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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 August 2007, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Jab expert says MMR 'was working'
MMR vaccine
Confidence in MMR vaccine fell in the late 1990s
A government immunisation expert has described how effective the campaign to eliminate measles, mumps and rubella was proving before the MMR controversy.

David Salisbury, the government's director of immunisation, was giving evidence in a General Medical Council hearing against Dr Andrew Wakefield.

The charges relate to his research in 1998 linking the jab with autism.

Dr Wakefield alongside Professors Simon Murch and John Walker-Smith all deny charges of professional misconduct.

Public confidence in the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine slumped after 1998 when the Lancet medical journal published the research into 12 youngsters.

We saw the results very quickly. We saw, gratifyingly, that coverage rose
Professor David Salisbury

Professor Salisbury clashed with Dr Wakefield at the height of the MMR controversy when he said parents who refused to give their children the jab were exposing them to unnecessary risk.

He told the GMC hearing, which started last month, how he backed the introduction of MMR as early as 1986, at a time when Britain's measles vaccination programme was lagging behind even Third World countries.

"We had measles epidemics every other year and other industrialised countries were doing very much better.

"There were roughly 20 deaths a year, averaged across the years. There were developing countries that were doing better."

The government approved the decision to switch to MMR in 1986 and the results were encouraging, said Professor Salisbury.

"We saw the results very quickly. We saw, gratifyingly, that coverage rose.

"The introduction of a common vaccine was getting very positive immunisation. Coverage rose by the order of 10% over a very short time."

But uptake of the vaccine plummeted after the research was published.


At the time, all three doctors were employed at the Royal Free Hospital's medical school in London.

The GMC has heard that Dr Wakefield's role was as a research doctor and he had no right to investigate the children, who did not undergo proper neurological or psychiatric assessments beforehand.

It is also alleged the three doctors did not comply with rules from the hospital's ethics committee on how the research should be carried out.

Another key claim is that Dr Wakefield accepted 50,000 from the Legal Aid Board for research to support parents who claimed their children had been affected by MMR in their attempts for compensation.

The hearing continues.

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