The MMR saga: blinding or fooling the public with science?

mainly because of the studies of one researcher. Susan Mayor assesses the evidence.

Susan Mayor
Jan 23, 2001

LONDON The UK government earlier this week announced a major publicity campaign to reassure parents about the safety of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, after a unique high-level summit was held to work out how to regain public confidence. The vaccine has become controversial because of claims — based on studies lead by one researcher, Andrew Wakefield, a consultant gastroenterologist at the Royal Free Hospital, London — that it might be linked to autism and bowel disease.

The MMR controversy was triggered initially by a study published in 1998, which claimed to show that MMR is linked to autism and intestinal abnormalities (Lancet 1998, 351:637–641). The study assessed 12 children who were referred to a paediatric gastroenterology unit with a history of normal development followed by loss of acquired skills, including language, together with diarrhoea and abdominal pain. The researchers reported that the parents associated the...

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