Open Eye: Paddy's passion for statistics

All establishment operations must be kept on their toes, an OU lecturer tells Fiona Leslie

Paddy Farrington is a man with two main passions - for figures and for working in the field of infectious diseases.

Most recently Dr Farrington, a lecturer in the Open University's Department of Statistics, has helped prove there is no link between the controversial measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism or Crohn's Disease.

A behind-the-scenes number-cruncher who proves the theories and makes sense of the facts and figures, he is the expert who took all the medical data and calculated that in the hundreds of cases examined there was no link between the vaccine and the diseases.

Dr Farrington's interest in infectious diseases was fired while working at the Public Health Laboratory Service in London, and since then he has analysed the incidence and prevalence of such conditions as diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis, CJD and HIV.

He believes strongly that statistics are a way of solving practical problems at a time when the public is often overwhelmed by conflicting messages.

"I don't think it's good for the medical establishment to tell people what to do all the time without any explanation. There has been a growth in the number of pressure groups both for and against vaccines and I welcome that," he says.

"It's my view that all establishments should be kept on their toes. It is terribly difficult for people who have to make a choice to know which expert to believe.

"This is the biggest study and not only did we find no evidence of a link - but the evidence is also very strong."

Dr Farrington used his own new method of statistical analysis when examining the MMR data. The study was launched following a report two years ago which suggested there was a link between the vaccine and autism. That study was based on 12 cases of autism - the new study looked at 498, the largest research programme undertaken to date.

Dr Farrington says the findings of his analysis are unequivocal: "The statistical evidence is quite clear and quite strong. While you can never prove there is not a link all you can ever say is that we have looked very hard and we haven't found a link."

After the initial report two years ago suggesting a connection there was a dramatic decline - from 90 per cent to 75 per cent - in the number of babies and young children being vaccinated.

Dr Farrington says he believes it would have been disastrous to allow the numbers to fall further:

"If that had continued then almost certainly we would have seen a resurgence in diseases such as measles. In the last epidemic before MMR 17 children died, but because vaccination programmes are so successful people don't see infectious diseases as a problem. The focus shifts away from the disease being the problem to the vaccine," he says.

Dr Farrington enjoys working on vaccine-related statistics because his results can impact directly on people's lives - for the better.

He is currently researching the spread of infectious diseases in the human population and looking at further new methods of statistical analysis. Also simmering away on the back burner is a book he is writing on Statistical Methods and Infectious Diseases.

"It's the book I would like to have had when I started work in this field - a recipe book for statisticians."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

    Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

    Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

    £100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee