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Gold, incentives and meh

GPs back new database plan for vaccines

GPs ­ and an influential backbench MP ­ are backing pioneering plans for an independent database on vaccine safety in the wake of the latest controversy over MMR.

The international vaccine safety library would collate data from clinical trials and from all routine immunisations and put the available evidence at GPs' fingertips.

The proposal, from Dr Tom Jefferson, co-ordinator of the Cochrane Vaccines Field in Rome, will be floated this week in an article in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Publication follows extensive press coverage of alleged conflicts of interest surrounding the 1998 paper that first sparked fears over MMR


Dr Jefferson said continuing controversy over MMR highlighted the need for an independent collection of 'every piece of evidence' available to enable 'scientifically credible and timely answers' to future allegations.

'The Department of Health and Medical Research Council have reassured people but people are not reassured,' he added.

In his article, Dr Jefferson called for the library to be publicly funded and to be independent of government.

David Hinchliffe, chair of the Commons health select committee and Labour MP for Wakefield, welcomed the proposals as making 'much more sense than what we have currently' and added that the controversy over MMR illustrated how commercial interests and conflicts could skew the interpretation of research.

'Patients and members of the public are worried that they can't get an objective, independent opinion,' he said.

GPC negotiator Dr Andrew Dearden agreed that the proposed library would help patients and GPs make informed decisions. 'The more publicly available the evidence is the more confidence the public will have,' he said.

Dr Mike Fitzpatrick, a GP in north London who has a son with autism, said media coverage had made life difficult for GPs. 'Most GPs have not got the time to look into all this,' he said. 'Parents are anxious and scared and it's a difficult situation to have a discussion in.'

By Emma Wilkinson

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