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Saturday, 20 April, 2002, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Autism awareness march through city
MMR box
The marchers called for research into autism and MMR
Politicians and parents have marched in Scotland to call for greater research into autism.

More than 150 people, at the march through Glasgow's city centre, said that single jabs instead of the combined MMR vaccination should be freely available through the National Health Service.

A spokesman for the organisers, Action Against Autism, said that 10 years ago the condition affected one in 10,OOO children.

The number diagnosed is now one in less than 200, he said.

In response, the Scottish Executive said it was committed to improving the support for people affected by autism, including a review of staff training.

We want to bring to the attention of everyone in Scotland the fact that there's an epidemic of autism

Bill Walsh
Action Against Autism

The event received support from campaigners in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

It is believed the condition affects more than 500,000 people across the UK.

Bill Welsh, chairman of Action Against Autism, said the aim of the rally was to raise awareness of the condition and lobby government for better support through the education, health and social care services.

Mr Welsh also said many parents wanted the health service to provide single vaccinations, due to concerns about the possible link between the MMR jab and autism.

He said: "We want to bring to the attention of everyone in Scotland the fact that there's an epidemic of autism, that a decade ago this condition was known to affect one in 10,000 children, while today the number of children diagnosed as having autistic spectrum disorder is one in 166.

'Twin demand'

"We need more clinical research and better educational facilities for our children.

"We also want a recognition by the Scottish Parliament and by the executive that the vaccination programme may be implicated in this, and that is a view strongly held by many parents."

MSPs Tommy Sheridan and Lloyd Quinan also addressed the rally.

Tommy Sheridan
Tommy Sheridan: "So little research"

Mr Sheridan, the Scottish Socialist party leader, said: "The twin demand of parents is for more research into autism and facilities for treatment of their children.

"They also want to be given choice over single vaccines.

"What angers me is that we spend so much on military research and so little on medical research and the people who pay are the children who suffer from autistic spectrum disorder.

"And there isn't enough joined-up thinking, nor action, in terms of the services available for children suffering from autism."

'Safest option'

Mr Sheridan said he did not know if there is a link to MMR, but more research was required.

"I'm all in favour of vaccination for children but let's do it with choice and safety at the forefront, by making single and triple jabs available to everyone."

Mr Quinan, who is convenor of Holyrood's cross-party group on autism, called for an improvement in the co-ordination between education, health and social services.

An executive spokesman said: "We are committed to more research and to increasing awareness of this condition, as well as improving the services for those with this disorder and their families.

"We have asked local authorities and NHS Scotland to identify local co-ordinators for autism services and to review the training required for the staff of people working with autism."

The executive believed the triple MMR jab was the "safest option" for the health of children, he added.

See also:

14 Mar 02 | Health
Autism causes 'can be traced'
14 Feb 02 | Health
Cash for autism research
05 Mar 01 | Health
Causes of autism probed
26 Jun 01 | Health
Autism 'may have quadrupled'
25 Apr 01 | Health
Possible autism test for newborns
04 Apr 01 | A-B
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