In 1998 UK doctor Andrew Wakefield had a study published that claimed there was a link between autism, a new type of bowel disease, and the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccination jab given to children. This scary proposition – that something that almost all children were getting might cause autism – led to a massive amount of media coverage of the study. And that, of course, led to massive dropoffs in the rates of MMR immunisation of children in the UK.
It quickly became clear, even back in 1998, that Wakefield’s results were suspect. Ten of the thirteen authors of the paper summarizing the studyremoved their names from the conclusions drawn. It’s been a sordid saga since then. Newspapers have re-ignited the scare. Wakefield has beencharged with professional misconduct. The publication that carried the original study has since denounced the study as flawed. Although Wakefield continues his work, there are very few medical professionals who believe there is a connection.
The MMR scare is a key focus for Bad Science’s Ben Goldacre; you can read his history of columns referencing it here.
What is absolutely certain is that large areas of the UK now have a generation of kids that have levels of measles, mumps, and rubella immunity that are lower than they need to be to prevent the spread of those diseases.
Surprise, surprise: areas of London are having measles problems.