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Tony Blair joins calls to support triple shot as Lancet research is repudiated

This page is research from an award-winning investigation, concluding in 2011, by Brian Deer for The Sunday Times of London into a campaign linking the MMR children's vaccine with autism based on fraudulent research by British former doctor Andrew Wakefield

The day after Brian Deer's Sunday Times investigation was published, on February 22 2004, the prime minister joined calls to back MMR, as reported here in The Guardian



Claim that MMR work mixed science and spin

James Meikle, health correspondent
Tuesday February 24, 2004
The Guardian

Tony Blair yesterday weighed in to the MMR controversy by appealing once more for parents to give their children the all-in-one measles, mumps and rubella jab.

The prime minister, who refused two years ago to reveal whether his son Leo had received the vaccine, stepped in to hammer home his view of the MMR's importance as the General Medical Council paved the way for an investigation into the ethics of Andrew Wakefield's study into autism and bowel disease six years ago which lit the fuse for a series of explosive rows over the vaccine's safety.

Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet medical journal, has said he would never have published the research study in February 1998 if it had know of "a serious conflict of interest", which Mr Wakefield should have revealed at the time.

He and other senior staff conducted an urgent investigation last week following allegations presented by a researcher for the Sunday Times, and concluded that the fact that Mr Wakefield had not revealed he was receiving legal aid funds on behalf of parents seeking to establish a link between MMR and autism was a serious error of judgment and a "fatal conflict of interest".

But Mr Wakefield, who denies any wrongdoing, and former colleagues were cleared by the Lancet of other allegations of research misconduct made about the study which provoked years of argument, serious falls in uptake of the vaccine and repeated warnings of a measles epidemic among young children.

Mr Blair told ITV: "There is absolutely no evidence to sup port this link between MMR and autism. If there was, I can assure you that any government would be looking at it and trying to act on it. I hope, now that people see that the situation is somewhat different to what they were led to believe, they will have the triple jab because it is important to do it."

Mr Blair, at the height of "did he or didn't he" row over Leo and the jab in 2002, made clear he would never advocate something he did not think safe for his own children.

The government's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, speaking on BBC's Today programme, said he had always regarded Mr Wakefield's study as poor science. "If the paper had never been published, then we would not have had the controversy and we wouldn't have had the seed of doubt sown in parents' minds which has caused a completely false loss of confidence in a vaccine that has saved millions of children's lives around the world.

"When Mr Wakefield has been in contact with us, he has often been represented by a PR company rather than communicating directly. "I don't think that spin and science mix. If they are mixed, it is a very unfavourable position for children's health. Now a darker side of this work has shown through, with the ethical conduct of the research and this is something that has to be looked at."

The GMC confirmed last night that it had spoken to Mr Wakefield and he had indicated his willingness to work with any investigation. Mr Wakefield has been defended by Jabs, a group including members who are trying to pursue legal action over MMR. Its founder Jackie Fletcher said: "Mr Wakefield's original data is not in question at all and the conclusions from it have not changed."

But Sense, the national deafblind and rubella association, said the revelations "further undermine the significance and credibility of Andrew Wakefield's original paper".

Abel Hadden, a PR spokesman at Bell Pottinger, has acted for Visceral, a charity that funds work by Mr Wakefield and others. The Guardian was unable to contact Mr Wakefield last night either by ringing Mr Wakefield's home or Mr Hadden.



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