In February 1998, findings from a controversial research by one Dr. Andrew Wakefield linking the Mumps, Measles, Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism in children were published in the Lancet Medical journal. The Wakefield research claimed that from a study of some twelve children who had visited a routine clinic and who had been given the MMR vaccine, the families of eight of them held the MMR vaccine responsible for autism in their children, saying that signs of autism had come on within a few days of receiving the vaccination.
Other claims by the Wakefield research were that they had found a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the conditions of the children. Despite the small size of the sample, and other subsequent flaws such as a failure by successive researchers to find evidence that links the MMR vaccine to autism, the Wakefield research caused widespread panic among mothers causing a drastic reduction in the numbers of those seeking to inoculate their children.
Mothers who were worried that their children might contract autism as a result of the vaccination refused to have their children inoculated and as a result, the official figures on MMR vaccination are said to have fallen from 92% and are currently well below 80%; a development that has prompted a return of the measles in the UK and other parts of continental Europe. The results of this refusal to vaccinate children are telling.
In 2008 alone, England and Wales had a total of 1,348 confirmed measles cases with some deaths being reported. With the country being threatened by a measles epidemic and the gravity of this illness tending towards alarming levels, there is an urgent need for parents to let their children get the MMR vaccine so as to prevent the measles epidemic before it erupts into a calamity on a scale of unimaginable proportions (Deer 2009; BBC News 1999).
OBJECTIVES OF THE PUBLIC RELATIONS CAMPAIGN Worried mothers have refused to have their children inoculated with the MMR vaccine and for this reason; the UK is faced with an impending measles epidemic. This public relations campaign will therefore be aimed at developing and increasing public support for the MMR vaccine such that by the time the campaign period ends, significant numbers of people will have been convinced enough to actually take their children to be vaccinated.
The target of the PR campaign is to increase the MMR vaccination rates to a minimum of 95%; the official immunization rate from the World Health Organization required for populations to acquire “herd immunity” (BBC News 1999). This will serve to protect those children who were not vaccinated as from 1998 when the Wakefield research was first published and who are now in real danger of contracting the disease.