Vaccine campaigners highlight links to makers of controversial MMR triple jab

16/12/01 Sunday Express
Protest over watchdogs who hold drug shares
By Cyril Dixon

Anti-MMR campaigners called for an inquiry yesterday into the links between
medical watchdogs and major pharmaceuticals firms.

The calls came as the Sunday Express reveals that a second expert from the
panel which ruled out a link between the jab and autism holds shares in one
of its manufacturers.

Professor Walter Spitzer of McGill University in Canada acted as an
external expert advisor called to give evidence to the Medical Research
Council working party.

But he also holds shares in GlaxoSmithKline, one of the three companies
which supplies, and is facing legal action over, the vaccine.

Professor Spitzer's involvement follows the revelation that Professor Eve
Johnstone, who chaired the working party, owns shares in the company worth
10,000.

The report published last week said there was no convincing evidence to
prove that an increase in the number of autistic children was connected to
the three-in-one jab for mumps, measles and rubella.

Last night, Jackie Fletcher of the pressure group Jabs, said: "We need to
know exactly who is on these panels and where their priorities lie.

"This could be the tip of the iceberg. How many others are there out there
on Government advisory panels who have links with the pharmaceutical industry?

"I have no reason to doubt Eve Johnstone's sincerity as an individual but
in her position she has to be seen to be independent."

Professor Johnstone's report into the vaccine dogged by controversy was
commissioned last March by the Department of Health. Campaigners claim the
jab given to babies of 15 months is linked to autism and bowel disease and
are planning to sue the manufacturers over the alleged side effects.

The department though, has remained sceptical about research from around
the world which claimed to have proved the links.

In response, it does not allow single vaccinations, and parents who insist
on them have been forced to arrange them privately.

Official figures show that just 84.2 per cent of parents are having the
triple vaccination - its lowest level since being introduced ten years ago.

The latest report said autism is much more common than previously thought,
affecting at least one in 166 children under the age of eight.

But the review discounted the MMR link and said doctors and parents may
simply be more aware of autism.

As part of the general concern about the jab, the Tories are demanding to
know whether Mr Blair is to have his 18-month-old son Leo vaccinated with it.

Last July, Dr Andrew Wakefield, the scientist who first linked autism to
MMR, expressed fears about conflicts of interest in the Research Council.

David Thrower, the father of a child who became autistic after having the
vaccination, said: "The blatant conflict of interest  of many of those
stating there is no link between MMR and autism can only undermine public
confidence."

A spokesman for the MRC said interests of those involved in the inquiry
process were declared.
--
 __  _