CHILD VACCINE CLUSTER FEAR
Experts call for new research over linked Scot autism cases
EXCLUSIVE by Emma Nugent
Wednesday, June 14, 2000
Fresh evidence of a possible link between the MMR vaccination and autism
emerged yesterday after children from villages within two miles of each other
were diagnosed with the condition after inoculation.
The three children from different families in Ayrshire were given the jab at
the same health centre within the space of four months.
The close proximity of the cases prompted renewed concern among leading
medical experts about the vaccine's potential link with the brain syndrome.
Child neuro-psychologist Dr. Ken Aitken, who was one of the Medical Research
Council's 'wise men' on the issue, said the cluster of cases in Ayrshire
proved urgent research was needed before the mumps, measles and rubella
vaccine could be declared safe beyond doubt.
'More children are being diagnosed with autism and clusters like these are
deeply worrying,' he said last night. 'There is strong circumstantial
evidence to point to the MMR jab as the reason, but there has to be much more
co-ordinated research to look into this issue in detail.
'Research so far hasn't been adequate to address the questions that are
being raised about the possible links and there have been a lot of queries
about the validity of the conclusions which were drawn.' The parents of
Daniel Docherty, Stuart Robertson and Lee McPhail, all three years old,
believe that the MMR vaccination administered when the children were 14
months old at the Kilbirnie Health Centre led to their autism. The families,
who live within two miles of each other in Kilbirnie and Glengarnock,
Ayrshire, took their children for the jab in 1998. Mandy Robertson, Stuart's
mother said yesterday, 'I cannot accept that these three children who all
live so closely have developed this syndrome by chance.'
'I am demanding that answers be found. The Government cannot go on giving
children this injection without looking at what certainly seems to be side
effects. This is no coincidence, it can not be brushed off as such a thing.'
In the 1980s, one in 2500 children in Britain and America were diagnosed as
autistic. Latest figures compiled by researchers revealed a dramatic leap to
one in 146.
Earlier this year powerful new evidence which pointed strongly to a link
between the MMR vaccine and autism was revealed by leading scientists.
Professor John O'Leary, Director of Pathology at the Coombe Women's Hospital
in Dublin and a world authority in the detection of viruses, told a US
Congress in April this year that he had produced compelling evidence of an
association between the two. Professor O'Leary said he had found the measles
virus in the guts of 24 out of 25 children who had developed the condition
after an apparently healthy infancy. His research backed up the claims of Dr.
Andrew Wakefield, who works at the Royal Free Hospital in London and 2 years
ago first suggested a link between MMR and autism.
Dr. Wakefield has since produced research which he says identifies a new
disease, autistic enterocolitis which is characterised by an inflammation of
the gut in 150 children who became autistic. Doctors believe the cocktail of
vaccines in the same inoculation causes the gut damage and the consequent
Dr. Aitken, a world expert on autism based at Edinburgh Universisty, said,
'The substantial increase in cases in the US began about three years after
MMR vaccine was introduced and the same thing happened three years after MMR
was introduced in Britain.'
'There has been a national increase throughout Britain and I find it very
surprising that the change is so tightly linked in time with when triple
vaccine was introduced.'
Edinburgh private GP, Dr. Peter Copp, who is now offering single
vaccinations due to the growing concerns being voiced about MMR, said the
number of parents wanting to avoid the combined vaccines had risen
Dr. Copp said, 'The evidence to back their worries is growing all the time.
I share parental concerns and believe there should be government funded
research into the possible link. I am offering parents an alternative to the
all or nothing approach they are being given by the NHS.' He added, 'Britain
is the only country in the world which only offers MMR and no alternative.
Here it has to be triple or nothing.'
The child victims, once healthy and normal, developed learning difficulties.
Each family noticed a regression in their sons' temperments and behaviour in
the weeks and months that followed the jab and now want answers.
Despite concerns raised by the medical establishment and the boys' families,
the Scottish Executive last night reinforced its commitment to the MMR
'No scientific evidence would advocate the advantage of giving single
vaccines, in fact the contrary,' said a spokesman. 'There are adverse
consequences, three separate injections are more traumatic for the child and
the combined vaccine means they can be inoculated against the three diseases
at the same time.'
'No country recommends giving MMR as separate jabs.'
A spokesman for the Department of Health in London, said 'There is no
evidence that the MMR vaccination is linked to autism.'
But Dr. Aitken, part of the 37 member MRC Committee which looked at the
possible link, strongly disagreed.
'I believe hte parameters of a new study by the MRC needs to be made public
so we can ensure they are looking at the areas of concern.' More than 2000
British families are considering legal action against 5 manufacturers of the