Expert says three-in-one vaccine may cause autism
(Sunday Times 5 Sept, 1999)
A MEMBER of the expert panel used by the government to reassure parents about the three-in-one mumps. measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine is to say in court that it could cause autism.
Dr Ken Aitken, a leading child psychologist, has agreed to act as a key witness for parrents seeking millions of pounds in compensation from the vaccine s manufacturers
His decision will anger government ministers and health officials who are trying to allay public fears. Aitken, an internationally respected authority on autism, was one of 37 experts convened by the Medical Research Council in March last year. He claims their conclusions were not revealed in full and says experts found themselves unable to dismiss the possibility of a connection. He believes the vaccine could be causing a new form of autism.
The findings were used by Sir Kenneth Calman, the governments chief medical officer, to declare the vaccine safe. "There is no link between measles, measles vaccine or MMR immunisation and either Crohns disease or autism," he said.
Last month the government banned the import of single-dose vaccines except in special cases. Some parents have already travelled to France to have their children immunised with individual jabs. Others, however, have decided not to vaccinate their children at all, raising fears of an outbreak of childhood illness. In Britain 13% of babies have not been vaccinated against measles, mumps. and rubella and health officials say 95% must be immunised to avoid an epidemic. MMR is usually given to children aged between 12 and 15 months and again at the age of four.
"We were saying what in Scotland would be a not proven verdict. You cant say one way or the other and research needs to be done," said Aitken. There was "insufficient evidence to dismiss the hypothesis that there was a link with autism".
Aitken has agreed to act as a witness for the legal firm Alexander Harris in its compensation action against the five manufacturers of the vaccine, including SmithKline Beecham. Pasteur-Merieux and Merck, Sharp & Dohme.
Even though two further studies commissioned by the government have failed to find a link between the multiple vaccine and autism Aitken believes the possibility has not been exhausted Since last year, more than 2,000 families have contacted lawyers claiming their children were damaged as a result of the vaccine and 570 have been granted legal aid. Initial court proceedings started on Friday.
Autism is traditionally regarded as a genetic disorder which affects brain development in the first term of pregnancy , leading to problems with social interaction and communication. Explanations put forward to account for te dramatic rise in autism between 1986 and 1992MMR was introduced in 1988--better recognition of the condition, a change in the diagnosis criteria, exposure to organophosphates and vaccinations.
Aitken, however, believes that the rise in the number of cases is not due simply to improved detection. "I would agree with the conclusions [of the expert panel] that autism as classically defined is not associated with the MMR vaccine, but what I feel is we are seeing a new condition," he said.
He did not support a mass opt-out from the immumsation programme but said that if the link were proved, susceptible children could be identified and parents advised on whether or not they should be vaccinated.
Autism MMR Link---Allergy Induced Autism organisation press release