Too scared to give my son the MMR jab…then he got measles

Having coffee with my friend Claire, we began chatting about our babies’ upcoming vaccinations. Suddenly, there was an awkward silence.

‘Of course, it’s your decision but are you sure you’re doing the right thing?’ she finally asked.

‘Yes,’ I replied, my cheeks burning.

I knew not everyone would agree with my decision not to give my 18-month-old son Samuel the MMR jab, but I was certain I was doing the right thing.

There’d been a lot of bad press surrounding the vaccination and after I’d heard of children being diagnosed with autism following the jab, it had left me terrified.

My health visitor tried to talk me round. She told me how dangerous, even deadly, it could be it your child ending up catching measles.

I knew it was a big decision but I was sure I’d made the right one. I’d had measles and mumps as a kid and I was fine. And who got measles these days anyway?

But then earlier this year, Samuel fell ill. He’d had a bad chest infection when he was three months old and he’d been prone to them ever since.

At Bradford Royal Infirmary he was put on a nebuliser to help administer medication directly into his lungs. After three days he was back home but he still needed to use an inhaler to help with his breathing.

The following week he went back to school. But when I collected him that Tuesday his teacher said he seemed peaky.

‘It’s just a virus,’ the doctor said.

But the next day, Samuel complained that his ear and throat were sore. His eyes were red and puffy and he’d been sick, too. I dosed him up with Calpol and he lay on the settee watching TV.

The next day morning he seemed better. But by mid-afternoon his temperature had shot up and he started vomiting again.

This time the doctor gave him antibiotics for an ear and throat infection.

The next day he was still poorly. His temperature had soared to over 39 degrees.

‘The TV hurts my eyes,’ he complained. He asked me to turn the lights off, too.

Something didn’t seem right. And when I spotted a pinprick rash on Samuel’s chest and top of his back, I arranged for a home visit.

‘I was worrying it might be measles,’ I admitted.

The doctor laughed. ‘It’s just a nasty virus. He’ll be right as rain in a few days.’

He dosed him up with painkillers and eye drops but the following day rash had got worse. Now it covered his neck, chest and back and his temperature was close to 40 degrees.

I made an emergency appointment at my local hospital. They changed his antibiotics in case it was an allergic reaction and sent us home.

By tea time, the angry spots had spread over his whole body. Call it mother’s intuition, but I was sure it was measles.

I looked it up in the Internet. Red eyes and sensitivity to light; fever; a red-brown spotty rash…all of the symptoms were there. I drove him back to the hospital.

‘It’s not measles,’ the doctor said. ‘I can assure you of that.’

I started to doubt myself. Was I overreacting?

But when we got halfway home my mobile rang. It was the same doctor.

‘Can you come back?’ she said. ‘There’s a chance I was wrong.’

We were put in a room on our own. As they carried out tests, I was close to tears. Why couldn’t anyone tell me what was wrong with my son?

‘I take it he’s had his MMR,’ the consultant asked.

When I said ‘no’, he tutted loudly.

Finally, eight days after this had all started, Samuel’s blood tests came back and he was finally diagnosed with measles.

The guilt was overwhelming. I felt terrible. OK, so I knew there was a risk but ever in a million years did I think it would happen to my son…well you don’t, do you?

I was worried the measles could lead to pneumonia but the consultant told me that luckily Samuel had no complications. I wept with relief.

As the days passed Samuel started to pick up. He was still off his food but slowly, the rash faded.

Looking at him lying there, listless in the hospital bed, I felt really guilty for not protecting him by giving him the jab. Shame throbbed every time the doctors and nurses discussed his illness and brought up the fact he wasn’t vaccinated.

After a week in hospital, Samuel finally came home. He was very tired and had lost over a stone. He needed another week off school to recover fully.

Now, a month on, I still feel bad that I didn’t do everything I could have to protect Samuel. Although I still have my concerns about the MMR I think parents should be able to opt for single jabs on the NHS.

Although it’s very unlikely Samuel will get measles again now, I’m considering paying privately for the single jabs which cost about £150 each. Yes, they’re a lot of money but you can’t put a price on your child’s health, can you?