Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Measles: Europe sees record number of cases and 37 deaths so far this year

BMJ 2018; 362 doi: (Published 20 August 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3596

Rapid Response:

What about autism?

This is a version of a response I just sent to Richard Smith's opinion column [1].

With or without Andrew Wakefield - not to mention using him as a scapegoat to defend the entire ever expanding vaccine schedule - we have a massive problem with autism that no one in the medical profession will pay attention to [2,3].

Thus, according to National Statistics in 1999 the rate of Pervasive Development Disorder (the widest category of autism) was 1 in 500 for those born between 1984 and 1988 but already 1 in 250 for younger children despite diagnosis being incomplete for that group. By 2004 the data was hovering round 1% for both secondary and primary groups - that was when National Statistics and the Department of Health stopped collecting data. In 2018 we had the first school census by a UK health body since 2004 (the Northern Ireland Department of of Health) which found a rate of 1 in 35 across the province, and 1 in 21 in Belfast, while 60% were in the most disabled category (Stage 5).

If we are playing the mortality game autistic people have a vastly lower life expectancy, are in danger from wandering, etc. We also find that across the UK school disability services are breaking down - all this without any plausible explanation of why or how it is happening. The National Autistic Society project 700,000 cases across the UK, though I doubt whether they could identify on quarter, but if the new figures are normal there should be another 1.2m cases in the general population on top of that (1.9m in all), all but a few living normal lives apparently.

Irrespective of Wakefield the medical profession and the British establishment have dumped on the British people in the most disgraceful way and created a vast and insoluble problem, much worse than measles (and vaccination cannot eradicate measles anyway). We are not talking about a child being ill for a week or two, we are talking about people who are going to be dependent for the whole of their lives.

No one wants to see a single child die, but I do not believe the totemistic promotion of the vaccine programme is scientific, ethical or safe. Andrew Wakefield posed by implication two awkward questions to the government and the medical profession in 1998: what would happen if doctors started listening to parents over adverse vaccine events, and what happens if industrial plans to expand the vaccine schedule were sabotaged? According to a statement by Euro MPs the cost of vaccinating a single child went up by 68 times between 2001 and 2014, so frankly a lot money hung on it in 1998 and beyond [4].

I don't think we have greatly better health than in 1998, but I do know that autism is a much bigger problem than measles and everyone is averting their gaze.

[1] Richard Smith: A baby dies of measles, 21 August 2018

[2] Responses to Zwaigenbaum and Penner, 'Autism spectrum disorder: advances in diagnosis and evaluation'

[3] Responses to Viner RM, 'NHS must prioritise health of children and young people',


Competing interests: No competing interests

21 August 2018
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22