I read with interest a recent comment by Dr. Ronald Boland that in a survey of parents more than a quarter (were) ‘reluctant to vaccinate their children because of worries of vaccine safety and did not believe in infant vaccines at all’. This is unfortunate. It appears to me to be largely due to false information being distributed over the years through the media and by a publication in a prestigious medical journal, which under mines the great faith, the medical professional has in the peer reviewed process. Six years after the report, an incredibly long time, ten of the thirteen authors of this article retracted what they wrote and stated that their original paper did not support the conclusion that the vaccine was to blame for autism.
It is interesting to see what the media has said about MMR and autism over the years. The Daily Telegraph had the best headline ‘Chattering class endangers child lives over MMR’. Claudia Winkleman in the Daily Telegraph has the following headline ‘I didn’t want the MMR – and now my baby has measles’. She goes on to state ‘Jake tosses in his comfy cot and moans in his sleep. Yes I am a class A idiot: my son is ill – and it is my fault’. Another excellent report in the Irish Times stated ‘Beware of giving bad reports a shot in the arm’. Unfortunately this is what the media has done over many years. Misinformation and false information sells newspapers. One might think that the media might have some concerns about false information and the potentially fatal affects of it. A false story is a good story from the media point of view because it sells newspapers while truth is not of interest very often. Many media outlets have lawyers to check on libel and maybe they should also have relevant medical doctors to check the veracity of medical information. Because of the focus on the ‘bottom line’ it is highly unlikely that this will take place. Of course doctors also have to take responsibilities for this because very few doctors ring up and point out to media sources the falsity of the information that they are giving out. Doctors only tend to respond when they are asked.
Another more recent media headline from the Sunday Times was ‘Vaccine patents and the MMR scare doctor’. Another headline from the Irish Times ‘Parents urged to have rethink on MMR after measles cases treble’. Another heading from the Medical Press ‘Latest figures show uptake rates from primary vaccines continue to fall’. Colin Tudge writes in an article called ‘Mad, bad and dangerous: whether it is the MMR vaccine or GM foods, people distrust what scientists tell them’. This was in the New Statesman. The Irish Times in 2003 has a headline ‘Research finds no ill-effects from triple MMR injections’ and quotes Dr. O’Herlihy as saying that the Republic was witnessing the beginning of another outbreak of measles. Dr. Ray O’Connor in an article entitled ‘MMR vaccine: controversies and fallacies in Modern Medicine’ states ‘measles is a particularly nasty disease. Many doctors and parents have not seen a case of measles, and its severity – even on complicated cases – it is often forgotten’. He discusses the complications including severe cough, breathing difficulties, ear infections, pneumonia, and conjunctivitis. He also discusses rare serious complications of measles including acute encephalitis and sub-acute sclerosing pan-encephalitis. He puts the death rate at 1 to 2 per 1,000 infected people. The Irish Medicines Board in their newsletter points out that more than 500 million doses of MMR vaccine have been used worldwide and that there was no evidence to support the suggestion that single component vaccines should be administered separately. They also point out that mono component vaccines given sequentially, children would be at risk of infection for longer periods.
Brian O’Shea in the Journal of the Irish Psychiatrist points out that the number of reported cases of measles jumped from 243 to 586 during 2000 / 2003. More recently the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom in a study of more than 5,000 U.K. children has ruled out any link between MMR, the measles, mumps, and rubella triple vaccine and autism. This should be the last word but certainly will not. There are many other authoritative reports and papers that have come to a similar conclusion. Despite all this the Sunday Times in 2004 reports on a product that was made ‘by giving the measles virus to mice and extracting their white blood cells, which were then to be mixed with human cells before being infected into pregnant goats. After the goats gave birth their first milk was to be collected, and made into capsules and given to children’. This was called a ‘combined vaccine / therapeutic agent’. Professor Tom McDonald an immunologist described the recipe as ‘total bollocks’. Another immunologist has a so-called ‘cure’ for autism who ‘sells a six month complete cure’ for autism, which he prepares in his kitchen using his own bone marrow. This has echoes of the potions of the early 19th century. Those of us who work with children with autism are constantly being bombarded with ‘miracle cures’ for autism. Unfortunately these raise parent’s hopes which are then dashed fairly quickly.
I have seen over 900 persons with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. I have never seen a person with autism or Asperger’s syndrome that was ‘caused’ by a vaccine. Autism is highly genetic. Autism is not a side effect of MMR.