In the UK there has been much controversy over the findings of Dr Andrew Wakefield linking the use of MMR vaccine with regressive autism, a potentially severe and debilitating, behavioural and emotional condition. Consequently confidence in the vaccine has diminished considerably among the general public and the government health authorities have been at pains to try and restore faith in the vaccine. In 2001 the UK health authority publicised a report of a study conducted in Finland, citing this as proof that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. However, closer examination of this study only serves to illustrate the problems associated with the governments prejudice and tunnel vision when assessing adverse effects of vaccines. The report appeared convincing, involving 1.8 million children over a 14-year period finding no link between MMR vaccine and autism.
- The study relied on voluntary notifications of adverse effects, in which experts agree, at best; pick up 10% of incidents.
- Secondly the reactions that were being looked for; fits, allergies, neurological disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes – did not include autism or any symptoms associated with it.
- Thirdly the reported adverse reactions concentrated on a three-week period after vaccination and would therefore miss the slow appearance of symptoms associated with regressive autism.
The study was therefore completely inadequate in its ability to assess the incidence of regressive autism.
This Finnish report was not based on a study of the effects of MMR, it was not an independent research project on the effects of MMR on the human physiology, but a look at the reports sent in to the local health authorities. Reports that were not looking for autism or any symptoms associated with autism, in a time-frame outside of the normal appearance of symptoms, therefore highly unlikely to find any symptoms of autism associated with the use of MMR vaccine.