhausted Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) staff, who cared for their patients’ health when few other organisations seemed to.

After our son’s suicide, I tried for a decade to spread awareness that a head injury carries a risk of wrecking your sex drive and fertility, and causing depression, obesity and fatigue, through pituitary damage. This is something every GP needs to know, especially as the condition can even happen after concussion, yet neither the secretary of state for health, nor Nice, nor the Royal College of GPs until recently, were interested.

However, when I wrote to those 200 beleaguered CCGs I was most heartened by the way as many as 150 of them responded, usually warmly and quickly – including the information in their GP training days and bulletins, and even sometimes inviting me to speak. They may be on the way out, but I salute them and shall be sorry to see them go.

Joanna Lane
Coulsdon, Greater London

Englishman’s home

As an ageing Welshman I can identify with some of Philip Ball’s quotations in his piece on Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (The Critics, 3 May). I especially like this quote: “He [the Englishman] does not accommodate himself to his surroundings; they have got to accommodate themselves to him.”

This attitude, unfortunately, has been a death knell to many Welsh-speaking villages in west Wales.

Ronnie Lewis
Crymych, Pembrokeshire

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