Narratives about measles and MMR vaccine

By AnthonyLast updated: Sunday, June 1, 2008 • Save & Share26 Comments

The Manchester Evening News reports on a mother who has changed her opinion on the MMR vaccine, after her daughter was admitted to hospital with measles.

“I sat in the dark watching Lola-Mae struggling to catch her breath and no one else was able to visit because we couldn’t risk spreading the infection. I felt so guilty and scared. I thought a lot about the MMR jab over the last few years.

“But Lola-Mae was born prematurely and her brother had a lot of bowel problems – I couldn’t bear the thought of being responsible for putting my daughter through that too.

“But now I’ve seen what measles is like, I would advise all parents to get the MMR jab.”

Sadly, while the risks of measles are well known, it may take such narratives and experiences of parents to change views on the risk/benefit balance of MMR vaccine. It would be preferable that society could rationally debate these risks without children having to suffer the consequences of measles infection, but unfortunately we are lumbered with the media we have, and narratives are a powerful form of evidence in the minds of parents making decisions about vaccination. It may be that the likely increase in such cases may affect public opinion, more than any attempts to explain the epidemiological studies and virological studies that undermine the MMR vaccine-autism hypothesis. Casiday1 outlined the importance of narratives and how they can influence decision making:

Epidemiological findings can suggest whether or not there is a statistical association between events like MMR immunisation and the occurrence of autism. But these findings in and of themselves lack the rich meaning offered by the narrative accounts found in parents’ descriptions of their children changing and in the media. Some proponents of the MMR vaccine have begun to incorporate powerful narratives into their arguments. For instance, one GP described his experience overcoming feelings of guilt as the father of an autistic boy (Fitzpatrick, 2004) and newspapers have presented narrative accounts of measles-infected children (McDonald & Ungoed Thomas, 2004). Many parents were indeed persuaded by these narratives. It is important to recognise the importance and the value of narrative, because simply dismissing parents’ anecdotal accounts of changes they observed in their children has resulted in many parents feeling that important facts had been overlooked or, even worse, covered up by the medical establishment.

The last sentence there brings up a problem that is surely insurmountable. If you accept the power of narrative stories about MMR vaccine and autism, that should not blind you to the fact that no solid science backs up the hypothesis that autism was caused by MMR vaccine. Indeed, media reporting and other narratives may have had a part in creating the belief of some parents that changes in their children were caused by MMR vaccine. It isn’t “dismissing parents’ anecdotal accounts of changes they observed in their children” that has led to accusations of cover-ups, but dismissal of the view that MMR vaccine has caused autism. It is far from clear how one can avoid such accusations, without accepting the argument that MMR vaccine causes autism.

Indeed, credulous acceptance of “MMR vaccine causes autism” narratives are, in part, what led Wakefield down his blind alley and to the whole controversy in the first place.

1. Casiday RE. Children’s health and the social theory of risk: Insights from the British measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)next term controversy. Social Science & Medicine 2007; 65(5):1059-1070

Filed in MMR

26 Responses to “Narratives about measles and MMR vaccine”

Comment from John Briffa
Time 1/6/2008 at 9:36 pm

Anthony

“If you accept the power of narrative stories about MMR vaccine and autism, that should not blind you to the fact that no solid science backs up the hypothesis that autism was caused by MMR vaccine.”

Can I respectably suggest that individuals should not be blinded to the fact that no solid science backs up the hypothesis that autism was NOT caused by MMR vaccine either?

“It is far from clear how one can avoid such accusations, without accepting the argument that MMR vaccine causes autism.”

How about this: let’s stop dragging our heels endlessly on this, do the proper and relevant research that would prove or disprove the hypothesis (beyond reasonable doubt) and be done with it. Because, I suggest the evidence used to vindicate MMR with respect to autism is wholly inadequate. And if you wish, I’d be more than happy to go into much more detail here.

“Indeed, credulous acceptance of “MMR vaccine causes autism” narratives are, in part, what led Wakefield down his blind alley and to the whole controversy in the first place.”

How can you possibly know it’s a blind alley if the proper work has yet to be done? Case closed? I don’t think so.

