>There are lies, damned lies and statistics - I leave it with you to
>judge which this is!
>Open Eye: Paddy's passion for statistics ( Independent )
>Paddy Farrington is a man with two main passions - for figures and for
>working in the field of infectious diseases. Most recently Dr
>Farrington, a lecturer in the Open University's Department of
>Statistics, has helped prove there is no link between the controversial
>measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism or Crohn's Disease.
>A behind-the-scenes number-cruncher who proves the theories and makes
>sense of the facts and figures, he is the expert who took all the
>medical data and calculated that in the hundreds of cases examined there
>was no link between the vaccine and thediseases. Dr Farrington's
>interest in infectious diseases was fired while working at the Public
>Health Laboratory Service in London, and since then he has analysed the
>incidence and prevalence of such conditions as diphtheria, tetanus,
>hepatitis, CJD and HIV.
>He believes strongly that statistics are a way of solving practical
>problems at a time when the public is often overwhelmed by conflicting
>messages. "I don't think it's good for the medical establishment to
>tell people what to do all the time without any explanation. There has
>been a growth in the number of pressure groups both for and against
>vaccines and I welcome that," he says.
>"It's my view that all establishments should be kept on their toes. It
>is difficult for people who have to make a choice to know which expert
>to believe. "This is the biggest study and not only did we find no
>evidence of a link - but the evidence is also very strong." Dr
>Farrington used his own new method of statistical analysis when
>examining the MMR data. The study was launched following a report two
>years ago which suggested there was a link between the vaccine & autism.
>That study was based on 12 cases of autism-the new study looked at 498,
>the largest research programme undertaken to date.
>Dr Farrington says the findings of his analysis are unequivocal: " The
>statistical evidence is quite clear and quite strong. While you can
>never prove there is not a link all you can ever say is that we have
>looked very hard and we haven't found a link." After the initial report
>two years ago suggesting a connection there was a dramatic decline -
>from 90 per cent to 75 per cent - in the number of babies and young
>children being vaccinated. Dr Farrington says he believes it would have
>been disastrous to allow the numbers to fall further:
>"If that had continued then almost certainly we would have seen a
>resurgence in diseases such as measles. In the last epidemic before MMR
>17 children died, but because vaccination programmes are so successful
>people don't see infectious diseases as a problem. The focus shifts
>away from the disease being the problem to the vaccine," he says. Dr
>Farrington enjoys working on vaccine-related statistics because his
>results can impact directly on people's lives - for the better.
>He is currently researching the spread of infectious diseases in the
>human population and looking at further new methods of statistical
>analysis. Also simmering away on the back burner is a book he is writing
>on Statistical Methods and InfectiousDiseases. "It's the book I would
>like to have had when I started work in this field - a recipe book for