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MMR vaccine and autism

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 02 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c655

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Helen E Bedford, senior lecturer in children’s health1,
  2. David A C Elliman, consultant in community child health2
  1. 1Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UCL Institute of Child Health, London WC1 1EH
  2. 2GOSH@Haringey, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London WC1N 3LU
  1. h.bedford{at}

    Health professionals must enter the public arena if future debacles are to be prevented

    Two and a half years after beginning to hear evidence, the General Medical Council (GMC) has ruled that three researchers acted improperly in the conduct of their research into a proposed new syndrome of autistic enterocolitis.1 It is 12 years since publication of the study in the Lancet, which has now been retracted, described the research to which the hearing relates.2 Subsequent events have had a major impact on children’s health.

    The paper described 12 children with a pervasive developmental disorder and bowel disease, which, the authors suggested, was a new syndrome. In eight of the children, symptoms were reported to have started soon after receipt of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. In their conclusions, they stated, “we did not prove an association between measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described” and that more research was needed. However, at a press conference, one of the authors suggested that, rather than using the combined MMR vaccine, single vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella should be given at yearly intervals. It was this statement, unsupported by the research, that sparked media interest. At the time, the supposed link between MMR and autism was shown to be without substance,3 but it was predicted that this bad publicity could precipitate a vaccine safety scare that would result in reduced vaccine …

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