Christ I need a haircut

March 11th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, MMR | 77 Comments »

Here’s a fun piece I did with Nick Wallis for ITV London on Monday. Bad hair, ridiculous venue changes, and tiggerish over-excitablility aside, I think it’s actually quite good, and the wholesome outro at the end made me want to give Alastair Stewart a great big cuddle.

So there you go. They took out some of the sciencier details, like the “Afzal and D’Souza ignored / Krigsman lauded” story, but that’s a bit more longwinded, so fair enough I guess. If you want to read about the strengths and weaknesses of the Danish study you can find that in the book or in the Cochrane review which concludes that there is no credible evidence for MMR being involved in causing autism.

Psychogeographers will be pleased to discover that the concluding ramble about evidence based medicine is filmed on Broad Street outside a pub called the John Snow, where they still have the cholera pump handle behind the bar.

And nerds will be pleased to discover that epidemiologists hold an annual lecture in this very pub, including a fabulous little ceremony involving the metalwork, and the audio archive is available online. Sweet!

If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

77 Responses

  1. mjrobbins said,

    March 11, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Many, many thanks for putting my blog on the news – that’s made my day 😀

  2. biopunk said,

    March 11, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Sweet indeed! Thanks for the link to the John Snow Society Pumphandle Lectures, I think I know where I’ll be spending the rest of my week. Cheers!

  3. chatsubo said,

    March 11, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    cool – the first EBM media star – just one bit of advice – lose the Tony Blair style hand gestures – he’s ruined those for everyone

  4. blackjackshellac said,

    March 11, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Very good on your report, but the talking heads mealy-mouthed avoidance of controversy was annoying. Typical media bullshit that.

    The good news is that with that haircut all you need is a nice wool scarf and you’d make a very passable Doctor Who.

  5. Monkeyman said,

    March 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Very convincing performance, getting all the important stuff across concisely and in a way that only an idiot wouldn’t understand.
    The only slight worry was Alastair Stewart at the end, stressing that this was Ben’s “personal view”. Another example, maybe, of the media assuming that MMR is a “debate” to which “balance” must be applied and lunatics are entitled to the same publicity as those who’ve considered the evidence. See also creationism vs evolution, etc etc.

  6. latsot said,

    March 11, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    The tank-top steals the show, but it is a really good film. I think the quaintness of the ‘arty’ shots of radios and so on and the hilarious graph part work well.

  7. MissPrism said,

    March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    And a fine pub it is too.

  8. elle said,

    March 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Well, I guess AD had to stress the “personal view” to keep the lawyers away, but he also made it pretty damn clear that he wholeheartedly approved of Ben’s piece (and quite right too).

  9. elle said,

    March 11, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    um, AS (= Alastair Stewart) not AD. For some reason I have Alastair Darling on the brain today …

  10. biggerpills said,

    March 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    No need to put yourself down, you didn’t seem overly excited, just passionate about the subject matter. It must be very easy to sound bitter, patronising, angry or hysterical doing something like this but you managed to avoid all of these and came across as the polar opposite of Jeni Barnett.

    The Brass Eye-style graph and shots of radios were nicely irreverent too.

  11. sully said,

    March 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Ben –

    Since somebody has already mentioned the Tony Blair style hand gestures, I just had to point out – I was at your talk in Glasgow on Saturday, and I couldn’t help noticing that every time you mentioned boobs (which you managed to do impressively often for a talk about science reporting!) you made the classic “boobs” hand gesture.

    The combination of that, the famous tank top and the tiggerish enthusiam made for an engaging and endearing, if a bit scattergun, talk.

  12. peterd102 said,

    March 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    If you cut your hair and had no tank-top, no-one on Tv would ever beleive you, let alone hire you. You owe your entire TV carear to looking kind of nerdy.

    Yeh, next doctor who sounds interesting, im thinking a clever companion myself, or start out as one of those random people who gets caught up yet ends up helping save the day.

    This clip is still a good watch too, well done.

  13. biggerpills said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Maybe Melanie Phillips could be the next Jackie Tyler.

  14. Irregular Shed said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I approve of your hair. If I had hair like yours I would endeavour to maintain it just so; sadly I have lank, straight, boring brown hair.

