Confidence in MMR vaccine grows after research row

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Public confidence in the MMR vaccination has risen after allegations that the research that sparked the scare was undermined by a conflict of interest.

Public confidence in the MMR vaccination has risen after allegations that the research that sparked the scare was undermined by a conflict of interest.

A survey of almost 1,000 parents with children aged six or under found that more than eight out of ten said they thought the MMR jab was safe, up from seven out of ten in a similar survey two years ago.

Overall, 88 per cent of parents polled said they had given or planned to give their child the combined MMR vaccine, and 82 per cent said they thought the MMR jab was safe. Some 78 per cent of parents wanted more government-funded research into the safety of the triple vaccine, and 64 per cent said separate vaccinations should also be available.

The survey was conducted between Tuesday and Thursday this week, soon after The Lancet said the paper that started the scare in 1998 should never have appeared.

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, said last weekend that he would not have published the part of the paper linking MMR with autism if he had known then that Dr Andrew Wakefield, the lead author, was being paid £55,000 by the Legal Aid Board for a study looking for evidence to support legal action by parents who thought their children had been damaged by the vaccine.

The YouGov survey for ITV1's Tonight with Trevor McDonald found that almost two-thirds of respondents did not trust Dr Wakefield's 1998 report. Only 4 per cent said they trusted it "a great deal".

The Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris said the research in the 1998 Lancet study was ethically flawed and demanded an inquiry. The Lancet last week cleared the researchers and the Royal Free Hospital of separate allegations that it had failed to obtain proper ethical approval. But Dr Harris, who is medically qualified, said the researchers changed the protocol of their study without informing the ethics committee, did not have clinical justification for carrying out investigative procedures on the children and failed to reveal the conflict of interest with the legal aid study.

Richard Newton, a former president of the British Paediatric Neurology Association, disagreed with Dr Harris's assessment. "It was naughty not to declare the conflict of interest, but it's a grey area," he said.

¿ Hundreds of parents who claim their children were damaged by the MMR vaccine had their latest bid for funding to fight a test case for compensation turned down by a High Court judge yesterday.

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