Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Measles: neither gone nor forgotten

BMJ 2018; 362 doi: (Published 25 September 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3976

Rapid Response:

Re: Measles: neither gone nor forgotten - but what is the evidence base for MMR safety?

I wonder if Helen Bedford and David Elliman [1] can assist? Daily opprobrium is heaped on things like "antivaccine sentiment" and "social media" for damaging the programme and putting children at risk, including recently the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, on the BBC [2]. But in fairness what is the evidence base for MMR safety (setting aside products like Pluserix and and Imravax which had to be withdrawn anyway [3])? Dame Sally says "It's a safe vaccination - we know that" [2] but she does not say how we know. Three times Cochrane told us that safety studies were "largely inadequate" [4]. We have this new found interest in publishing trial data [5], but in the case of MMR there does not seem to be any anyway. We also have serious questions being asked about the monitoring zeal of the licensing agencies into other vaccines [6,7,8].

So, if there are doubts surely it is not the public who are to blame, and blaming the public does not solve the issue. Where are the good studies and sound monitoring procedures that the public are entitled to, and how are properly informed citizens supposed to proceed in their absence?

[1] Helen Bedford and David Elliman, 'Measles: neither gone nor forgotten, 25 September 2018,

[2] Philippa Roxby ''Don't be taken in by anti-vaccine myths on social media'', 1 November 2018,


[4] John Stone, 'Response to David Oliver II (Risks of Vaccines)', 28 August 2018,

[5] Nigel Hawkes,' “Shocking” number of clinical trials are never reported, say MPs',
BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 30 October 2018)

[6] Jørgensen L, Gøtzsche PC, Jefferson T.'The Cochrane HPV vaccine review was incomplete and ignored important evidence of bias', BMJ Evid Based Med. 2018 Oct;23(5):165-168. doi: 10.1136/bmjebm-2018-111012. Epub 2018 Jul 27

[7] Doshi P., 'Pandemrix vaccine: why was the public not told of early warning signs?', BMJ. 2018 Sep 20;362:k3948. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k3948

[8] Jørgensen L, Doshi P, Gøtzsche P, Jefferson T., 'Challenges of independent assessment of potential harms of HPV vaccines.', BMJ. 2018 Sep 24;362:k3694. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k3694. No abstract available.

Competing interests: No competing interests

02 November 2018
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22