The Guardian review of Channel 4 film

The Guardian

MMR, What they didn't tell you

Nancy Banks-Smith

The Guardian, Friday November 21, 2004

I was taken aback recently to read that Columbo, the dishevelled detective, was based on Razumikhin ("Good natured to the point of naivety") in Crime and Punishment...

Detective of the week is, however, Brian Deer, the reporter on Dispatches: MMR: What They Didn't Tell You (Channel 4).

Six years ago Dr Andrew Wakefield and his team at the Royal Free hospital threw parents into a torment of indecision by suggesting there could be a link between the triple MMR vaccine and autism in children. What they didn't tell you is that they had a commercial interest in single vaccines and, according to Dr Wakefield's research assistant at the time, no evidence of a link.

Deer went for Wakefield like a bull pup with a taste for trousers. He discovered that Dr Wakefield and the Royal Free hospital had filed patents for a supposedly safer measles vaccine and treatments for autism. One involving mice and pregnant goats. Apparently indefatigable, Deer travelled to Boiling Springs, South Carolina, to meet the co-author of the patents, the bizarre Professor Fudenberg, who is older than God and twice as odd. Even Fudenberg now distanced himself from the patents, including the pregnant goat, preferring his own cure for autism. Made in his kitchen from his own bone marrow.

After a year of rebuffs, Deer ran Dr Wakefield to ground at an Indianapolis conference on autism. The camera took a bit of a buffet and Dr Wakefield left with Deer following, shouting: "We have very important questions to ask you about your research and your commercial ambitions, sir! Will you stand your ground and answer?"

If this was hounding, and it was, Dr Wakefield had only himself to blame for running away.

In Britain public distrust of MMR was closely linked to distrust of the government. It now appears, all too ironically, that we may have been told the truth and we did not believe the messenger.

Review of Dispatches, November 2004
MMR: the scam exposed

This review appeared in The Guardian in November 2004, reviewing Brian Deer's Dispatches film for Channel 4 Television: MMR, what they didn't tell you. Responses, information and other feedback are appreciated