Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

Website censured over MMR claims

8 August 2012
A WEBSITE offering parents advice on childhood immunisation has been ordered to remove information about the MMR vaccine after renewing claims it could be linked to autism. said the vaccine "could cause autism in up to 10% of autistic children in the UK". It also said: "Most experts agree the large rise [in autism] has been caused partly by increased diagnosis, but also by a real increase in the number of children with autism."

A further claim said the vaccine-strain measles virus has been found in the gut and brain of some autistic children, which supports many parents' belief that the MMR vaccine caused autism in their children.

One person complained that the claims are misleading and unsubstantiated.

Defending the claims, Babyjabs referred to one study from 2002, which it considered to be one of the strongest pieces of evidence that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism but which it claimed includes the author's conclusion: "We cannot rule out the existence of a susceptible subgroup with an increased risk of autism if vaccinated."

It also said The Truth About Vaccines, by Babyjab medical director Dr Richard Halvorsen, stated: "If one in 800 MMR vaccinations triggered an autistic disorder, this would result in around 1200 children a year in the UK being made autistic by the bundling of the vaccines."

Dr Halvorsen added that "research has since shown that the MMR is not causing the large majority of autism, but has been unable to exclude the possibility that it is causing autism in a small number of children".

Upholding the complaint, the Advertising Standards Authority noted that the website makes clear that the original allegations of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism was "strongly rejected" by Government. The ASA ruled that the claims must not appear again in their current form.