Reprint
From the MMR investigation

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MMR: key dates in the crisis

The Sunday Times, February 8 2009

Brian Deer

October 1988 MMR triple vaccine starts in UK after use in America since 1971

February 1996 A solicitor, Richard Barr, hires Andrew Wakefield at £150 per hour to support a legal attack on MMR makers as some parents raise concerns over the vaccine

June 1996 Wakefield and Barr ask Legal Aid Board to fund research to show a link between MMR and autism. The board grants them £55,000

July 1996 First autistic child admitted to Royal Free hospital for research project. Of the 12 in the study, 11 will turn out to be litigants

June 1997 Wakefield files for patent on “safer” single measles jab and for products to treat autism

February 1998 The Lancet publishes paper proposing link between MMR and autism. Wakefield, making no disclosure of his interests, gives a press conference recommending that, instead of the MMR, single vaccinations be given at yearly intervals

January 2001 Daily Mail and other newspapers launch campaigns backing Wakefield after he calls for single vaccines. Cherie and Tony Blair refuse to say whether their 19-month-old son Leo had received the MMR vaccine

January 2003 Vaccination among two-year-olds falls to 78.9%, below the 95% level needed to protect the population

February 2004 The Sunday Times reveals Wakefield’s legal funding and children’s litigant status. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, describes original paper as “fatally flawed” and apologises for publishing it

March 2004 10 of the 1998 Lancet paper’s 13 authors, but not Wakefield, retract claim of possible MMR-autism link

March 2005 Japanese scientists say they have evidence MMR jab is not linked to rise in autism: instead they noted a rise in autism after withdrawal of the MMR jab in the country

April 2006 A 13-year-old boy becomes the first person in the UK in 14 years to die from measles

July 2007 GMC opens professional misconduct case against Wakefield and two other Royal Free colleagues concerning ethical issues over the treatment of children


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