Comment from Rich
Time 1/6/2008 at 9:48 pm

Can I respectfully point out to John Briffa that there is no solid science backing up the hypothesis that autism is not caused by watching re-runs of Superstars (especially the one where Kevin Keegan falls off his bike), nor by repeated poking of holes in polystyrene tiles, nor by exposure to yellow emulsion paint.

The balance of probablility is, however, overwhelmingly that none of those is a cause of autism – while of course there is no evidence that they *do* cause autism.

Mr (Dr?) Briffa will be well aware that his reasoning for MMR’s causal link to autism is precisely as valid as my suggestions above, and to suggest it’s any more likely is disingenuous.

Comment from John Briffa
Time 1/6/2008 at 10:10 pm

Rich
“Mr (Dr?) Briffa will be well aware that his reasoning for MMR’s causal link to autism is precisely as valid as my suggestions above, and to suggest it’s any more likely is disingenuous.”

Do you really think so? Because there’s actually quite a lot of people out there (you can’t have missed them) that claim that they witnessed their child regress into autism quite soon after MMR vaccination. But I don’t hear that many people claiming it was the superstars/yellow emulsion/poking holes in polystyrene tiles that appeared to be the problem.

On top of this, of course, we do have at least some evidence that supports the link. Here is one study, for instance, that appears to support Wakefield’s original hypothesis:

Uhlmann V, Martin CM, Sheils O, Pilkington L, Silva I, Killalea A, Murch SB, Walker-Smith J, Thomson M, Wakefield AJ, O’Leary JJ. Potential viral pathogenic mechanism for new variant inflammatory bowel disease. Mol Pathol. 2002;55(2):84-90.

Now, in the light of this, do you still maintain that autism is just as likely to be caused by watching superstars/yellow emulsion/poking holes in polystyrene tiles as MMR? Really?

Comment from Anthony
Time 1/6/2008 at 10:33 pm

John,

What are your views on the criticisms made by D’Souza et al of the Uhlmann et al paper made in 2006?

D’Souza Y, Fombonne E, Ward BJ, No evidence of persisting Measles virus in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from children with autistic spectrum disorder. Pediatrics 2006;118(4):1164-1675

Comment from John Briffa
Time 1/6/2008 at 11:14 pm

Anthony

Just this evening your email to me seemed to suggest you were not will to engage here. Or anywhere else. And you did say that there was only so many minutes in the day and it was exam time. Well, seems some time became available after all. I’m grateful to you.

Before I answer your question, would you do me the courtesy of answering some of the questions I put to you today here (comment 54):
http://www.drbriffa.com/blog/2008/05/23/the-limited-value-of-statistical-significance-in-the-real-world/

How about this for starters:

“You quote two virological studies – D’Souza and Afzal, both from 2006.

You’ve demonstrated that you are intimate with the details of Andrew Wakefield’s research, so you will know his original work involved, in layman’s terms (because we need to consider it’s not just you who will be reading this), looking for measles virus in the gut.

The most striking thing about these studies is that both of them sought to isolate measles in the blood. Does this seem like appropriate science with which to refute Wakefield’s original claims, to you?

Permit me an analogy: Imagine I claimed I had discovered a new condition characterised by a runny nose and sneezing, and that I’d decided to call this condition ‘the common cold’. I also claim that I’ve been able to isolate a virus – let’s call it the ‘common cold virus’ – from the noses of people afflicted by this condition.

Now, if a scientist wanted to attempt to replicate my work, do you think they should attempt to isolate the common cold virus in the nose, or somewhere else, like between the toes or perhaps the anus?

The answer is glaringly obvious, I think. So, my question to you is, as a scientist, do you not see the fact that these studies looked for measles virus in the blood, rather than a gut, as a fundamental weakness? And do you still maintain that this evidence – how did you put it originally, ‘undermines’ – Wakefield’s original hypothesis?”

In your own time…

Comment from Anthony
Time 1/6/2008 at 11:44 pm

1. I’m not going to engage with you at your site in a prolonged manner, it is a largely pointless activity. Some comments do at least provide an alternate evidence-based-view, too many get you trapped in an endless cycle of bilge.

2. Have you read the D’Souza paper? Answer my question about their criticisms of Uhlmann et al. when you have.

3. There is no evidence that Wakefield found measles virus, since his Ph.D. student has told us that they were false positives.

