LONDON, ENGLAND. Dr. Andrew Wakefield and colleagues from the Royal Free
Hospital and School of Medicine report that the measles, mumps, and rubella
(MMR) vaccine may be associated with an increased risk of developing
inflammation of the colon as well as autism and other developmental disorders.
Their "early report" in The Lancet describes the cases of 12 children
aged between three and ten years who had been referred to the hospital with
gastrointestinal symptoms and developmental problems. The children had all had
a normal childhood but suddenly lost acquired skills such as language and
communication and also developed abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea, and in
some cases food intolerance. Nine of the children became autistic and 11 of
them were found to have a chronic inflammation of the colon. The onset of the
symptoms was associated by the parents or the children's doctors with
immunization with the MMR vaccine. Dr. Wakefield's team has later assessed
another 40 children, 39 of which were found to have the same disease symptoms.
At present an additional 700 children are awaiting assessment. Dr. Wakefield
believes that there could be a link between the MMR vaccine and the outbreak of
gastrointestinal disease and developmental disorders. He does not advocate
stopping vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella, but suggests that
until further data is available it may be advisable to give the vaccine in three
separate shots so as to reduce the load on the immune system. Reaction to Dr.
Wakefield's report has been swift and predictable. The public health
authorities in both the United Kingdom and the United States maintain that the
MMR vaccine is perfectly safe and caution parents against preventing their
children from being immunized. They point out that hundreds of thousands of
children receive the MMR vaccine every year and that a World Health Organization
study has found no link between MMR vaccine and inflammatory bowel disease. Not
surprisingly, they are also not keen on reverting to giving vaccines one by one
as this would markedly increase the cost of the immunization program.
Copyright 2005 by Hans R. Larsen
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