170 Cases of Autism Linked to Vaccine in UK
Also: * Shame On Officials Who Say MMR Is Safe: Editorial
* 'When Friends Ask Should Children Be Immunised,
My Answer Is No'
["All hell will break loose" warns fellow autism researcher Paul
Shattock commenting on today's release of Andrew Wakefield's latest
research. By Lorraine Fraser in the Telegraph UK.]
The consultant who first raised concerns about MMR vaccinations has
disclosed to The Telegraph that he has identified nearly 170 cases of a new
syndrome of autism and bowel disease in children who have had the
Andrew Wakefield, a consultant gastroenterologist at the Royal Free
Hospital in London, said that in the "majority" of cases parents had
documentary evidence that their child's physical and mental decline had
followed the vaccination.
Professor Wakefield said: "Last week in our clinic we saw nine or 10
new children with exactly the same story, referred by jobbing paediatricians
from around the country who said, 'This child developed normally, had a
reaction to MMR and is now autistic'".
In his first public comments since the row erupted in 1998, when he
reported on 12 cases, Professor Wakefield said that he remained seriously
concerned by the safety of the vaccine, despite reassurances from the
Department of Health.
He said: "The department says that the safety of MMR has been proven.
The argument is untenable. It cannot be substantiated by the science. That
is not only my opinion but increasingly the view of healthcare professionals
and the public.
He said: "Tests have revealed time and time again that we are dealing
with a new phenomenon. The Department of Health's contention that MMR has
been proven to be safe by study after study after study just doesn't hold
up. Frankly, it is not an honest appraisal of the science and it relegates
the scientific issues to the bottom of the barrel in favour of winning a
The doctor, who was fiercely attacked by health officials for voicing his
doubts three years ago, said in an exclusive interview that he felt driven
to break his silence because of the accumulating evidence. His remarks will
infuriate the Government and sharpen the dilemma of parents over whether to
have children innoculated with MMR.
It emerged last month that a rising number of doctors and nurses were
worried about giving second doses of the vaccine, and pressure is growing
for its separation into its three component vaccinations, spread over three
years. In his 1998 article in The Lancet, Professor Wakefield reported
finding a devastating combination of bowel disease and autism in 12
His revelation that that figure has reached almost 170 cases will
shock parents and doctors and add pressure on the Government to justify its
vaccination policy. This month Dr David Salisbury, the head of the
Government's immunisation programme, insisted that MMR was safe.
The vaccine, which contains live measles, mumps and rubella virus, has
been given to millions of children in the UK since its introduction in 1988
but the take-up rate has fallen sharply since Dr Wakefield made his original
Ten days ago health chiefs warned parents that Britain could face a
measles outbreak unless more had their children vaccinated with MMR.
Professor Wakefield said, however, that if an outbreak were to erupt it
would be the fault of the health department, which had "failed to address
the safety issues".
The doctor and his colleagues are testing the hypothesis that the
measles virus from the vaccine can lodge in the gut of susceptible children,
damaging the bowel and causing autism, and that the addition of the mumps
virus makes that more likely.
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* * *
Shame On Officials Who Say MMR Is Safe
[Telegraph editorial by Lorraine Fraser.]
&pg=/et/01/1/21/nmmr121.html <- - address ends here.
When Andrew Wakefield first told the Department of Health three years
ago of his fears about the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine
and described to ministers the terribly damaged children that he had
examined, he assumed that he would be taken seriously.
Since then, however, he has been pilloried for voicing his concerns
and the department's only response to his findings has been to undermine or
ignore them. In fact, despite being aware of worrying new evidence, it has
continued unwaveringly to reassure the public of the safety of the combined
vaccine which a growing number of doctors fear may have triggered serious
side affects in thousands of previously healthy children.
After a period of public silence, Dr Wakefield, an expert on
inflammatory bowel disease, has decided to risk the wrath of the department
again because he believes that he has now amassed enough evidence to
seriously question the Government's stance.
In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, his first substantive
comments since he provoked the row in 1998, Dr Wakefield has disclosed that
he and his colleagues at the Royal Free hospital in north London have
examined and diagnosed 170 cases of a new syndrome of bowel disease and
autism which defy the official wisdom.
More often than not, these profoundly affected children had fallen ill
after being given MMR, having been normal, thriving children up to that
point. He said: "Tests have revealed time and time again that we are dealing
with a new phenomenon."
"The Department of Health's contention that MMR has been proven to be safe
by study after study after study just doesn't hold up. Frankly, it is not an
honest appraisal of the science and it relegates the scientific issues to
the bottom of the barrel in favour of winning a propaganda war.
"The official reaction to this debate is a great shame. The parents
were right. They came to us in 1995 saying their children had been
developing normally had met their milestones; speech, language, social
interaction, good eye-contact.
"Then following MMR these had disappeared; the children had lost all
their acquired skills and been diagnosed as autistic. Second, they had bowel
problems which, the parents were sure, were linked to their autism. Third,
there is an epidemic of this disease.
"We took them seriously and found that they were absolutely right. Now
what do we do when they say to us 'I think this is MMR'? Do we take that
seriously and investigate it or do we sit at the end of a phone in the
Department of Health in Whitehall and say 'I'm terribly sorry you child has
autism but it's all a coincidence'?
"If you are mandated to check on vaccine safety and maintain public
confidence you don't just dismiss the idea as a coincidence. That is not
good enough, it is not good medicine."
Although he sees himself as primarily a scientist in pursuit of objective
truth [he trained at St Mary's hospital medical school in London and is a
qualified surgeon] he has now become a champion of parents who feel that
their fears have been ignored. He is braced for the furore which will erupt
this weekend after the publication of his outspoken comments and a paper
criticising the paucity of safety research on MMR.
He first provoked a storm in 1998, when he and leading colleagues
published a paper in the medical journal The Lancet describing a new form of
serious bowel damage in 12 children with autism and reported that several
parents had said their child's physical and mental decline followed MMR
Since then they have been testing the theory that measles virus from
the combined MMR vaccine can colonise the bowel of susceptible children,
producing inflammatory bowel disease which then, via a disruption of the
chemical balance in the body and brain, leads to autism. Dr Wakefield
admitted last night that the researchers have yet to prove their theory. He
insisted, however, that there is evidence enough from the research to be
In this weekend's paper, published in Adverse Drug Reactions, a
respected medical journal, Dr Wakefield and a leading epidemiologist, Scott
Montgomery, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, reveal that the longest
period of follow-up in any published safety study was just four weeks.
Evidence of bowel effects and interaction between MMR's measles, mumps
and rubella components were ignored. It says that as long ago as 1979,
autism researchers had found that unusual exposure to viruses, including
MMR's constituents, was a risk factor for autism.
Dr Wakefield told The Telegraph that he sent an advanced copy of this
analysis to the government's Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson last May.
The department has declared it "bad science". Professor Dame Rosalind
Hurley, however, a former chairman of the Medicines Commission, describes
his paper as a "welcome contribution to the on-going scientific debate".
Dr Wakefield said: "Our new paper is not anti-vaccine. It is about the
safest way in which to deliver these vaccines to children in order to
protect them against acute infectious disease and against the long-term
adverse reactions that I believe we are now seeing.
Officials should have noticed the warnings from earlier studies that
such a combination could lead to problems, he said. The safest option while
doubts remain, he insisted, was for the three vaccinations to be given to
"If measles epidemics come back then they come back because of the
failure of regulators to address the safety issues, to recognise those clues
in the early scientific papers which should have alerted them to the
possibility of long-term side effects and to respond to the question marks
that have been raised. I think they have misread the public mood."
* * *