Legal hope for MMR row

This article appeared in the Scotland Sunday Post and is not available online. Thanks to the UK group, JABS, for taking the time to type it out.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: Dr Andrew Wakef...

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 28: Dr Andrew Wakefield (C) walks with his wife Carmel after speaking to reporters at the General Medical Council (GMC) on January 28, 2010 in London, England. Dr Wakefield was the first clinician to suggest a link between autism in children and the triple vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella known as MMR. Today’s GMC ruling states that he had acted ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly’ in carrying out his research. Vaccination take up rates dropped dramatically after Dr Wakefield’s research was published in 1998. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)



27th May 2012

Legal hope for MMR row

By Janet Boyle

Ruling backs up parents’ pleas for compensation

Picture subtitle: Many parents are convinced the MMR vaccine damaged their children.

A breakthrough judgement which ruled in favour of a boy damaged by the MMR vaccine in Italy has offered hope to parents fighting for kids in the UK.

The court in Rimini decided the child’s autism was caused by the triple vaccine and awarded the parents compensation.

The news has been welcomed by many parents including Scots mum Maria Cunningham, from Edinburgh, whose son David, 21, became severely autistic within weeks of being given the MMR vaccine when he was 14 months old.

Within days he began to withdraw from Maria and stopped speaking a week later.

“I could only watch terrified as my baby moved into his own world refusing to turn when I spoke or called his name,” she says.

Several pleas to the family GP for help were dismissed as being the complaints of an over-anxious mum, Maria, 51, reveals.

“But within eight months I had lost my son as he had sunk completely into a world of his own,” Maria adds.

A paediatric neurologist eventually diagnosed autism. David was four by then and showing signs of severe developmental delay.

David spent most of his education at a special needs school and today is cared for by Maria. But he will never live independently.

The number of children with autism has risen 12-fold in the past 30 years and may be 50% higher than previously suspected.

Many parents point to the MMR vaccine as a driving factor.

Maria says she has fought for more than 15 years for compensation but her pleas have been dismissed.

She appealed to the UK government’s Vaccines Damage Compensation Programme but they do not recognise autism as a side effect of the MMR vaccine.

“This legal decision in Italy is the recognition so many families in the UK have been seeking for years.

“It is a ruling in a European country and proof that the MMR vaccine can and does cause autism in some children.

“Payments have been made in the USA to children and I believe David has been damaged.

“We also know that countries like Japan and Canada no longer use the vaccine.”

Families like Maria are backed by campaigning group JABS.

Campaign head Jackie Fletcher said: “There are many others like David who suffered side effects from the vaccine and all the parents ask for is justice for their autistic children.

“We are not anti-vaccine but urge parents to consider single vaccines because some children react badly to vaccines given in triple doses. Individuals respond differently and one vaccine is not suitable for all infants.”

A spokesman for the vaccine’s makers, SmithKlineGlaxo said: “Unfortunately we don’t have anything about this specific case in Italy. There are many manufacturers of the MMR vaccine.”

The Government urges parents to continue to have their children protected with the triple vaccine.

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19 comments on “Legal hope for MMR row
  1. I Shepherd says:

    Can someone clarify:
    My understanding of Wakefield’s publication is that vaccination caused a bowel disease which was associated with autism. Regardless of whether I’m right or not, is there an association between bowel disease in children and autism (Without vaccination as a consideration)
    Many thanks.

  2. I Shepherd says:

    Is there not a large epidemiologic study from Denmark in which the prevalence of autism in those vaccinated is statistically the same as those who remain unvaccinated for MMR?

    Would it be possible for you to set up a link to significant publications so that readers might be able to read abstracts (At least)

    Many thanks.

  3. Christina Waldman says:

    The problem with this particular MMR vaccine (which Japan, Australia, and Canada had already stopped using) was that is caused aseptic meningitis in children. This vaccine, produced by Smith Kline French Beecham, contained the Urabe mumps strain. It was not as safe as the MMR containing Jeri Lynn strain Merck was selling. Called Trivirix in Canada, this unsafe MMR was licensed for sale in the UK under the name Pluserix–in the very month it was withdrawn from use in Canada! At that time in the UK, safety studies lasting only 3 weeks found no problems. Whereas, Canadian surveillance studies already done showed that, in many cases, vaccine-induced meningitis didn’t even start until after three weeks. Only in 1992, after 4 years of being given to children in the UK, was the vaccine abruptly withdrawn from use– after new safety studies showed it again to be unsafe. Sources: Andrew J. Wakefield,”Callous Disregard,” Ch. 4, “The Whistleblower;” Martin Walker, “The Urabe Farrago,” p. 22, fn. 34, Martin Walker’s essays at and; the books, “Silenced Witnesses” Vols. I and II, The Parents’ Story, The Denial of Vaccine Damage by Government, Corporations, and the Media.”

