Jackie and John Fletcher are playing with their youngest son Rob. They do a simple jigsaw, pass a ball to him and read him a picture book.
“Can you say apple Rob?”, “Say Daddy”.
Rob regularly leans over and throws his arm around his mum Jackie, smothering her in loud kisses.
But what’s wrong with this scene is that Rob is 19-years-old. He should be outside kicking a ball around with his friends or older brothers and simple 12 piece jigsaws should be a game long confined to the past.
Rob, from Warrington in England, was severely disabled by the MMR vaccine he was given in 1992 when he was 13 months old.
The government finally admitted this last year after a long 18-year battle by his parents Jackie and John. The £90,000 compensation paid out under the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme is now being used to adapt the family home to better suit Rob’s complex needs.
Before receiving the vaccine, Rob was developing normally. He was speaking simple words, knew animal noises, waved goodbye and could walk along holding onto furniture.
Today he uses a wheelchair, can’t speak or stand unaided, is doubly incontinent and has severe epilepsy. Developmentally, he is still like a 14-month-old child.
He is a happy boy and there is no doubt that Rob is deeply loved by his parents but they know that things could and should have been so different.
Jackie founded the high profile parents’ group Jabs – Justice Awareness & Basic Support – in 1994. A group which she and her husband John stress is not anti-vaccine.
“We just want vaccines to be safer and for parents to be given a choice,” she said.
“It has been a nightmare to try and get the Department of Health to accept what has been in Rob’s medical records since 1992 when he had the MMR.
“He had a massive seizure 10 days after the injection which lasted at least 50 minutes. This was a classic reaction to the measles component of the vaccine and I firmly believe if that seizure had occurred in the night we would have lost him.
“The horrendous part was that Rob did not just fail to move on after the injection, he lost what he had already learned. He’s still like a baby and plays with little pin board puzzles and a ball when really he should be out there taking on the world. Unfortunately he’ll now need full time care for the rest of his life.
“Over the years he has been in status epilepticus a number of times which means the seizures just don’t stop. Once they lasted for 36 hours with seizures happening every five minutes. We have nearly lost him on a number of occasions.”
Jackie’s husband retired on compassionate grounds in 2003 as, by then, it was virtually impossible for Jackie to lift Rob on her own.
She continued: “The government finally paid us compensation in August last year even though the evidence has been there since 1992. It has been the parents up against the might of the Department of Health who do not want to acknowledge that a vaccine has caused any serious side effects.
“The department is trying to safeguard children from nasty diseases but what they are doing is treating every child as if they are all identical and they are looking for the most cost effective and fastest way to inoculate children.
“But not every child is the same. They should be investigating the children believed to be affected because it might be that they have some common trait which may make them more likely to react to a combination vaccine.
“As lay people we have seen patterns emerging in what parents are telling us. Not just in terms of symptoms but also the timing of reactions. Sometimes children sharing the same batch number shared the same symptoms.
“We believe that if any child has had any kind of reaction to the vaccine it should be compulsorily reported and followed up on. We have learned that only about 10% of reactions are reported.
“It should be determined several months down the line whether a child has fully recovered or if their life has changed. Parents may be amazed to know that this is currently not done.
“Vaccine policy makers are being paid by the tax payer to keep the nation safe, both from diseases but also from vaccine damage.”