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Measles Outbreak Prompts Urgent MMR Vaccination Call for Young Adults in ‘Wakefield Cohort’

The Lancet paper that linked jabs to autism in 1998 continued to impact take-up of vaccines. Health authorities declared a national incident even though there were no reported deaths.

Government health agencies are advising all individuals whose parents declined the MMR vaccine due to perceived links with autism to now be inoculated, due to the Measles outbreak in Birmingham.

The UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) declared a national health incident following a “surge” in Measles cases. Although Measles is usually mild, it can be more serious for those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women.

Between 2006 and 2016, there were four reported deaths from Measles, and prior to 2006, the last known death was in 1992. Over the 20-year period from 2020-2202, a total of 23 people died of the illness.

The NHS plans to contact a million children and young adults aged between 11 and 25 in London and Birmingham, offering the MMR jab through “pop-up” clinics in schools, community centers, and GP practices.

There were 1,603 suspected cases of Measles in the UK in 2023 according to the UKHSA, up from 735 in 2022 and 360 in 2021. The latest outbreak is in the West Midlands, where the uptake of both recommended doses of the MMR is around 80 percent by age five.

As of Jan. 18, there had been 216 confirmed and 103 “probable” cases in the West Midlands since Oct. 1 2023. Around 90 percent of cases have been in Birmingham and Coventry, mainly in children aged under ten years.

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Uptake of the MMR across England and Wales is at 84.5 percent, while in London it stands at just 75 per cent. Trust in vaccines is at a low ebb following reports of deaths and damages caused by the Covid jabs. The Government says an uptake of 95 percent is needed to achieve “herd immunity.”

The NHS has written to millions of parents across the country urging them to take up the offer of the vaccines now, while some councils have written to parents threatening that their child might be forced to miss school for three weeks if they haven’t had the jabs and another child contracts Measles.

The MMR Scandal

Many of the “Wakefield cohort” of children born after the MMR scandal did not receive the jab after Dr. Andrew Wakefield authored a paper in the Lancet linking the triple jab to autism. Dr. Wakefield did not claim the study proved the MMR jab caused autism but had concluded that further investigation was needed to establish whether there was a link.

The Wakefield-led study was widely discredited and the health authorities have always maintained the link to autism is false, calling the study “fraudulent” —although no criminal charges were ever brought against its authors.

Following a media furore, the Lancet study was eventually retracted and Dr. Wakefield was struck off the medical register. Two other authors were struck off with him after they also stood by the paper’s findings, although one was reinstated on appeal.

Six months after Dr. Wakefield was struck off, the parents of Robert Fletcher, an 18-year-old left severely brain damaged as a baby by the MMR vaccine, were awarded £90,000 in compensation from the vaccine damage payment scheme. Their claim specified that Robert suffered “autism-like symptoms” rather than having autism.

At the time of the scandal, Dr. Wakefield said he supported single vaccinations. The NHS has refused to make the single jabs available since the introduction of the MMR. Uptake of the triple-jab plummeted to around 80 percent in the years following the Lancet publication.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield walks with his then-wife Carmel after speaking to reporters at the General Medical Council in London on Jan. 28, 2010. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Dr. Andrew Wakefield walks with his then-wife Carmel after speaking to reporters at the General Medical Council in London on Jan. 28, 2010. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Single Vaccines

The single Measles vaccine was first introduced in the UK in 1968, while the MMR vaccine (for Measles, Mumps and Rubella) was introduced in 1988. The NHS maintains that all vaccines on the schedule are safe and effective, that the MMR jab does not cause autism, and that side effects and complications from all vaccines are “very rare.”

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