Why did Wakefield demand single shots if measles was the cause of autism?

This page is research from an investigation by Brian Deer for the UK's Channel 4 Television and The Sunday Times of London into a campaign linking the MMR children's vaccine with autism. | Go to part I: The Lancet scandal | Go to part II: The Wakefield factor

Before Deer's investigation revealed that Andrew Wakefield had a string of patent applications for a competitor vaccine to MMR, experts were baffled by the former Royal Free doctor's call for the triple vaccine to be broken in three. His core theory had long been that it was measles virus, allegedly persisting in the gut, which somehow caused bowel damage which somehow led to brain damage. Although this theory had also been rebutted - in his own lab - there seemed little sense in calling for single shots

Here Dr Mary Ramsay, of the UK's Health Protection Agency, voices the common confusion over Wakefield's thinking

BRIAN DEER: At that press conference, one of the authors, Dr Andrew Wakefield, went a step further and advocated breaking up the MMR into its separate components, so that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccines were given individually to children, separated by intervals of a year.  Can you think of anything that you’ve seen that could substantiate such a proposal?

DR MARY RAMSAY: Not at all.  I mean, even the work that Dr Wakefield’s done himself, and a substantial body of his preliminary work was looking at measles vaccine in relation to bowel disease, not MMR vaccine - measles as a single vaccine.

BRIAN DEER: So he was saying it was the measles component that...

DR MARY RAMSAY: Caused bowel disease.

BRIAN DEER: Caused the bowel disease.

DR MARY RAMSAY: I have no idea where he got the idea that by combining the vaccine this could be contributing to the problem, to a problem.  And I think it’s been a very unfortunate thing because it’s something that’s confused parents even more.  And it’s not necessarily safe to separate vaccines by a prolonged period of time, because you leave children unprotected for that much longer.

BRIAN DEER: Now you follow the literature very carefully.  Have you seen other papers being published by medical groups around the world that say, well, perhaps these vaccines should be given separately?

DR MARY RAMSAY: Not at all.  I mean, I’m not aware of any other country where people are asking for separate vaccines, the way, you know, the way here.  All the scientific and medical fraternity believes that giving the vaccines together is a better way to ensure an effective vaccination programme.  And the only countries that don’t use MMR are because they can’t afford to use it and are probably only offering protection against measles.

BRIAN DEER: Are you aware of credible scientists or doctors publishing research pointing to a risk in combining these vaccines?

DR MARY RAMSAY: No. Not at all. I’m not aware of anything that shows any scientific evidence that there was a problem by combining the vaccines together.

BRIAN DEER: So from your point of view, this research, and this proposal from the Royal Free group, and Dr Wakefield in particular, that the vaccine should be broken up, just came out of the blue?

DR MARY RAMSAY: Absolutely.

Go to the Wakefield factor homepage