  15. plentyofants said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Yes he did seem to. And when’s the last time you heard TV news give a journal so viewers can follow up details of the report? Perhaps the personal opinion stuff was more to cover the “and the media do this” bits of it.

    I’ll shall add Ben to my list of fine chaps who care about evidence pictured outside the John Snow.

  16. penglish said,

    March 11, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Aha – the comment box has reappeared (I couldn’t comment earlier).

    Great stuff Ben!

    But please read the bits on mumps at – the mumps cases have more to do with the use of a vaccine (“MR”) that didn’t contain mumps for a cohort of children in the 90s than with poor uptake of MMR more recently. You really shouldn’t use this false argument so often – one day the antvaccers will realise and use it to attack you.

  17. biggerpills said,

    March 11, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    @plentyofants, that page includes the phrase:

    “It’s more complicated than that”

    Hehehe… and it is an excellent pub, never knew it had a society until today!

  18. dreamsinjava said,

    March 11, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Seriously, I love the hair. By now it should be a trademark of your TV appearances. And I love that you’re such a geek that you reference the shooting location of a London Tonight spot. That’s awesomely endearing.

    Anyway, that was a great piece. You came across as the intelligent, fact-loving, eloquent, foppish geek you often appear to be, and allowed the proven evidence to do the talking without making any ad hominem attacks. And after what has transpired, the inclusion of a clip of Jeni Barnett’s batshit insane ill-informed scaremongering is a gift to us all. Kudos!

    It’s always good to see someone so passionate about an issue they are reporting on; keep up the great work…

  19. cebolla said,

    March 11, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Nice concise coverage in only a coupla mins.
    Jolly good show!

  20. benv said,

    March 11, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    nice, but yeah, the hair was a little wild.
    Where can i get a ‘Talk Nerdy to me’ sticker?

  21. Plato-says said,

    March 11, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Superb bravo encore.

    Why don’t you have your own TV series?

    There’s plenty of material out there.

    Ester Ranzen managed one for eons based on ‘and then we called the Gas Board…’

    Surely bad, misleading and dangerous claims have just as much value to people like me?

    Me feels a blog post coming on…

  22. Paul Crowley said,

    March 11, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Wow, really very well done – in particular I want to echo “biggerpills”‘s comment, you do avoid many of the things that would give someone an excuse to ignore what you’re saying. I hope it’s widely watched.

  23. Ian said,

    March 11, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    IS that the same tank-top you were wearing on Saturday in Glasgow? Do you ever take it off? Where can we all the get them?

    See what you mean about Alastair’s outro – big of him to acknowledge their own past failings.

    So why not make your own TV series/1-off hour-long special then?

  24. girth_summit said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Seems as though you could make a tidy profit selling ‘as worn by’ tank tops Ben. Something we’ll see next to the T-Shirts soon?

    (Anyone know where we can get ben wigs though?)

  25. misterroy said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Careless title Ben, using the “C” word will stop some readers.
    If you believe in him its blasphemy. If you don’t its free advertising.

  26. T said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    It’s a cliché but ‘ if you throw enough mud some will stick’ I very much doubt that you will personally be able to turn the tide on the miss informed view of MMR…but at least your trying….once the fear has been put out there its very hard to put back. My sister in laws haven’t had their children immunised, I’ve had mine done obviously and somehow they make me feel like I’m the odd one by doing it.

  27. Chenneth said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Nice Work Sir!!

    I notice they end with “Ouch… and I stress it was the personal view of Dr Goldacre”… mmm really or perhaps the the view of rational science… but then again in my view that China doesn’t exist!

  28. Chenneth said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Sorry I just noticed the mistake above… I blame Harold Faltermeyer and his synth

  29. biggerpills said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    I’d rather listen to a genuine, enthusiastic geek than a slicked-back, sharp-suited Aric Sigman type who’s been media-trained to within an inch of their life.

    I think this is why people are mentioning the tank top so much. And yes, it is another good one.

  30. DrRachie said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks for putting my blog on ITV too Ben! Your hair looks fine! BTW yesterday in Australia we had our first case of death from whooping cough since 2000.