4. There are obvious ethical concerns about performing gut biopsies in children as noted by D’Souza.

A final and obvious difference between our study and those of Uhlmann et al and Martin et al is the fact that we targeted PBMCs instead of gut biopsy material. As noted above, we did not feel that it was ethically justifiable to subject the children in this study to endoscopy and biopsy despite the fact that almost 80% of the children with ASD had gastrointestinal complaints (vs 32% of our control population). Although there is good evidence that natural MV accumulates mutations when it persists in the central nervous system of subjects with subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, there is no reason to postulate that the mutation pattern in a virus persisting in the gut would be qualitatively different from that of a virus persisting in the PBMCs. Although such tissue-specific changes in mutation pattern are theoretically possible, it seems highly unlikely that the lack of amplification of MV genes in our study using 6 different primer pairs and several different PCR strategies can be explained in this way.

Afzal et al (2006) also note the reasons for their decision, and why it is unlikely to be a problem:

It was difficult to obtain ethical permission for the collection of gut biopsies and CSF from the patients studied here as collection would involve highly invasive procedures. It was, therefore, necessary to examine leukocytes in this study in contrast to previous published work where gut biopsies and CSF preparations had been the main tissue examined. Measles virus was, however reported in one of two blood samples of autistic regression cases that were examined by Bradstreet et al. The authors have also had sight of unpublished assay results from the same groups in which measles sequences were claimed to be detected at high frequency in blood samples. Therefore it is reasonable to believe that the substrate used was an appropriate material for measles virus detection by the assays applied, although it is regrettable that much of the background data remains outside the public domain. Measles virus genome sequences have been successfully detected in blood of patients with certain diseases and experimental measles infections.

Comment from John Briffa
Time 2/6/2008 at 12:10 am

Anthony

I’ve posed you serious and I think very pertinent questions on a number of matters, including the D’Souza’s study (see above). You have not answered my questions, but feel entitled to ask one of your own.

Please do enlighten me as to what the rules of the game are here.

Now, what’s this about it being a largely pointless exercise? Is getting some clarity about whether MMR causes autism or not really pointless? To you maybe. But not to I suspect millions of others.

I’m going to ask you again, please can you answer my questions posed above regarding the glaring (but clearly missable, it seems) methodological shortcoming of the D’Souza and Afzal papers. As you well know, the ethics stuff is nothing but a diversion. I reckon the studies are simply not fit for purpose. Show me I’m wrong.

Comment from Anthony
Time 2/6/2008 at 12:27 am

1. You haven’t read the quotes above from D’Souza and Afzal properly have you? They also deal with the point you are making.

2. You still haven’t responded to the criticism made by D’Souza about Uhlmann et al.

3. Ethics are a diversion? You consider gut biopsies in children not a matter of ethics? We all know where that sort of thinking leads.

4. I think we have clarity over whether MMR causes autism based on evidence about the original Wakefield study, epidemiology, and virological studies. See Rich’s point made above for where you are going wrong.

Comment from HCN
Time 2/6/2008 at 3:27 am

John Briffa said “Do you really think so? Because there’s actually quite a lot of people out there (you can’t have missed them) that claim that they witnessed their child regress into autism quite soon after MMR vaccination.”

Those are anecdotes, and the plural of anecdotes is not data.

The MMR (with Jeryl Lynn mumps strain) was approved for use in the USA in 1971. Those anecdotes seemed to only occur after it was approved for use in the UK after the issues with MMR containing the Urabe mumps strain in the early 1990s. Where are the reports of increases of autism in the USA starting in 1971?

What evidence is there that the MMR is riskier than measles, mumps or rubella? To give you perspective on the historical effect of measles see:
http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/160/3/302 … which has this quote “Approximately 1 in 1000 children with clinical measles develops encephalitis.36, 39 Although most children with encephalitis recover without sequelae, approximately 15% die and 25% of survivors develop complications such as MR.39 We assumed that approximately 1 in 5000 cases of measles leads to MR.”

Also before you bring up the subject of single jabs (costly and time consuming with no increase, and possibly a decrease of effectiveness) tell us precisely what science since the introduction of the MMR in 1971 point to it being a cause of autism.

