Rising demand for MMR inquiry

Sep 7 2002 http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0200wales/page.cfm?objectid=12178871&method=full&siteid=50082

Madeleine Brindley Health Correspondent Madeleine.Brindley@Wme.Co.Uk, The Western Mail

CALLS for a public inquiry into the controversial MMR jab have intensified after it emerged an autistic Welsh schoolboy was infected with vaccine-strain measles.

Parents of other autistic children have joined Oliver Loch's mother Julie in her demands for an immediate independent investigation, despite a leading expert yesterday claiming there was no evidence of a link between the triple vaccine and autism.

Mrs Loch believes six-year-old Oliver's form of regressive autism was caused by the MMR injection.

Blood and tissue tests have revealed the same strain of measles used in the vaccine is present in Oliver's body and it is feared the disease has spread to his brain.

The Autism Research Campaign for Health last night repeated Mrs Loch's calls for an inquiry into the links between autism and MMR.

Member Martin Hewitt said, "There is growing concern about MMR. This is a public issue and I think that the Government should recognise that and set up a public inquiry. It's the only way to quash all the differences of opinion around this issue."

But child psychiatrist Prof Christopher Gillberg yesterday told a national autism conference he had not seen a "shred of evidence" to link the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination to childhood autism.

"I think this whole MMR business has taken on proportions that have hampered research into autism. People are concentrating so much on disputing this or finding that in relation to MMR, when there has never been any strong evidence that this would be a road we should be travelling." His comments coincided with the launch of a Department of Health website dedicated to reassuring parents the MMR vaccine is safe.

Mrs Loch, who lives near Newport, said, "The kind of autism children like Oliver are developing is different from classic autism which children have from birth and they don't achieve the normal milestones. Parents know from day one.

"This group of children with regressive autism like Oliver develop normally for years then start to regress. This used to be rare but now we are hearing more and more about it. In some cases the MMR vaccination is triggering autism."

Deborah Riding, of Desumo Healthcare which has organised single-vaccine clinics in Swansea, said, "The parents of autistic children who come to us believe very differently - their children were developing fine until they had MMR."

The MMR vaccine was introduced in the UK in 1988 but a decade later Dr Andrew Wakefield first suggested there was a link between it and a rise in autism and bowel disorders.

The Government's target take-up rate is 95pc but just 82.5pc of children received it in Wales. In some areas the figure is lower, and Welsh GPs have warned the country faces a potentially lethal outbreak of measles if vaccine rates fall below 80pc.

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