Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Childhood Diseases Week Unfounded Fears
13 February 2014

Unfounded Fears

Ever since Edward Jenner (pictured) deliberately infected a patient with a virus to protect them from smallpox, vaccines have played a major role in the medicinal toolkit. By sensitising our bodies to a weak form of a disease, they allow our immune systems to better respond to a future attack. However effective this may be, vaccines have a history of being distrusted. A backlash in the UK against the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot shows how these fears can set back progress. In 1998, a research paper that fraudulently linked MMR to autism led to a sharp drop in parents taking their children to be vaccinated. The 18-year high of measles outbreaks last year is testament to the damage caused. However, thanks to a large body of evidence, including one recent study showing that MMR doesn't cause cognitive damage, the UK’s vaccination rates are now higher than ever.

Written by Jan Piotrowski

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