Comment from Matt
Time 2/6/2008 at 3:34 am

I’m sort of at a loss here.

In the American Autism Omnibus Proceding, Stephen Bustin went into great detail about where Dr. Wakefield went wrong. The transcripts are best, but Prometheus describes some of it here

http://photoninthedarkness.com/?p=101

Basically, when the guy who literally wrote the book on PCR (Bustin) says that O’Leary’s lab not only made mistakes, but the mistakes made it impossible for them to get correct results, I listen.

Further, when a researcher in Wakefield’s own laboratory, Chadwick, tells how he tested the same samples and found that they were all negative for measles.

So, why do we want to spend money and precious researcher time trying to prove a hypothesis that Wakefield’s own data shows is at best without support and at worst is already disproven?

Comment from John Briffa
Time 2/6/2008 at 8:08 am

Anthony

“1. You haven’t read the quotes above from D’Souza and Afzal properly have you? They also deal with the point you are making.”

You appear to have jumped to conclusions about me not reading things (bit ironic, really, seeing as you admitted to only skimming my response to you yesterday – see below). Where have I seen this tactic before? That’s right, in our discussions on my own site from where it seems you’ve had to make a humiliating exit. The tactic of accusing me of not reading things did not work then. And it won’t work now.

I asked for some ground rules earlier, but didn’t get any. So can I suggest some:

1. If someone asks you several questions then it’s good form to answer them (all of them, preferably) before asking some (or even one) of your own. (Do let me know if you’d like me to summarise the main points for you, or perhaps you’d like me to feed them to you one-by-one so that you don’t choke).

2. An answer does not constitute referring to something someone else has written that does not appropriately, specifically and fully address the specific questions posed, and obviously isn’t in your own words.

3. An answer does constitute, however, an actual answer. Oh, and it does need to be an answer to the actual question being posed, of course.

“2. You still haven’t responded to the criticism made by D’Souza about Uhlmann et al.”

See my proposed ground rules above. Seem OK to you?

“3. Ethics are a diversion? You consider gut biopsies in children not a matter of ethics? We all know where that sort of thinking leads.”

I’m not saying the taking gut biopsies from children is not an ethical issue, at all, as I suspect you very well know. What I’m saying (as I suspect you very well know, again) is that this ethical issue does not change the fact that the methodology used by the studies you have cited to support your assertion that Wakefield’s hypothesis has been ‘undermined’ means that these studies have done know such thing. The studies are in my view not fit for purpose. So, can you please answer the questions I posed above about this? Or, are we to conclude you will not answer because, quite frankly, the evidence as it stands suggests that Wakefield’s theory is still very much alive (despite what others assert here), and that the hypothesis that MMR can cause autism also remains to be disproven?

If I may say, your attempt to suggest that my assertion that gut biopsies are not an ethical issue is, I think, a sign of true desperation. Where have we seen such tactics before? Oh, that’s right, in our discussions on my own site (where you cried off from). Look where attempting to misrepresent me got you there. I guess some people never learn.

“4.I think we have clarity over whether MMR causes autism based on evidence about the original Wakefield study, epidemiology, and virological studies. See Rich’s point made above for where you are going wrong.”

You’re joking, right? Yesterday, I posed several questions to you on my site in response to comments you had made and evidence you had cited regarding this very matter. You have not answered any of these questions. None of them. When I asked you if you had read my response you admitted you’d ‘skimmed it’. And then you accuse me of not reading things. I’m hoping the irony will not be lost on you.

I’m asking again, please answer the questions I posed to you on my site yesterday.

And here’s why this is important: I maintain that the evidence does not vindicate MMR with regard to autism. You do.

I have, I think, demonstrated that the science you use to support your stance (both epidemiological and virological) is not fit for purpose. So, now it is incumbent of you to defend your position, properly.

Because if you can’t, then it follows that in the interests of public health, proper and appropriate work in this area must be done. Consider the ethics, even…

In my comments yesterday, I included a critique of the Honda study which, if correct, actually seems to provide quite compelling evidence that MMR is strongly linked to autism.