  4. Niklas Danielsson says:

    The ruling by the Italian judge is baffling. There is no scientific evidence in support of the claim that MMR vaccine causes autism. A number of studies have disqualified Dr Wakefield’s hypothesis and not a single study of good quality has supported it. The Lancet has retracted the original article, Dr Wakefield has been found guilty of scientific dishonesty and his co-authors no longer recognise the findings. The parents of the Italian boy deserve sympathy and support but for the judge to attribute his condition to the MMR vaccine is irrational and simply wrong.
    Parents all over the world want to do what is best for their children. Sometimes this involves making a choice between two risks. In the case of MMR vaccine, the choice should be straight forward. Vaccines are not without adverse effects but the risk you take when vaccinating your child is dwarfed by the risk you take if you do not vaccinate them. Parents who believe that measles is a harmless disease should watch these testimonies to the contrary:
    – Are your children contagious? (
    – Eliminating measles – personal stories (
    – Six years old girl with measles brain inflammation (

    Ask if your child is protected. Is he or she protected from the risk of developing a debilitating, sometimes deadly, complication of measles? Not vaccinating puts your child at much higher risk than not vaccinating.

    • admin says:

      Niklas – your post is very confusing – and oh so wrong. Wakefield’s co-authors did not reject the findings of the case series and the Lancet may be forced to reinstate the article since one of those co-authors, John Walker-Smith, has recently won a ruling in the UK High Court on the errors made by the GMC in their ‘investigation’. The Italian judge had evidence that this child’s autism was caused by the MMR vaccine. Had that not been the case, the ruling would not have occurred. Perhaps you need to ask yourself why you are so opposed to people being able to access information on both sides of this debate that you are able to suspend all logical thought in this regard?

      • Petra says:

        The majority of Wakefield’s co-authors (10 of 12 who could be contacted) actually did reject the findings, including John Walker-Smith.

        To clear up any confusion, here’s a link to the article with John Walker-Smith’s name on it called, “Retraction of an interpretation”.

        Professor Walker-Smith’s victory was having the ruling of medical misconduct rejected as invalid. It was determined that the original legal panel that found him guilty did so through flawed reasoning. This was in relation to whether he knowingly performed medical research on children under the guise of necessary clinical procedures. It has nothing to do with the science or the validity of the article, the findings of which he himself has rejected.

        The complete ruling can be found here for anyone interested:

        • admin says:

          Petra – I have passed this by someone who has been involved with this case from the very beginning. I’m hoping they can come to this page and shed some light on your assertions.

        • admin says:

          Petra, I have had the response in record time from Martin Walker, author of the 2-part series, Silenced Witnesses mentioned below. Martin has been involved with Wakefield and this case from the very beginning and I believe that your interpretation of what has occurred is not correct. Please read below and let me know what you think:


          This is a very complex area and can only be understood if the context is also understood. During the investigation which brought Wakefield, Walker-Smith and Murch to the GMC Fitness to Practice Hearing, immense pressure was put on the authors of the 1998 Lancet paper, by individuals and groups associated with pharmaceutical companies, to reject the 1998 Lancet paper. The task of turning the authors was left mainly to Dr Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet. Lobbyists wanted the complete removal of the paper from the archive.

          At the end of drawn out pressure and argument, all but three of the authors signed ‘a retraction’. However this retraction plagued Horton for years afterwards because it was only ‘a retraction of the interpretation’. That is to say none of the science in the paper was questioned by the retraction, only the idea that readers might get the impression that MMR led to autism. At a meeting of the Commons Science and Technology Committee (a committee made up of lobbyists and Skeptics) Horton was screamed at and barracked on the grounds that the retraction of an interpretation was a philosophical and even practical impossibility — the interpretation of course being in the mind of the reader!

          In turn it was difficult to see how anyone could come to a misleading interpretation as the paper was a ‘case review’ of 12 children who had developed an unusual type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Autism was not the subject of this Lancet paper and it went unmentioned except in the observation made by parents and authors, that a number of the cases had developed regressive autism after succumbing to IBD, within a short time of their MMR vaccination. (obviously a paper of this kind has to mention everything noted by the parents)

          Much as the pharmaceutical company lobby groups, Sunday Times reporters and others tried to brand Wakefield as the originator of the ‘hair-brained’ idea that MMR was responsible for autism, the 1998, case review paper was solely concerned with IBD. The idea that the ‘science was wrong’ in the paper was an idea planted by the pharmaceutical company lobby groups and their agents. There was no new ‘research’ entailed and the idea of the paper was to come to diagnostic conclusion after a number of tests had been carried out on children brought to the hospital with this seemingly novel form of IBD. This ‘research’ was necessary because the doctors at the Royal Free had no idea how to treat these children.

          Giving evidence against Wakefield at the three year GMC Fitness to Practise hearing, Richard Horton said that the 1998 Lancet paper was a classic paper ‘the science’ of which was absolutely sound. Horton himself drew attention in the hearing to the lack of any declaration of conflict of interest by Wakefield in the paper (not to mention the other 11 authors). This as well turned out to be problematic for Horton. After saying that he knew nothing about Wakefield’s role as an expert witness in the forthcoming civil action by 1,500 parent claimants, (an action that was sunk after a decade’s preparation when the Lord Chancellors Department withdrew Legal Aid funding) the defence submitted correspondence, which showed clearly that he had known for some time about Wakefield’s role in the case.

