'When Friends Ask Should Children Be Immunised, My Answer Is No'
By James Le Fanu
21 Jan 2001 http://www.whale.to/v/mmr39.html
[By James Le Fanu, Telegraph
I take a dim view of health scares for the obvious enough reason that
the hundreds I have encountered in my 15 years at The Sunday Telegraph have
proved to be without foundation. Their unifying feature, whether it has been
the imminent heterosexual Aids epidemic, passive smoking, declining sperm
counts, electromagnetic fields and so on ad nauseam, is that they are both
biologically implausible and intellectually incoherent.
The exception, clearly an important one, is the alleged link between
the MMR vaccine and childhood autism, highlighted yet again last week by the
disclosure that the safety studies conducted prior to the vaccine's
introduction lasted a mere four weeks. By definition there was thus failure
to detect adverse symptoms appearing after this time, which renders quite
meaningless the official protestation that the vaccine has been proven to be
The immediate response to Dr Wakefield's report of 12 children whose
autism and bowel symptoms appeared to follow soon after their MMR
immunisation was that it was "coincidence". The MMR is usually given around
18 months of age, which is also the time it takes for parents realising that
there may be something wrong with their child's development to obtain a
specialist's opinion and be told the diagnosis.
Further "coincidences" explanations appear to be vindicated by a
survey conducted by Professor Brent Tayler of London's Royal Free hospital.
On investigating the circumstances surrounding the diagnosis of autism in
almost 500 children in north London, he found that the timing was the same
irrespective of whether the child had been immunised or not. So our parents
might, quite naturally, have suspected that with their child's autism and
MMR immunisation coming so close together they must be related. But they
were wrong. End of health scare. Or is it?
Mosty children with autism are born with the condition, although it
may take up to 18 months before it is diagnosed, but the characteristic
feature of Dr Wakefield's cases is that the children's initial development
was entirely normal and they achieved their milestones just as predicted.
Then suddenly and catastrophically they lost the skills that they had
already acquired and they became withdrawn, intellectually uncurious and
This type of devastating "regressive" autism, where the wiring of the
normal brain seems to go haywire, has been recognised in the past as a rare
variant, accounting for at most five per cent of all cases. In Professor
Tayler's survey they constitute 25 per cent and in an even more recent one
from south London they constitute 50 per cent.
Simultaneously, while the proportion of cases of regressive autism has
escalated, so has the total number - a four-fold increase both here and in
the United States in the past two decades, when the MMR vaccine has been
Professor Tayler's survey completely fails to address either of these
phenomena, which self-evidently are highly relevant to the postulated link
with the MMR vaccine. Hence his conclusion that it is all just "coincidence'
is, like the four-week safety studies, quite meaningless.
To put it another way, the rise both in the frequency and type of
autism is precisely what would be expected were the link between the MMR
vaccine and autism - as originally identified by Dr Wakefield and attested
to by so many parents - genuine. So now, when I am asked by friends whether
they should have their children immunised, my answer is "no