New Daily Mail Article(s) On Vaccination

November 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Media) (, , , , , )

Here, the Daily Mail publish an article on a proposal to inoculate children on a same day surgery visit [PDF of original article here]. The article has been amended since I first read it last night [PDF of this morning’s version here].

A few points worth remembering:

  • The benefits of MMR outweigh the risks [note: link goes to PDF]
  • The available evidence shows that the MMR scare started by Andrew Wakefield (and stoked by the media) was baseless
  • The conclusion of Wakefield et al’s Lancet paper was disowned by several of Wakefield’s co-authors and the paper was eventually fully retracted by the journal
  • When it comes to poor reporting of science and health, the Daily Mail has form

Version One

The Mail’s rather clumsy headline is “MMR 1 off ‘6 inoculation’ jabs introduced to babies on ‘super vaccination’ day“. The writer is credited as “Daily Mail Reporter“.

The first line of the article reads as follows:

A ‘super vaccination’ intensive day for babies just after they turn one will involve three injections including the controversial MMR jab

The Mail can only claim that the MMR vaccine is “controversial” because they themselves have helped to manufacture a controversy.

The Mail go on to tell us that:

Primary care trusts in England and Wales last week received the advice with government advisers hoping multiple inoculations will improve the uptake of the MMR vaccine which was previously claimed – though now discredited – to a link to autism.

I’m not entirely sure why the Mail (and others – the BBC also saw fit to mention it) have referred to the discredited link to autism. Surely it would be sufficient to state that it was hoped that multiple inoculations would improve uptake of the MMR vaccine.

To my mind, it would be more informative to mention, say, levels of MMR coverage in England and Wales than to mention a thoroughly discredited allegation of a link between MMR and autism.

The decision to immunise all the diseases at once, including MMR will create concern with some parents about the risk of side effects with the added possibility that families will not allow their babies to be inoculated in this way.

Vague comments about side effects? Check. Speculation about resistance to vaccination? Check. So far, so Daily Mail. Want to know who they go to for a quote? Why, Jackie Fletcher of the anti-vaccine pressure group Jabs.

The Mail article also claims that:

Records show that take-up of the MMR vaccine dropped after 1998 following the autism claims.

Actually, records show that (having fallen from 91% in 1997 to 88% in 1998) in the two years following Wakefield’s paper vaccine coverage remained at 88% in the UK. Take-up of the vaccine then dropped to 85% in 2001, 83% in 2002, and reached a low of 80% in 2003. As Ben Goldacre notes, the paper itself was barely reported on in 1998:

In 2001 and 2002 the scare began to gain momentum. Wakefield published a review paper in an obscure journal, questioning the safety of the immunisation programme, although with no new evidence.

The coverage rapidly began to deteriorate, in ways which now feel familiar and predictable […] Newspapers and celebrities began to use the vaccine as an opportunity to attack the government and the health service

It wasn’t simply the publication of Wakefield’s original paper that caused vaccine uptake to drop, it was the reporting of newspapers such as the Daily Mail. Well, I say “reporting” – perhaps “outright scaremongering” would be more accurate.

Version Two

The amended version of the article carries the same headline but is now credited to David Derbyshire.

The words “controversial” and “autism” are excised from the piece. The description of Jackie Fletcher’s background and her quotes are also removed.

The following is added, making it clear that speculation in the previous version regarding side-effects and resistance from parents was unwarranted:

The Department of Health said parents would not be forced to have all the jabs at the same time. A spokesman said: ‘Independent scientific research has shown that this is completely safe and effective.’

Version two of the article might as well have been published separately under a new headline. It is, essentially, a different article to the earlier shoddy piece of journalism published under an anonymous byline.


  1. Prateek Buch said,

    excellent work as ever…! the interesting thing is quite how much of a self-fulfilling prophesy the whole ‘MMR is controversial’ meme is – the uptake stats you quote appear to add weight to Ben’s point about reduced uptake being a result of negative media coverage and not Wakefield’s study itself…

    interesting they’ve made changes to their article, although not uncommon – well done for spotting it :-)

  2. Tweets that mention New Daily Mail Article(s) On Vaccination « Stuff And Nonsense -- said,

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by annabel bentley, James and Kevin Arscott, Alan Henness. Alan Henness said: RT @jdc325: New Blogpost on the Daily Mail's latest article(s) on vaccination: […]

  3. Helen said,

    Is there any research at all that indicates increased risk of side effects if multiple vaccinations are given together? I’m not aware that there is any such evidence, and, that being so, my GP’s surgery already allows parents to book MMR for the same day as the primary course booster.

    In any case, the second round of the primary course is already a three needle day, so the idea that this is a new “super-vaccination” day seems a little silly.

  4. jdc325 said,

    Is there any research at all that indicates increased risk of side effects if multiple vaccinations are given together?

