Friday, 13 March 2009

Cheers for the measles, antivaccine campaigners...

The Manchester Evening News reports that there is a measles outbreak in northeast Manchester and Oldham. Three children have been hospitalised so far.

Here's an example of bad science having consequences in the real world. Take-up of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine fell in the 1990s, following research by Andrew Wakefield that suggested a connection between autism, bowel problems and the MMR vaccine. To say that this research has now been discredited is really an understatement. Not only was the research incompetent, but there is strong evidence that it was fraudulent too. All the authors of the article, apart from Wakefield and another who could not be contacted, retracted the interpretation that MMR was linked to autism and bowel problems. This piece of bad science has led, indirectly but inexorably, to three children in Manchester having to be hospitalised with measles (which is not a harmless childhood illness). That is why this stuff matters.

There is no evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism. If you don't get your child vaccinated, not only are you putting them at risk, you're putting other children at risk. MMR is safe: tell your friends.

4 comments:

moblogs said...

I could've died from a severe form of measles over 20yrs ago - people do forget that it's not a 'cutesy' little illness.

Rates of autism up are going up regardless of MMR.
The causal illusion is that children are usually given the jab around about the time they are likely to show symptoms of autism if they have it regardless.

However - and this is my own opinion now - it might be possible that measles, mumps or rubella itself (and the vaccine is just an attenuated combination of these viruses) can cause autism if caught during pre-childhood, and maybe those more susceptible have a vitamin D deficiency (D3 is a natural anti-inflammatory).

Vitamin D3 is synthesised by the skin from sunlight. Correlations exist between the success of safe sun campaigns and incidence of autism. However more research is needed.

Anonymous said...

oh please do not to forget that the media and certain journalists have a lot to answer for....the silly Heather Mills who wrote that now infamous Private Eye antivax piece should get some sort of idiot award....she is has had a much more negative impact on the world than her celeb name sake and thus should be equally as hated

jdc325 said...

Re the above comment by Anonymous:
I'm not sure I hate the journalists responsible for perpetuating MMR scaremongering, but I certainly agree that their part in what happened should be remembered. Private Eye's take on MMR was a disappointment for many - we perhaps expect better of them.
The Daily Mail (of whom we do not expect any better) published articles by Halvorsen, Hitchens, Carling, and Beezy Marsh (featuring Carol Vorderman) - not to mention the Kirsty Robinson "Russian roulette" article. If there is to be an idiot award, I would like to propose that it should be shared by the staff of the Daily Mail. Not that I'd absolve Wakefield of blame, but I think the media are at least as guilty as he is - if not more so.

Paul Wilson said...

What jdc said is key, I think. Sure, Wakefield's research has not stood up to scrutiny. But what the press did with this story involves a basic misunderstanding of what a research paper is meant to be. Wakefield reported on 12 subjects: regardless of what we now know about the incompetence/fraudulence of that research, it should never have been a basis for rejecting the MMR vaccine without a hell of a lot more evidence.