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GPs face new scare on vaccines

GPs face a new flood of parental anxiety over childhood vaccines in the wake of conflicting new evidence on the alleged link between autism and the mercury-based preservative thiomersal, writes Brian Kelly.

A paper from the controversial Geier and Geier research team claims urine mercury levels are higher in autistic children.

Their claim earlier this year that 90 per cent of neurodevelopmental disorders are vaccine linked prompted the Committee on Safety of Medicines

to issue an urgent rebuttal.

But the Government's Health Protection Agency has rubbished the latest claim and pointed to new Danish research showing autism incidence continued to rise for seven years after thiomersal-containing vaccines were phased out in Denmark.

The BMA warned GPs they were facing an 'impossible' task counselling worried parents. Dr George Rae, chair of the BMA representative body and a GP in North Tyneside, said: 'The implications of this research are profound and it is very difficult to fight. It makes what we're trying to do impossible.'

The latest Geier and Geier paper, published in the summer issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, showed urine mercury concentrations were 3.15 times higher in 221 children with autistic spectrum disorder than in 18 controls. Vaccinated cases had 5.94 times higher urinary mercury than vaccinated controls.

Dr Natasha Crowcroft, a consultant in public health at the Health Protection Agency, said: 'This paper has serious methodological flaws and makes a number of assertions that are not well founded. It does not have any implications for UK vaccination policy.'

She said the Danish study, published in Pediatrics, added to strong evidence that neurodevelopmental problems 'have nothing to do with thiomersal'.

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