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Sunday, 3 February, 2002, 16:28 GMT
New research fuels MMR debate
There are fears parents may turn away from the vaccine
The doctor who publicly voiced concerns about the safety of MMR has produced new research to back up his theory that the vaccine is linked to autism.

However, scientists - including the editor of the journal in which the new research is to be published - are adamant that it does not prove the triple jab causes autism and bowel disease in some children.

The latest development comes as a poll finds that 85% of parents believe the NHS should offer a choice between MMR and three individual jabs.

BBC One's Panorama programme gained exclusive access to the latest research by scientists, including Andrew Wakefield, which is due to be published in the Journal of Molecular Pathology in April.

In the research Wakefield and his collaborators report that they have found the measles virus in 83% of gut samples from children with autism and bowels disorders but only in 7% of children without these conditions.

However, Panorama reveals the scientists have not proven any link between the measles virus present in the children's guts and the triple vaccine.

Outbreak fears

This latest development in the MMR furore comes amid growing fears of a measles outbreak in the UK, after several children contracted the virus which has left one toddler dangerously ill.

Andrew Wakefield
Andrew Wakefield: Expressed concerns
Wakefield first publicly claimed MMR may not be safe in 1998, and recommended the use of single vaccines.

Since he voiced these safety concerns the uptake of MMR has fallen dramatically leaving more children unvaccinated against measles, which in extreme cases can prove fatal.

It has taken more than a year for Wakefield's latest research to be published - a year during which successions of studies have denied any link between MMR and autism.

Despite failing to prove the MMR vaccine may harm children, Mr Wakefield is still convinced the triple jab may cause autism or bowel disease in some children.

He told Panorama: "You do not combine three live viruses into one vaccine and assume that it is a benign process.

"These are viruses that are live, they are capable of establishing long term infection and they are capable of producing long-term adverse events."

However the UK Government insists the triple vaccine is safe, and will not offer parents the choice to opt for single vaccines.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Pat Troop says: "If we were to offer single vaccines it would suggest to parents that there was a problem with the vaccine [MMR], we would end up with fewer children vaccinated rather than more.

"There may be some who might come forward for single vaccines but I think many more parents would just turn away from the vaccine and...we would have many more children exposed to serious diseases."

As the MMR controversy continues Downing Street has again refused to confirm reports that Tony Blair's son Leo has been given the MMR vaccine.

Watch MMR: Every Parent's Choice on BBC One on Sunday 3 February at 2215GMT

Have your say on MMR by joining our live interactive debate immediately after the programme.

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See also:

03 Feb 02 | Scotland
Concern as MMR report is delayed
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