We can reveal that the chairman of the expert
group set up by the executive to investigate the
jab, the Very Reverend
, is linked to one of the
manufacturers of the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK),
through his church.
Another member of his committee, Professor
Lawrence Weaver, also has shares in GSK through
an investment plan.
Four members of the group are already known to
have links to the drug companies through shares
or academic funding. Scotland on Sunday’s new
revelations mean six of the 18-strong group have
Last week, the group published its long-awaited
report on the MMR vaccine, and controversially
recommended that Scottish parents should not be
offered single jabs as an alternative to the
Scotland on Sunday can also reveal that a
Scottish-led £500,000 research programme into
possible links between MMR, autism and bowel
disease is being opposed by an anonymous
scientific advisor who admits to being paid by
another manufacturer of the vaccine.
Scottish scientists fear the project - which
would be the biggest ever investigation into
links between MMR and autism - has been put at
risk by the submission to the Medical Research
Council funding body. The unnamed scientist
describes the planned work as "fringe medicine".
The expert group, chaired by Forbes, was set up
last August by the Scottish Executive to provide
a definitive assessment of the safety of the
measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. It followed
concern among parents about the jab and a slump
in the vaccination rate.
Now, official documents seen by Scotland on
Sunday have revealed that Forbes, who is Provost
of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh,
has links to the controversial vaccine. Money
from the cathedral’s endowment fund has been
invested in GSK.
The documents also show that respected academic
Professor Lawrence Weaver, who is head of the
department of child health at Glasgow
University, has links to the same drugs company.
Shares in GSK were bought on behalf of Weaver as
part of a PEP investment plan.
When Scotland on Sunday approached Forbes and
Weaver, they insisted they had declared their
investments soon after the expert group was set
up. Both denied they had been influenced by the
Further evidence connecting pharmaceutical firms
to expert advisors has emerged in a document
sent to the Medical Research Council (MRC),
which has been obtained by Scotland on Sunday.
In it, an unnamed scientist, who admits
receiving money for acting as a an expert
witness on behalf of MMR firm Merck, presses the
funding body not to give a grant to the
pioneering Scottish-based research project
aiming to examine links between the vaccine,
autism and bowel disease.
The study, due to begin in October, will not be
able to go ahead without MRC funding.
Researchers hope to examine the theory that the
measles virus from the MMR vaccine is causing
autism and bowel disorders in children. It is
the theory which first ignited the debate over
the safety of the combined measles, mumps and
But in the letter to the MRC, in response to a
request to ‘referee’ the application, the
academic says: "The theory is entirely
discredited and is fringe medicine, carried out
in private laboratories, and published in fringe
The scientist, who admits his link to Merck,
continues: "One therefore has to ask if it is
the MRC’s remit to refute fringe notions on
which there is no recent published data from the
proponents of the controversial hypothesis."
One academic involved in the planned research
said the scientist’s recommendations had put the
project at risk.
The academic, who asked not to be named, said:
"I am worried that this may sway the MRC and put
our research at risk.
"This person is trying their utmost to block our
research without providing any valid scientific
reasons. They are saying they do not want the
project to go ahead, full stop, because it is
quack medicine. This is complete nonsense."
The study would examine the guts of 1,000
children - half of them autistic - for the
presence of the measles virus and gut damage.
An MRC spokeswoman said: "Grant applications are
looked at by independent reviewers in the field.
We take these comments into account when we make
a funding decision."
Bill Welsh, chairman of the campaign group
Action Against Autism, said he was alarmed by
the extent of financial links between scientific
experts and the MMR firms.
He said: "Inappropriate financial links have
scarred the whole MMR debate."