Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Immunisation Debacle

While parents are now being told that the MMR vaccine is totally safe, there are many of us who still have our doubts. This has resulted in many people refusing to vaccinate their children at all. Indeed, every time I visit the Active Birth Centre to see my osteopath, I see piles of literature about the dangers of all immunisation.

I personally didn't feel comfortable not getting my daughter immunised. Instead, I took what I saw as the middle, reasonable road, opting to get her jabs done separately. This meant I had to go privately - something I had never considered doing before. It is quite a scary experience, stepping outside the NHS for your healthcare, and not one I savoured. But having read several books on the subject it seemed the 'least worst' option available.

Having had both her measles and rubella jabs, however, I have now received a letter from the private clinic telling me that there is no more mumps vaccine, nor will there ever be. The clinic that before told parents that the MMR vaccine was a really bad idea is now advising parents to get their child injected with said controversial vaccine...

Obviously, I am annoyed. How long have the clinic known this was going to happen? Earlier this year they said that the mumps vaccine was in short supply. The we were told that it would be available in June '09. Now we're told it isn't going to be available at all. I would like to know 'the story behind the story'. My qualms about going outside the NHS have proved to be well-founded.

I may well get some stick for spurning the MMR vaccine, or indeed for vaccinating at all - this is certainly an area where people have strongly-held views. I recall Blair refusing to say whether he was getting his baby son immunised with the MMR jab. Well, I am going to put my head above the parapet and have the guts to say what route I went down here. It may have been the wrong route in retrospect, but believe me, I thought it was the right decision at the time...

The joys of parenting!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

What does 'Green' even mean?

The term 'green' is being used a lot right now. It's been this way for more than a year but I feel that we're reaching saturation point. There are green tourism awards, green babies, green car awards and most probably green coal fired power stations. It's like if you call something green, it is therefore sustainable and we don't need to think about it anymore.

I find this all a bit disconcering. A few weeks ago I went along to a conference at the SMMT. The panelists, largely from the ad and car industries, were throwing around the term 'green cars' all morning. But there's nothing such as a 'green car'. Even an electric car has to be powered by the national grid, after all. One day there will be cars that run on hydrogen and expel clean water, but those are not the cars the panelists were refering to. They were terming cars that emit slightly less than the biggest polluters 'green'.

At the end of the conference, Professor Jillian Anable, who has done some great research on drivers and their attitudes, asked whether she could play devil's advocate for a moment, and suggest that NO car ads should make 'green claims' as it mislead the public. She suggested that if drivers believed their car was 'green' this would give them carte blanche to drive all the time!

One of the more bolshy ad people shouted "NO! That's censorship!" (Calm down, dear. This is just a car conference. I'm sure you're actually a very good mind manipulator...). Thus ended the morning.

Seriously though, what does green even mean nowadays? It has become such a cover-all term that I fear it has been rendered basically meaningless. And who is this a problem for? Well, the Green Party of course.

I talk about the Green Party, ooh, 90% of the time - I am a politics bore, after all. And a lot of people say to me "They should change their name." The reason they give for this is that the name is a little meaningless now, the reasons for which are outlined above. Furthermore, since the party has a BIG challenge in convincing the public that we are not just about 'green' issues but also social justice and much, much more, the name goes in opposition to this quest.

Also, there are other Green Parties all over the world, some of which we have little in common with.

I have no suggestions for what the new name should be - indeed, like Professor Anable, I am indeed playing devil's advocate myself here - I am not sure a new name would be a sensible idea. After all, it would take us an age to re-establish ourselves under a new banner. (Having just shifted from my maiden name of Mitchell to my married name of Cope - hence the blog move - I know that even on a small, personal scale, a name change is an upheaval!).

But I think this is an interesting area and would welcome your comments and opinions.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

(In)decent Homes

My campaign to get Homes for Haringey to maintain their housing stock continues. Having been told that our estate is not scheduled for any improvements until 2012/2013, I approached HfH Chief Exec Paul Bridge and asked whether there were any interim measures that could be taken to improve the living conditions in the meantime.

I have just heard that at my suggestion they have been investigating this approach and have some recommendations. For example, there is a possibility of fitting temporary secondary glazing on the cold, damp flats, as well as fixing external lagging in some cases.

This is welcome news, but the sceptic in me reckons I might have to chase and chase this to get any action. It will be worth doing though if it improves the day to day lives of people here on the estate, and perhaps on other estates too. It particularly saddens me to think of elderly people and babies and young children living with the problems of damp. And with another rise in rents and service charges on the cards, the poor conditions are even harder to stomach...