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Independents' Day

MMR scare hits headlines again

The MMR safety controversy has been reignited by a national newspaper article suggesting the vaccine may trigger an immune response similar to that caused by HIV.

The Daily Mail based its dramatic claim on the latest research paper from Dr Andrew Wakefield's inflammatory bow- el disease study group.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology, found that children with 'regressive' autism and gastro-intestinal problems had a distinctive type of inflammatory enterocolitis that was different from other forms of inflammatory bowel disease.

But former colleagues of Dr Wakefield at the Royal Free Hospital who co-authored the new study made clear their data had no relevance to the controversy over MMR. Their conclusion says the study did not set out to examine the cause or origin of inflammatory enterocolitis in the 52 autistic children studied.

The researchers found the children had inflammation throughout the large and small intestine that was characterised by a marked B-cell proliferative response.

Dr Mary Ramsay, consultant epidemiologist at the Health Protection Agency, hoped that parents making a decision about MMR would be unaffected by the Daily Mail article. She said: 'The scare stories have been going on for five or six years but eight out of 10 children are still being vaccinated. There's lots of clear evidence on the safety of MMR.'

Daily Mail claims GPs will bully parents

The Government's decision to add MMR to PCT star ratings indicators has come under renewed fire after a newspaper alleged GPs will 'pursue' parents to force them to accept the vaccine.

The Daily Mail claimed parents would 'face unprecedented pressure from GPs' as a result.

The article described the plan as a 'desperate attempt to bully parents' and expressed fears that GPs would give MMR 'by stealth'.

GPC members said the accusations were totally unsubstantiated.

Dr Rao Prasad, GPC representative on the BMA paediatrics sub-committee, said: 'The GPC would not support any doctor who was forcing parents to have their children vaccinated.'

He added that making MMR a star ratings indicator was 'totally unfair and uncalled for'.

Dr George Kassianos RCGP immunisation spokes-man and a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire, said that the Government would perpetuate the negative press surrounding MMR by adding it to star ratings. He said: 'This will stay in the news until the Government agrees to divorce MMR immunisation from the income from MMR.'

dp MMR 15/01/2004 09:50 EWilkins

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