          Another aspect of Horton’s evidence on conflict of evidence was the fact that the Lancet’s conflict of interest declaration at that time, asked if there was anything which might embarrass the author if it were to become public — Wakefield had no conflicting interests in his authorship, which he or anyone else could have found embarrassing. On the other hand Horton was in serious difficulties in this matter had it ever been raised at the GMC Fitness to Practice Hearing because throughout the tornado of misinformation which swept the press, journals, meetings in the wake of the 1998 paper, Horton’s manager at the Lancet publishers Elsevier was a member of the Board of GlaxoSmithKline the vaccine manufacturers.

          Walker-Smith did not agree with the statement ‘MMR causes autism’, and he did not agree with press briefing organised by the Dean of the University following the publication of the Lancet. But then no one had made this statement, except of course the pharmaceutical lobbyists. Professor Walker-Smith was as perplexed as Dr Andrew Wakefield about the origins of the sudden onset in small children of IBD and had signed up as had Wakefield as an expert witness in the civil action brought by the 1,500 parents. While Dr Wakefield was never reticent in his opinions, Professor Walker-Smith was very retiring, like a doctor from a previous age. While Wakefield, a researcher, had to some extent asked for the battle, writing to the NHS head of immunology and vaccination in 1993 that he thought there were Public Health questions to be asked about the safety of MMR, Professor Walker-Smith was a cautious clinician who had the battle thrust upon him. Dr Wakefield had to wait almost six years for his meeting!

    • Monique says:

      Niklas, I wonder if you are aware that simply because u inject your child with all the weird and wonderful things that go into making a vaccine, doesn’t mean that your child will actually be immune to the disease, there is a possibility that they will be but you are not guaranteed!!!!

      • Shannon says:

        Statistically (as in proven by careful tracking of data rather than suspicion and hyperbole), vaccines work. This is why disease rates drop in vaccinated populations. Nothing carries a guarrantee – but you are much, much, much more likely to get ill if you are vaccinated.

        Also worth noting the comments posted by admin above re: retraction of the retraction. Apparently the admin does not understand the difference between ‘the science’ and the ‘methodology’. Methodology is a very important part of science – in fact, it plays a large part in differentiating science from messing around in the kitchen.

  5. Sian Morton says:

    *no longer, not now longer 😉

  6. Sian Morton says:

    Japan and Canada now longer use the vaccine? I don’t think so!! Credibility is always enhanced by checking the contents of stories before posting.

    • admin says:

      Actually Sian – Japan has not used the MMR vaccine since the late 1990s – check it out for yourself. I’m not sure about Canada, but perhaps you would like to contact the Sunday Post and ask them to double check? This is a statement made by a parent quoted in a newspaper article. If the parent made a mistake – then the newspaper should be contacted to ask about it. I’m sure this is something your mates at SAVN would be more then happy to do. As for credibility, perhaps you need to do some more research yourself. As an immunisation provider, I would have thought you would have known about the fact that Japan stopped using the MMR vaccine because of the known risk of aseptic meningitis.

      • Shannon Wagstaff says:

        How do you then explain the autism rates in Japan have continued to rise since the triple vaccine was discontinued?
        The population vaccinated using single jabs has the same (if not slightly higher) rate of official autism diagnosis as the population that was vaccinated with the triple jab.

        • admin says:

          First of all, I have never been a person who subscribed to the theory that the MMR vaccine is the only vaccination to cause autism. I have medical research going back to the very early part of the 20th Century describing autistic-symptoms following diphtheria, typhoid and whooping cough vaccination as well as after the smallpox vaccine. Secondly, just because japan does not use the MMR doesn’t mean Japanese children don’t get measles, mumps and rubella vaccines – they do – just not all at once. So the fact is that the more shots our children get, the higher the rate of autism. Because all vaccines contain neurotoxins and a range of toxic chemicals as well as heavy metals (not all vaccines) viral and bacterial contaminants and therefore, all of them can cause autism and autoimmunity amongst other conditions.

    • Diane Dean says:

      I have twin Daughters who were diagnosed as epileptic at six months, on anti-convulsants for over two to three years. Slow in all their milestones, and in fact said and did more before the triple vacine. We have been told that they have a chromosone addition, as well as numerous other problems they have. They did not walk until they were nearly four, as we could not get shoes to fit them. Life has been a real struggle having twins with these problems, and I strongly believe and know that they did not have any bowel problems, which they now have. I would love to hear from anyone who has had similar problems. I hope that there will be some recourse to the High Court in London as Andrew Wakefield, was correct in his scientific findings and the British Medical Council need to be made accountable. I would be very interested to hear other stories whether from the UK or other parts of the world.

      • admin says:

        Hi Diane – I’m so sorry to hear about what happened with your twins. There are ways of helping to deal with the gut issues that might just help with their epilepsy as well. My suggestion – if you’re in Australia – is to contact the Mindd foundation ( They fund and conduct research on these issues and have a large number of practitioners – both GPS and specialists as well as natural therapists – who are expert at helping children with conditions such as your girls. I hope this is of some help. Please do let us know how you go.