MMR - can we trust the Government?


1 Measles is a serious disease.

2 The measles vaccine is effective. (

3 High levels of vaccine uptake create "herd immunity" which can create the conditions where the measles virus cannot survive and reproduce in the vaccinated population.

4 If we achieve herd immunity in the UK, this does not mean that we can then cease vaccination, because that would leave our population with no natural immunity, vulnerable to measles imported into the UK from areas where measles virus still exists in the wild.

5 Measles vaccination will therefore have to continue in the UK for the indefinite future, into a time when the actual condition of measles will be a historical note in the medical textbooks. The vaccination can only stop when the measles virus will have been eradicated through a programme of global vaccination.

6 In contemplating a vaccination programme on this scale, we must be certain that the measles vaccine that we are using is as safe as possible.

7 Combined vaccines require less injections, so population uptake is better than with single vaccines; but compliance must not override safety.

8 Since combination vaccines (up to six antigens are routinely given to infants at vaccination sessions) present a more complex challenge to the immune system, and since there is some evidence that wild measles and mumps virus may interact to produce adverse results in the body, the onus is on the vaccination policy makers to give clear evidence that combined vaccines are as safe as single vaccines. The experts discount this possibility, but i remain uneasy about it.

9 All effective treatments have side effects, and vaccines are no exception to this rule.

10 Since measles vaccine is a live attenuated (weakened) virus, it is right to look for evidence that it could produce some of the same effects in the body as wild measles virus.

Dr Wakefield said he had found anecdotal evidence of autism and bowel disorder following measles vaccination. (Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children, A J Wakefield, et al. Lancet 1998; 351: 637-41; search However, it emerged in 2004 that Dr Wakefield had a financial interest in developing an alternative vaccine, and his team found no evidence of measles virus in their gut samples.

Epidemiological surveys have not confirmed Wakefield's observations, but they have shown that bowel disorder is more common in children with autism. (Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and bowel problems or developmental regression in children with autism: population study Brent Taylor, Elizabeth Miller, et. al., BMJ 2002; 324: 393-396. Search at

11 It is noteworthy that the condition of some autistic children improves when they exclude certain foods from their diet.

12 It now seems to me pretty unlikely that a sensitivity to the MMR vaccine triggers cases of autism.

13 Autism is a serious disease, and its incidence has roughly doubled in Western countries in the last 20 years. It is probable that this increase is not due to increased use of the diagnostic category, but is the result of some environmental factor or factors. They must be identified.

14 No hypothesis is ever "proven" in science; only "not yet disproven" .

15 The hypothesis that the MMR (or the measles vaccine) is involved in autism has been weakened by the epidemiological work, and I now do not believe it.

16 After BSE and FMD, Government scientists have to long way to go to regain the trust of the people. They need to learn to engage in serious and detailed dialogue with scientifically literate people who take a different view to the Government line. The use of vigorous denial of any problem is a political and not a scientific tool.

17 It is possible that a vaccination programme might be beneficial in preventing a disease that kills say 100 people a year, but that adverse reactions to the vaccine might kill or disable say 1 person a year. In that case it would be ethical to continue with the vaccination programme, but only if the family of the victim of the programme were to receive compensation for what could be a sacrifice pro bono publico. Instead of this, people who have reason to believe that their children have been damaged by vaccination tend to meet with a wall of official denial.

18 In conclusion, far more systematic studies need to be made on the effects, both wanted and unwanted, of vaccination.

Richard Lawson

© 2001 R. Lawson This page was last updated on 20.Feb.02