The National Autistic Society has said it is “deeply concerning” that discredited claims about a link between vaccination and autism have resurfaced in a film.
Andrew Wakefield, 60, a former doctor known for linking vaccines with autism, reignited the claims after appearing in London for the British premiere of ‘Vaxxed’, a documentary he directed, on 14 February.
“It’s deeply concerning to see this comprehensively disproved claim cropping up again in this film,” Carol Povey, director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism told The Huffington Post UK.
“It’s important to make sure that the film and publicity around it does not divert attention and resources from efforts that could actually improve the lives of autistic people and their families.”
Povey said: “Much research has been dedicated to exploring whether there is a link between autism and vaccines, and the results have repeatedly shown there is none.
“This includes a comprehensive 2014 review of all available studies in this area, using data from more than 1.25 million children.
“Further, the 1998 study linking the MMR vaccine and autism has been completely discredited.”
The General Medical Council ruled in 2010 that Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” when he claimed there was a link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
According to The Times, Wakefield’s supporters have organised further showings of the documentary around the country.
This is raising concerns that his claims could continue to undermine vaccination programmes in the UK.
The percentage of one-year-olds who had completed the recommended immunisation courses fell to 93.6% in 2015-16, which was a drop of 1.1% in three years.
The number of children who had received their first dose of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) decreased to 91.9% in 2015-16, from 92.7% in 2012-13.
In a blog on The Huffington Post, a paediatrician revealed the top seven reasons parents told her they didn’t want to vaccinate their children. One of the reasons was that “vaccines cause autism”.
“I really, really wish that we knew what causes autism,” wrote Dr Claire McCarthy, M.D. “It is heartbreaking to work with the families of autistic children and not be able to give them an explanation.
“But we’ve looked at this, again and again, and we just can’t find any solid evidence to show that vaccines cause autism.”
“Childhood vaccines such as MMR, the Men B vaccine, and the five in one diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine, still defend our children from serious harm. We continue to encourage all parents to get the best protection for their children and make sure they are all fully immunised.”