I never thought I’d return to the scandal of Mr Andrew Wakefield who was struck off the Medical Register for falsifying results claiming the MMR vaccine causes autism.
His results were proved false, and his paper in The Lancet was withdrawn – but not before many parents had been frightened by his false results.
Last month he reportedly returned to the UK to promote a documentary called Vaxxed which he directed and which features his fraudulent research.
In 2010 the General Medical Council found Mr Wakefield guilty of four counts of dishonesty and 12 involving subjecting vulnerable children to cruelly abusive tests.
This hasn’t stopped him, however, from becoming a leading figure in an American “anti-vax” campaign which is supported by Donald Trump.
Scientists and charities warn this could reignite the fears that resulted in a fall in MMR vaccination rates in the late 90s and afterwards.
David Robert Grimes of the University of Oxford, who has debated against Mr Wakefield, said: “We should never forget that he falsified data and engaged in unethical conflict to buttress a lie.”
It would be dreadful if this vaccine controversy reared its head again, because it jeopardises the health of our children.
Especially as there are rafts of research showing that the MMR vaccine is safe and has no connection whatsoever to autism.
Furthermore the latest research points to the fact that autism begins much earlier in life, many months before babies receive MMR vaccination.
The latest news on autism is grounds for optimism. It turns out the condition is detectable in a baby’s brain long before any symptoms start to show, and long before the MMR is usually given.
Although autism tends to be diagnosed in children around the age of 18 months to two years’ old, the study found the condition, which affects one in every 100 people, can be identified early in a child’s first year.
The results, published in the journal, Nature, could lead to earlier testing and the emergence of therapies that work while the baby’s brain is more plastic.
The study covered 148 children – including some who were at high risk of autism because they had older brothers and sisters with the disorder. They had brain scans at six, 12 and 24 months.
In those children who had autism diagnosed later, early features were found in the most sophisticated parts of the brain – the cerebral cortex responsible for high-level functions such as language.