- The consultant who first raised concerns about MMR vaccinations
has disclosed to The Telegraph that he has identified nearly 170 cases
of a new syndrome of autism and bowel disease in children who have had
the triple-dose injection.
- Andrew Wakefield, a consultant gastroenterologist at
the Royal Free Hospital in London, said that in the "majority"
of cases parents had documentary evidence that their child's physical and
mental decline had followed the vaccination.
- Professor Wakefield said: "Last week in our clinic
we saw nine or 10 new children with exactly the same story, referred by
jobbing paediatricians from around the country who said, 'This child developed
normally, had a reaction to MMR and is now autistic'".
- In his first public comments since the row erupted in
1998, when he reported on 12 cases, Professor Wakefield said that he remained
seriously concerned by the safety of the vaccine, despite reassurances
from the Department of Health.
- He said: "The department says that the safety of
MMR has been proven. The argument is untenable. It cannot be substantiated
by the science. That is not only my opinion but increasingly the view of
healthcare professionals and the public.
- He said: "Tests have revealed time and time again
that we are dealing with a new phenomenon. The Department of Health's contention
that MMR has been proven to be safe by study after study after study just
doesn't hold up. Frankly, it is not an honest appraisal of the science
and it relegates the scientific issues to the bottom of the barrel in favour
of winning a propaganda war."
- The doctor, who was fiercely attacked by health officials
for voicing his doubts three years ago, said in an exclusive interview
that he felt driven to break his silence because of the accumulating evidence.
His remarks will infuriate the Government and sharpen the dilemma of parents
over whether to have children innoculated with MMR.
- It emerged last month that a rising number of doctors
and nurses were worried about giving second doses of the vaccine, and pressure
is growing for its separation into its three component vaccinations, spread
over three years. In his 1998 article in The Lancet, Professor Wakefield
reported finding a devastating combination of bowel disease and autism
in 12 children.
- His revelation that that figure has reached almost 170
cases will shock parents and doctors and add pressure on the Government
to justify its vaccination policy. This month Dr David Salisbury, the head
of the Government's immunisation programme, insisted that MMR was safe.
- The vaccine, which contains live measles, mumps and rubella
virus, has been given to millions of children in the UK since its introduction
in 1988 but the take-up rate has fallen sharply since Dr Wakefield made
his original claims.
- Ten days ago health chiefs warned parents that Britain
could face a measles outbreak unless more had their children vaccinated
with MMR. Professor Wakefield said, however, that if an outbreak were to
erupt it would be the fault of the health department, which had "failed
to address the safety issues".
- The doctor and his colleagues are testing the hypothesis
that the measles virus from the vaccine can lodge in the gut of susceptible
children, damaging the bowel and causing autism, and that the addition
of the mumps virus makes that more likely.
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