Upon carrying out work experience this summer at a local General Practice, something in particular which really interested me was how many people passed on the opportunity of giving their children the MMR vaccine, available on the NHS. The parents would say that it has a risk of causing autism and they would rather pay for the separate vaccinations to avoid this chance. Bearing in minds he separate vaccines are no longer available in the UK they tend to have to be specially imported from abroad in such cases. A nurse who I was shadowing was outraged by this and went on to explain to me how it all began…
In 1998, British doctor Andrew Wakefield caused a huge uproar upon suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The MMR vaccine was developed in the late 1960s, it is a shot used for immunisation of measles, mumps and rubella. The injection is first given to children of around 1yr old and then at 4/5yrs old. This vaccination works by containing the three live viruses and then injecting them into the body. This then allows for special cells called memory cells to recognise these viruses so that if the body is to ever come across them, a rapid response is carried out fighting off the virus preventing it from doing any harm. Originally the 3 vaccinations were all given separately. However giving them all together as one vaccination had many benefits such as fewer injections for the child.
Wakefield was reportedly paid just under half a million pounds by the Legal Services Commission to build a case against the MMR vaccine.
Researchers have since been unable to confirm any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This one man has caused such a controversy in the UK from his false allegation. The coverage of the alleged links with autism and the MMR vaccine has never fully been recovered even up until this day there are people who believe that their children should not be vaccinated. Although there are overwhelming amounts of scientific evidence that there are no links – people fail to dismiss the rumour. We all know that for science to be proven, it must go through the long process of the experiment being carried out and repeated and then the same results being able to be found by other scientists too. This was not the case for Wakefield whatsoever. Unfortunately, as a result this has led to an increase in measles and the sad thing is that a disease, which could be avoided, is still a risk for many.
Just to show how this suggestion still affects people, I came across something whilst reading the book ‘In Stitches’ by Dr. Nick Edwards. He has a chapter on ‘A weird rash’ in which he talks of patients who have not had the MMR injection and therefore going into A&E when it is preventable. He says ‘The MMR vaccination is not this evil autism-inducing injection that the media sometimes make us think. There is no evidence that it causes autism. However, there is evidence that if your child doesn’t have the injection, they are at higher risk of getting these illnesses. Today I saw a child I shouldn’t have. Have a proper think before you refuse your health visitor’s advice.’
PS. I would recommend reading this book, highly entertaining and informative for those future medics.