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Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association

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Press Release Press Release Press Release Press  Release   


15 December 2003





As health professionals and support workers, who have daily contact with patients, we are well aware of the serious consequences of measles, mumps and rubella infections for children and for adults. The vaccination programme in this country is used throughout the world and has rendered these diseases uncommon in the UK and other countries.

We are extremely concerned about the message given by the Channel Five docudrama; Hear the Silence, to be broadcast today. A number of us have seen a preview and are disturbed at the misleading picture it gives viewers. While accurately portraying the concerns of a parent with a disabled child, it presents an entirely unbalanced picture of the work of Dr Andrew Wakefield who, while at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School in the 1990s, carried out research to discover whether there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and inflammatory bowel disease. Dr Wakefield, and a number of colleagues, published a paper in the Lancet in 1998 which stated: "We did not find an association between the MMR vaccine and the syndrome (autism and inflammatory bowel disease) described."

Hear the Silence distorts the truth in, what can only be described as, an irresponsible and reckless way. Throughout the TV programme, the words: "there is a link between MMR and autism" are stated by parents and Wakefield as fact. Other doctors who feature are abrupt, uncaring characters who appear to positively dislike children. As goodies and baddies become polarised, the audience is presented with a piece of fiction that could not be further from the truth. At no point are we told that there was lack of corroboration of he findings by other research groups; there was disquiet felt by many of Dr Wakefield’s team from the very beginning, as his public pronouncements on the safety of the vaccine went far beyond what the research showed; or that at one time, Dr Wakefield believed he had proven a link between the single measles vaccine and adult Crohn’s disease (subsequently disproven by a number of researchers, including himself).

Research has now been conducted into the MMR vaccine in a number of different countries and, although the drama omits to mention this, continues to be carried out; as is good practice with all vaccinations. Using a variety of methods, this research has repeatedly shown there to be no significant link between the vaccine and autism and/or bowel disease and/or regression of development. No evidence has been found for the form of autism described by Wakefield and supporters: ‘new variant’ or ‘regressive-autism with bowel problems’ associated with the MMR vaccine – the form which features in Hear the Silence. Over thirty years worldwide use of the combined MMR vaccine has shown it to be extremely safe and highly effective at preventing these three potentially damaging diseases. It would be a pity if the desire for "good" television took precedence over the welfare of children and set this back.

Our concern is that because this one-sided and misleading film appears to be a documentary, with some key players and places named, it will have undeserved credibility and inevitably increase the anxieties of parents whose children are due to have the MMR. We hope that any adverse effects are minimal and that the film does not persuade any parent to reject the MMR vaccine. We recommend that parents who have questions about the MMR vaccine seek advice from their health visitor or general practitioner.

Alan Craft – President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

David Haslam – Chairman, Royal College of General Practitioners

Mark Jones – Director, Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association

Jane Collins – Chief Executive, Great Ormond Street Hospital

Carol Black – President, Royal College of Physicians

David Elliman – Consultant in community child health, Great Ormond Street Hospital

Helen Bedford – Lecturer, Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health

George Kassianos – Immunisation spokesperson, Royal College of General Practitioners

Mike Fitzpatrick – general practitioner

Brent Taylor – Professor of Community Child Health, University of London

Press contact: Sarah Egan - 020 7344 3136/5



Shaun Noble Communications Officer ( (020) 7939 7043

mobile ( 07768 69 39 40

CPHVA press releases can be seen on the CPHVA website: amicus-cphva.org

The CPHVA - the UK’s third largest nursing union - represents health visitors, school nurses, practice nurses, district nurses and nursery nurses working in the community in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The CPHVA is a professional section of the Amicus trade union