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Home > Culture and Society

MMR: Tin foil hat time

17 September 2004

A study recently found that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) jab has no link with autism, the disability that limits people's ability to communicate and interact with others. Unfortunately there is also no evidence that autism turns you into a Rain Man-style card sharp, which is probably just as well, or some parents would be taking their kids for 20 MMR jabs, not just the one.

The whole MMR scare itself was based on a study by Dr Andrew Wakefield whose methodology was widely criticised by other doctors and scientists. That, of course, did not stop relentless media hysteria tapping into a general public distrust of both the government and 'scientists', who, as we know, are a homogenous bloc of arrogant, conspiratorial individuals who like nothing better than playing God. Ever seen First Born with Charles Dance? They're EXACTLY like that.

Even after the MMR scare has been shown to be unfounded, the mistrust continues. One contributor to BBC Talking Points writes:

'Just because no evidence supports a link between the MMR vaccine and autism does not mean a link does not exist.'

You may have heard this argument before - it's the sort of thing UFO buffs come out with. You can't prove that UFOs don't exist, and similarly the whole issue here is that if there IS a link between MMR and autism then it has to be demonstrated with reasonable levels of proof. To date, it hasn't.

But people just won't let it go. Another BBC contributor writes:

'Yet another government cover up. I have a friend with a little boy who was perfectly OK until having MMR. Two weeks later it was like someone had taken him away and left a different child. He is severely autistic and is still unable to speak. My children never had it and I am paying for my grandchildren to have single injections as well.'

This is sad, but the most likely reason why MMR jabs have been blamed for autism is because they are given to children at about the same age as the first signs of autism appear. However, it'll be even sadder if children start dying or being left permanently affected by outbreaks of the diseases MMR innoculates against.

Perhaps what's most surprising about MMR is not that the public mistrusts the government and 'scientists', or that the media manufactures health scares, but the sheer bloodymindedness of the British public.

If anything, the MMR/autism link is a form of conspiracy theory: that scientists and the government just aren't getting off their arses and proving that MMR causes autism, for whatever devious reasons they have. This is like saying that noone is prepared to investigate BSE, or mobile phone emissions, or the cancer risk from high-voltage cables. Or for that matter, UFOs.

In any case, if we are surrounded by all these conspiracies, surely the ones we should be getting worried about are the ones that have been successfully covered up - and which we therefore don't know about? It's paranoia taken to its logical conclusion: someone's plotting against you, but they're so cunning you don't even know who they are or how they plan to harm you.

Next week: Is your postman really a postman?

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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