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The MMR vaccine: public health, private fears
The MMR vaccine: public health, private fears

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5.2 Blair's babe

The ESRC report demonstrated the high awareness amongst the public of the Leo Blair issue, in spite of it not being the most prominent aspect of the media coverage. In December 2001, during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Tony Blair was asked whether his infant son had been immunised with MMR. Mr Blair declined to answer on the basis that it was a private family matter. The perception in the media was that if Leo had been immunised, Mr Blair would have been happy to say so. His wife, Cherie Blair, had been the subject of media reports highlighting her interest in New Age alternative medicine which contributed to the suspicion that Mr Blair was promoting MMR in public but opting out in private. The impact of this issue on immunisation levels is hard to measure in isolation but uptake certainly fell in the wake of the publicity (Fitzpatrick, 2004).

Activity 2 What do you think?

Politicians are often criticised for using their families for political gain (recall the now iconic image of John Gummer and his daughter reproduced in Reading 2), yet they are expected to act as suitable role models. Are politicians ethically obliged to follow their recommended policies, or is this indeed an undue invasion of privacy?