    I think what they’re hinting at is “immune overload” from multiple vaccines. The WHO have some info here: linky. Among their references, there’s this from Hilton et al:

    although there is no scientific evidence that supports parents’ fears about combined vaccines causing ‘immune-overload’, policy makers need to recognise these concerns if they are to successfully persuade parents that combined vaccines are safe

    This in the BMJ:

    Combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine did not increase the risk of hospitalisation with invasive bacterial infection in the three months after vaccination; rather there was a protective effect. These results provide no support for the concept of “immunological overload” induced by multiple antigen vaccinations, nor calls for single antigen vaccines.

    And this from Offit et al:

    Current studies do not support the hypothesis that multiple vaccines overwhelm, weaken, or “use up” the immune system. On the contrary, young infants have an enormous capacity to respond to multiple vaccines, as well as to the many other challenges present in the environment. By providing protection against a number of bacterial and viral pathogens, vaccines prevent the “weakening” of the immune system and consequent secondary bacterial infections occasionally caused by natural infection.

  5. jdc325 said,


    The change was proposed by the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation after research found combining the jabs on one day would cause no health problems for babies.

    Read more:

  6. Guy C said,

    You don’t seem very well informed on how papers work and the difference between stories written quickly to get on the website, and those that appear in the paper. At the Mail they are usually written by two different people – with the dedicated science/health reporter filing the later version.
    The online version is written by one of the usually un-bylined online reporters and goes up very quickly. It is often based on a quick rewrite of the paper/agency it came from (here it was lifted from the Sunday Times).
    Meanwhile, a reporter for the paper – usually the relevant specialist – will be writing a completely different version for the print edition.
    Once it has appeared in the paper, it usually replaces the online version.

  7. jdc325 said,

    So what you’re saying is that the Mail are so desperate to get content online they’ll publish any old crap? And that this is routine? Oh, well… that makes it worse then.

    The original article is so bad the Mail would have been better off bunging this up online while they waited for someone to write a half-decent article:

    Story in here texty texty texty texty in here in here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here hereere. Story here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here hereere here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here hereere wordse here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here hereere about here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here hereere about about 670 words

    (With apologies to Hugh Muir)

  8. davidp said,

    Good work James. I was wondering which version (if either) got into the paper version. Guy C is implying that it is the re-written version. Of course publishing as “Daily Mail Reporter” without acknowledging agencies is pretty questionable too.

  9. dmabu said,



  10. John Fryer Chemist said,

    No mention that an ovewhelming number were worried about getting too many vaccines at once.

    No mention that in France it is ILLEGAL to give more than one vaccine at a time.

    No mention that while giving vaccines is protective that autism has jumped from 4 per 10 000 to 100 per 10 000 in 20 years.

    No mention that 12 months is the youngest age for MMR and attempts to bring it to 9 months met with unexpected deaths.

  11. colmcq said,

    no sockpuppets JDC, they real nutters

  12. dt said,

    I gather the research done into parental attitudes indicated there was support for giving the vaccines at the same time.

    Mr Fryer, if you have documented evidence there was “overwhelming numbers” [of parents] opposed to this I’d be grateful for a link to it, so we can all see this.

    In Malawi it is ILLEGAL to have homosexual sex.
    In China i tis ILLEGAL to write an article critical of the government.
    I could go on, but you can see where I am heading….

    And again, if you have evidence that a reduction in age of MMR to 9 months caused deaths, I’d be grateful for a look at it. I assure you I will look at it objectively, so if it exists I’d be very keen to be educated.

  13. Chris said,

    Oh, rats… my comment disappeared into the æther. Essentially I found the French Vaccination schedule that refutes Mr. Fryer’s contention.

    Mr. Fryer, unless you provide evidence for your claims we will assume you made it up (or misunderstood what you read).

  14. Chris said,

    C’est le calendrier de vaccination:

    (Google translate is cool!)

  15. Chris said,

    What is it with UK sites that moderate out French websites? I was even moderated when I posted the French vaccine schedule at LeftBrainRightBrain! Though it finally did get approved there. So do check it out. Mr. Fryer has a long history there.

  16. dt said,

    Yes, I thought the claim about it being illegal to give more than one vaccine at a time in France was bogus.

    Here is another schedule for the French:

    You can see that at 2 months, it is quite likely a child will receive 8 (EIGHT) vaccines on the same day, namely Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, HiB, IPV, PCV, Hep B, and BCG.

  17. Cybertiger said,


  18. Chris said,

    Thank you, dt. I need to remember that site if Mr. Fryer goes off on another country’s vaccine program.

    Even if the child is not a risk for tuberculosis or hepatitis b, at two months there would be four injections (with DTaP).

    Of course, if the child is at a risk for TB (in certain French territories, or lives in substandard housing) and the mother is HBsAg positive, the infant would get two vaccines during its first day of life.

  19. jdc325 said,

    @Chris – apologies. The spam filter seems to have been triggered by your earlier comments. Have retrieved a comment that gave a link to the French schedule (12:42am – see above).

    Thanks for your comments.

  20. Chris said,

    It is okay. I thought it was funny that the spam filter of two UK based blogs seemed to target French sites. :-)

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