Did you read the critique, yes or no? If yes, can you comment on it now please? If no, will you please do so? Because seeing as you’re a pharmcovigilance pharmacist and all, it would seem to be part of your job to consider evidence which appears to support the idea that MMR can cause autism. And even if, for some reason, you don’t think its part of your job in this capacity, it very much is your job in the context of your very public stance that there’s no problem with MMR with regard to autism to consider other evidence to the contrary, however challenging this may be for you.

Comment from Anthony
Time 2/6/2008 at 9:14 am

See my proposed ground rules above. Seem OK to you?

No.

Stop humiliating yourself.

Because seeing as you’re a pharmcovigilance [sic] pharmacist and all, it would seem to be part of your job to consider evidence which appears to support the idea that MMR can cause autism

What makes you think I haven’t? It is quite obvious you haven’t even read the papers we are discussing in full, hence you ignorance of what the D’Sousa paper said about Uhlmann et al, so your claims to have demonstrated that the studies are not fit for purpose are very wide of the mark.

You have yet to demonstrate any evidence that suggests MMR vaccine is linked to autism. There is a wealth of information that does not support that hypothesis.

Comment from John Briffa
Time 2/6/2008 at 10:51 am

Anthony

Again, you have steadfastly refused to answer my questions. They’re tough ones for you, Anthony, but they still need answering.

Is this how debate happens on Anthony Cox’s blacktriangle?

I never claimed that MMR causes autism, so why would I need to provide the evidence? I mean, why would someone need to provide the evidence for a claim they did not make? That’s silly, isn’t it?

But it’s not as silly as your assertion that the evidence vindicates MMR with respect to autism, as any scientist acting objectively will know. And on top of this, there is indeed some evidence which suggests that MMR can cause autism (like the Honda critique – have you read it yet?)

You seem to be in a bit of a hole on this: On the one hand, it’s part of your job to look at the evidence which appears to contradict your stance (like, for instance, the Honda critique). On the other hand, that may mean we end up discovering something that demonstrates you were wrong all along (and wrong because your stance was based on studies that were not fit for purpose – in other words, wrong but not for the right reasons).

But you see whether you are right or wrong, Anthony, is not as important as ensuring that individuals are protected, as you as much as anyone should appreciate. The evidence does not vindicate MMR with respect to autism (as I put to you at length yesterday on my own site – you know, the comments you ‘skimmed’ and have not replied to), which means that we may be unwittingly inducing autism in countless children with our vaccination policy – we just don’t know. How is it that this is not more important to you than whatever political or ideological agenda you have (because it most certainly isn’t scientific or in the best interests of the public) or, say, your reputation?

You’re in a hole, Anthony, and with the best interests of those you serve in mind, my advice is to start digging.

Comment from Anthony
Time 2/6/2008 at 10:57 am

You are a deeply weird man impervious to reason or evidence.

Comment from John Briffa
Time 2/6/2008 at 11:08 am

Anthony
You’ve cried off again. But this time, not from my own site, but your own. Impressive stuff!

Comment from Anthony
Time 2/6/2008 at 12:31 pm

John,

Just in case you are under the mistaken impression you have won this argument, and hence proved there is doubt about MMR vaccine’s safety (in relation to autism) let’s get some things clear.

1. You show absolutely no familiarity with the published literature on MMR vaccine and autism, aside from what might be gleaned from googling.

3. This means you are steadfastly unable to answer questions about your view in any meaningful way.

4. Your understanding of epidemiology, and how it should be applied, is obviously not good enough for you to be able to make any claims about its appropriateness.

5. Best interests of the public include protecting them from false drug safety signals which arise. Even those that wellness gurus think are true!

6. You seem to under the mistaken impression that the pharmacovigilance community has not considered the safety of MMR vaccine, when it has in fact been one of the key issues of the past decade. Given I cannot name one credible expert in the field who shares your view, I’m hardly in a minority.

You are going to get the last word, because all you merely have to do is reformulate your tired arguments ad nauseum, until I give up countering the utter rubbish you post.

Comment from John Briffa
Time 2/6/2008 at 1:12 pm

Anthony

Can I respectively ask you again to read my critique of the evidence? All of the evidence cited has come from the web, including, would you believe, pubmed. Admittedly, I didn’t go to my old medical school library to get it, because you don’t have to do things like that any more.

