Recently, MMR seems to have been quite a hot topic. Ben Goldacre of the badscience.net blog wrote about Jeni Barnett’s LBC broadcast (which contained an incredible amount of misinformation). As have many other bloggers – most (or perhaps all) of whom are listed at Holford Watch. Holford Watch also have a post up listing some rebuttals to Jeni Barnett’s canards. Meanwhile, Sensibly Common has updated the graph of measles cases in the UK (the original is here) and the post including the updated graph ties in quite well with a news story on the BBC website (see also the graph below) reporting that measles cases in England and Wales rose by 36% in 2008 (numbers: we’ve gone from 990 to 1348 confirmed cases). Most of the cases were in children not fully vaccinated with combined MMR.
Aside from Jeni Barnett, there have been others continuing to perpetuate the media’s MMR hoax. The thisislondon website, from the Evening Standard, brings us Patrick Holford’s co-author on Food is Better Medicine than Drugs (Jerome Burne) extracting from Richard Halvorsen’s book The Truth About Vaccines. It’s here – and it’s terrible. Rather than reading anything by Halvorsen, I recommend seeking out one of Paul Offit’s books on vaccines – Autism’s False Prophets or Vaccines: What You Should Know (co-authored by Louis Bell). Holford himself has a ‘blog’ (you may only comment if you are a 100% health member) and has posted a piece that includes this :
This week the General Medical Council’s case against Dr Andrew Wakefield, Professor Simon Murch and Professor Walker-Smith, the doctors who reported a link between MMR vaccination and autistic-like symptoms in some children, starts again. This hearing has now run for around 110 days and is schedule [sic] to run until the middle of this year, in a vain attempt to keep the lid on vaccine damage caused to thousands of children.
[Linky] There is no good evidence that there is a link between MMR vaccination and autism and the hearing relates to the ethics of Wakefield’s conduct rather than being an attempt to ‘keep the lid’ on anything. To claim otherwise is nonsense. A rough overview of the studies showing (a) no link between MMR and autism or (b) a link between MMR and autism is here in PDF form: pdf and the NHS have provided a factsheet in the form of a PDF. 25 studies show no link, 3 purport to show a link (of which one study has been retracted). I think perhaps Patrick needs to read rather than “flick through” publications of interest to him – perhaps his interpretation of the evidence would be slightly more accurate if he did so. (Here, Patrique “flicks through” the BDA manual).
Here’s a graph from the HPA showing measles cases (it’s taken from the BBC report I linked to above):
So, measles cases continue to increase and people like Holford, Barnett, Halvorsen, and Burne continue to misinform people with media outlets such as LBC and the Evening Standard providing a platform for their misinformation. It’s pretty disgusting and I think that these people, quite frankly, should be ashamed of themselves. I somehow doubt that they are though.
EDIT: the Cargo Cult Science blog has now posted something on a Brian Deer article in the Sunday Times – apparently, Deer claims, “evidence [reported to the Wakefield GMC hearing], combined with unprecedented access to medical records, a mass of confidential documents and cooperation from parents during an investigation by this newspaper, has shown the selective reporting and changes to findings that allowed a link between MMR and autism to be asserted.” The discrepancies between medical records and the Lancet paper really are quite startling and I therefore suggest that you read Deer’s article in full. You can also read more about Deer and Wakefield on HolfordWatch, who include links to numerous bloggers covering the story and also have a follow-up post looking at Wakefield’s response (roughly: mistakes were made, but not by me; je ne regrette rien) – here.
More bloggy goodness
AP Gaylard discusses informed consent and “ignorant refusal” in light of Jeni Barnett’s comments on LBC.
Action for Autism has a post on JB and LBC too ( there’s also a new post on the same blog discussing Action for Children’s recent advert).
Yet More on MMR… [12/2/09]
Autism Omnibus special court rules that “Measles Vaccine Is Not Associated with Neurological Damage”.
Australia is measles-free thanks to high uptake of the MMR vaccine. Those who claim that the vaccine is responsible for autism may wish to take a look at this paper: from 2005, which looked at the incidence of autism spectrum disorders in children in New South Wales and Western Australia. Results?
Incidence of autistic disorder in the 0-4-years age group was 5.5 per 10,000 in WA (95% CI, 4.5-6.7) and 4.3 per 10,000 in NSW (95% CI, 3.8-4.8). Incidence was lower in older age groups.
How do these results compare with the incidence of autism observed in other countries? Let’s see – according to this 2004 paper:
Autism prevalence studies published before 1985 showed prevalence rates of 4 to 5 per 10,000 children for the broader autism spectrum, and about 2 per 10,000 for the classic autism definition. Since 1985 there have been higher rates of autism reported from several countries. From the UK a prevalence rate of 16.8 per 10,000 children for autistic disorder was reported, and 62.6 per 10,000 for the entire autistic spectrum disorders. Sweden reported a prevalence of 36 per 10,000 for Asperger and 35 per 10,000 for social impairment, or a total prevalence of 71 per 10,000 for suspected and possible cases. From the US, 40 per 10,000 in three to ten year old children for autistic disorder and 67 per 10,000 children for the entire autism spectrum was reported. From the north region in Israel for children born between 1989-93 in the Haifa area, an incidence rate of 10 per 10,000 was found for autism.
Other MMR-related stories in the news: Melanie Phillips thinks the ‘jury is still out’ on the MMR vaccine and the Wakefield GMC hearing is a ‘witch-hunt’; France has had a measles resurgence; The Sun have a story about the consequences of not vaccinating against measles (multiple organ failure and breathing difficulties, fighting for your life in intensive care – frightening).