U.K. court orders sisters to receive MMR vaccine

It is 15 years since The Lancet published the paper that sparked the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine autism scare. Yet the passage of time and discrediting of the paper have only partly lessened the feelings it provoked. In the United Kingdom, emotions are still strong enough to cause court cases.

The BBC reports that the British High Court has ruled on a case in which a divorced mother and father disagree on whether to vaccinate their children, two girls aged 11 and 15. In the immediate wake of the MMR scare, the then-married parents agreed not to vaccinate the children. Now though, the father has changed his mind and brought a court case seeking vaccination. High Court judge Mrs Justice Theis ruled in favor of the father, ordering that the two girls receive the vaccine against their will and that of their mother.

"I am aware that this is against the girls' wishes but that it is not the only factor. The court also has to consider their level of understanding of the issues involved and what factors have influenced their views. I do not consider there is a balanced level of understanding by them of the issues involved," Theis wrote in her ruling. A court-appointed welfare officer who spoke extensively to the sisters--one of whom is vegan--said they were concerned about ingredients in the vaccine, particularly the use of animal-based materials. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Sanofi ($SNY) vaccines used in the U.K. are grown on chicken cells.

The girls' views were very strongly influenced by their mother, the welfare officer said. While they were against the use of animal-based materials in the MMR vaccine, they had not thought about what drugs they would have to take--and what ingredients these would contain--if they caught measles, mumps or rubella. This contributed to Theis writing that the girls lacked a complete understanding of the issues, and ultimately to the ruling ordering the vaccination. The ruling was made last month, but the girls are yet to receive the vaccine, despite the deadline passing last week.

- read the BBC article