And, more importantly, would you please answer the quite reasonable questions I posed there?

You will notice I refer in detail some detail to the science on both sides of the argument. Some of it, suggests a compelling link between MMR and autism and I think you should look at it. Have you? Will you? And if not, why? Good science, after all, if about keeping an open mind.

Now, you are clearly of the majority view, and seem to suggest that means you (and the others who share your views) must be right. Just like if we were back in the 15th century and your view was that the earth is flat: you’d be ‘right’ about that too.

Comment from mike stanton
Time 2/6/2008 at 1:39 pm

a few questions for Dr Briffa.

If there were measles virus in the gut how would it get there?
If it were transported via the circulatory system would you expect it to be detectable in the blood as well as the gut?

Bustin’s and Chadwick’s testimony at the US Court of Federal Claims Autism Omnibus Proceeedings suggest that the PCR assays used by Wakefield’s collaborators were flawed and unable to provide meaningful results. Other researchers have failed to find evidence of persistent measles in assays of Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells.

Where else do you suggest people look? Apart from the hypothetical autistic enterocolitis, do you have a biologically plausible mechanism whereby MMR could cause autism?

Comment from PJ
Time 2/6/2008 at 3:48 pm

That “critique” of the Honda paper is brilliant. Oh no, the MMR rates aren’t related to autism rates – well let’s add in a ragbag of data from unrelated sources to see if we can claim that it is MMR + measles vaccine + any other vaccine we can find an increase usage for. Post hoc bollocks and I should bloody well hope Briffa knows it, charlatan.

And he claims that the “discredited” (Briffa’s word) Wakefield work should be considered as presenting evidence of an autism-MMR connection that must be disproved is absolutely laughable when we know full well that Wakefield cocked up his assay and when it was done properly (on the same samples) by Chadwick nothing was found.

Yet Briffa would like us to stick scopes up little children, many with learning disabilities, to collect samples just to humour his unfounded speculations. Nice. Presumably a campaign is in the offing to fund a space mission looking for Russell’s teapot?

Comment from James Dyson
Time 2/6/2008 at 4:35 pm

Briffa:

“I never claimed that MMR causes autism, so why would I need to provide the evidence? I mean, why would someone need to provide the evidence for a claim they did not make? That’s silly, isn’t it?”

This is the crux, no….?
Dr Briffa turns this perfectly “reasonable” statement around, and expects Dr Cox to “provide evidence that MMR doesn’t cause autism”, trying to use the “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” gambit. This is quite a dishonest approach to the debate.

How about this to show what I mean….
Dr Briffa, now I am not claiming that Korean Ginseng causes malignant gliomas, but can you prove to me that it doesn’t?

You see, I have been looking at research papers on the safety of ginseng, and they never once mention the word glioma. How can the authors be so sure there is no link if they never did MRI scans on everyone? I have also studied dozens of epidemiological papers on glioma, and none specifically mention ginseng as a factor. Don’t you find it strange how this can be used as evidence they are not linked? I also have seen papers claiming ginseng antibodies are found in cases of glioma, and even though these have all been shown to be false positive lab errors, at least the link sounds vaguely plausible.

So how do you square this “absence of evidence” with the anecdotal report I have of a glioma patient admiting he had ginseng? Can you reassure me that it is completely safe?

Comment from PJ
Time 2/6/2008 at 9:16 pm

Wow – having looked at Briffa’s argument on his blog I am frankly baffled.

Briffa seems to be arguing that (a) MMR causes autism, (b) there is no association between MMR and autism in the study of Honda et al but (c) single measles jabs also cause autism!

“When both MMR and measles vaccination rates are added together (data from another published study), it appears as though total vaccination rates mirror quite closely the rates of autism and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) in Japan…I do feel it’s therefore reasonable to suggest, on face of it at least, that the study was hampered by some serious methodological issues. It seems that choice of data was highly biased, and therefore not trustworthy from a scientific perspective.”

That is not a critique of the Honda et al study, it is an acceptance of the findings and a sleight of hand post hoc revision of the theory. I thought the contemporary rise in autism was supposed to be due to switching from single jabs to MMR?!

