The doctor who first claimed that the MMR vaccine could be linked to autism and bowel disease in children has been asked by the Government to hand over his research for independent analysis.
The Department of Health insisted yesterday that the request to Dr Andrew Wakefield from Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, did not represent a U-turn over the controversial injections.
Sir Liam made the suggestion in response to an e-mail sent by Dr Wakefield last week, which claimed further research would soon be published questioning the measles, mumps and rubella jabs.
Concern over the vaccinations has led to a decline in uptake rates and measles outbreaks in parts of the country despite repeated assertions from health officials and ministers that MMR is safe.
At the weekend, a commercial health company started offering single vaccinations costing £80 each at a clinic in Darlington, Co Durham, in the constituency of Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary.
The Department of Health said it had replied to Dr Wakefield's e-mail by sending him a list of questions on his research and requesting that his data and samples be scrutinised by independent scientists.
Officials said they were not asking for Dr Wakefield's assistance or to share his research – a move that would represent a change in direction after claiming that his findings were unproved.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "This is not a U-turn. Professor Donaldson has asked a wide range of questions about the methods used in Dr Wakefield's research which experts have concerns about."
The department added that Dr Wakefield had not yet responded to its request for access to his research and denied suggestions that the national health service was considering offering single-dose jabs.
Sir Liam has asked the doctor to clarify a statement that some of the children featured in his study had received a single-dose measles vaccine.
Dr Wakefield told The Mail on Sunday that he hoped the Government's move represented a "new attitude" to the MMR debate.Reuse content