Let’s face it, with thiomersal, MMR, and every other vaccine scare story only one thing is held in common by the anti-vaccinationists – vaccines – they’re scared of them and they don’t know why, but any ‘evidence’ or specious argument they can advance that vaccinations are bad is seized upon, however much it contradicts the previous, or subsequent argument they advance.

Comment from Anthony
Time 2/6/2008 at 10:37 pm

Amazingly, Briffa believes he has exposed the scientific flimflam surrounding MMR vaccine in a single weekend using Google.

Comment from Dr Aust
Time 3/6/2008 at 1:48 am

Consider yourself honoured, Anthony, Dr B was badgering Apathy Sketchpad and jdc325 over the weekend, but he seemingly considers you “Bigger Game”.

Comment from PJ
Time 3/6/2008 at 3:46 pm

I’ve had a look at the data presented in Briffa’s critique, and it doesn’t seem to support an association between overall measles vaccination rates and autism incidence.

Comment from colmcq
Time 4/6/2008 at 11:06 am

“Briffa seems to be arguing that (a) MMR causes autism, (b) there is no association between MMR and autism in the study of Honda et al but (c) single measles jabs also cause autism!”

But Briffa says he ‘doesn’t know’. He might sue you for something or other….

Comment from Dr John Crippen
Time 8/6/2008 at 11:06 am

Hi Anthony

I’ve been following this debate between you and John Biffa with increasing incredulity. Do you remember, about 18 months ago, I had referred to a website (I won’t name it) which, once you went beyond the front page, contained appallingly racist propaganda? We had a long discussion about the rights and wrongs of allowing these guys any publicity at all. You broadly favoured ignoring them, I was more inclined to say we should undermine them with rational debate. The point you made then was that most of these guys don’t “do” rational debate.

Now it is happening again with John Briffa. Reading through all the above comments it is clear that he is not prepared to debate the subject rationally. All he is doing is covertly taking refuge behind the old philosophical chestnut that “you can never prove a negative”. And I have even started on false syllogisms.

The debate about gut biochemisty is important but complex, and perhaps a little beyond those with no scientific training. There are many other important research papers that are more easily understood by a wide audience. So, John Briffa, if you are still there, I would put this to you. Let us suppose that there is truth in your implication that MMR may cause ASD. How then do you explain away this paper:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/118/1/e139.pdf

I hope, John, you will have time to read it in full but I will in any case summarise it.

METHODS. We surveyed 27 749 children born from 1987 to 1998 attending 55 schools from the largest Anglophone school board. Children with pervasive developmental disorders were identified by a special needs team. The cumulative exposure by age 2 years to thimerosal was calculated for 1987–1998 birth cohorts. Ethylmercury exposure ranged from medium (100–125 _g) from 1987 to 1991 to high (200–225 _g) from 1992 to 1995 to nil from 1996 onwards when thimerosal was entirely discontinued. Measles-mumps-rubella coverage for each birth cohort was estimated through surveys of vaccination rates. The immunization schedule included a measles-mumps-rubella single dose at 12 months of age up to 1995, and a second measles-mumps-rubella dose at 18 months of age was added on after 1996.

They found no connection between MMR and autism.

They found no connection between mercury and autism.

And this was not a small study of a few children. It was a study 27, 749 children born over an eleven year period.

++++++++++

John Briffa, you are a media-doc, and good luck to you. You can and do write what you please. You make me very cross. An Aunt of mine contracted polio in childhood long before immunisation was available. It destroyed her life. You have a moral responsibility to be accurate and, above all, not to frighten people. As I concluded in the article “Aunty Jenny and Tinker Bell” :

Spare a thought for Tinker Bell. She said that:

‘every time someone says “I don’t believe in fairies” a fairy dies.’

It is the same with immunisations.

‘Every time you provide a platform for someone to say “I don’t believe in immunisations” somewhere a child will die.’

Die unnecessarily from measles, or meningitis, or diphtheria. Or polio. Take your pick. We did not have the medical technology to protect Aunty Jenny from poliomyelitis. We do have the technology now, and we must not allow the media indulged lunatic fringe to throw it away.

(http://nhsblogdoc.blogspot.com/2008/05/aunty-jenny-and-tinker-bell.html)

I think I should take a more detailed look at you on NHS BLOG DOCTOR. Hope that’s OK with you.

John