    I’ve blogged about the Australian anti-vac movement here

    Or you can hear the podcast here episode 19.

    We have sent messages to Meryl Dory, the head of the Australian Vaccination Network to congratulate her on a job well done.

  31. Amanda Hill said,

    March 11, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    ((Yep, it wouldn’t kill you to have a trim, Ben))

    I find it amusing the way AS says the debate has gone ‘allll the wayyyy to the House of Commons!’
    as if it has reached SUCH an extreme. Why shouldn’t it have gone straight there? HoC should be dealing with stuff like this as a matter of course, or else what is it there for? I’ve sat and ranted in my MoP’s office before now. Everyone should rant at their MoP now and again. *catches breath*

    Which paper did you slammed down on the table so dismissively? As if we didn’t know. Didyouwashyourhands?

    Dan Martin. :-(
    I thought, for a moment, it was Dan Martin who’s only taking PR pitches via Twitter, because he’s sick to bleeding death of junk-laden piffle scuttering through his Inbox. I think that particular Dan Martin has hit on a good idea.

    (But, yes, a haircut is another good idea).

  32. hrt25g said,

    March 11, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Wonderful Mr Stewart; that was almost an apology on behalf of the Daily Wail et al.

    BTW bad hair man – am loving your exposure all of a sudden. Newsnights and ITV and what have you I am seeing you everywhere when I only just discovered what you look like.

    Dude. Relax the eyebrows; don’t give them an easy ride x

  33. hrt25g said,

    March 11, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    By the way for what its worth, I became a father for the first time before I read the book Counterknowledge (through which I subsequently discovered Bad Science) and I didn’t have the first clue what to do about MMR when the time came.

    Obviously I have access to the internet so that’s where I turned, randomly searching for a reason NOT to give the thing that is most precious to me in the world a jab that would doom him to terrible side effects.

    As it is I found no coherent advice to avoid MMR and lots that suggested it was safe – who knows I may have even read DR BG without realising…anyway I guess the point I am trying to make is that someone with absolutely no idea and who merely scraped the surface of advice seems to have been pointed in the right direction and that has to be a source of optimism in the web of conspiracy theory that is the internet.

  34. pv said,

    March 11, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Might it not have carried even more weight if the Danish study of 500,000 children had been compared to the the now debunked “study” of 12 specially selected children that started off all this ignorant media malarkey?
    Well done too to Alastair Stewart for saying absolutely the right thing at the end – unlike his very silly sidekick. I thought her reference to the piece being Ben’s own “opinion” was stupid and unnecessary. IMO it was pandering to a certain section of their audience, rather than educating them, and demonstrated a streak of anti-science that permeates right through the news media. Is the EDM therefore Ben’s opinion too? Or the fact that St Andy Wakefield’s own colleagues disowned the “study” and more or less pronounced it worthless if not dishonest?

  35. ootini said,

    March 12, 2009 at 12:24 am

    A punch to the belly of mainstream media. Not a knock-out blow but a damn good jab!! Hopefully people will begin to see a more considered and evidential side to important issues; especially when it concerns public health. Good work Ben!!

  36. puffin said,

    March 12, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Good work – well done. Do you know what kind of audience ‘reach’ you got?
    And yes, very impressed that NEJM got a mention at the end. Pats on the back all round..

  37. Pro-reason said,

    March 12, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Great stuff. I didn’t like the excerpt from the phone-in that you played, though. It was supposed to make Barnett sound crazy, but I don’t think it was a particularly wacky bit. A lot of viewers might have asked themselves, “what’s so silly about that?”. You probably should have made more of an effort to poke holes in what she said, or chosen a different excerpt.

  38. E@L said,

    March 12, 2009 at 5:22 am

    My god, we didn’t realize how young you are! Doctors, policemen, politicians: all so young! Male newscasters, not so much.

    I agree with Pro-reason – the excerpt was not damning enough…

  39. kerledan said,

    March 12, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Alastair Stewart: every time I see him I start laughing because he reminds me of Alexei Sayle’s biting parody of the ‘driving badly’ programme Alastair does. Alexei gets the slightly schoolmarmish tone just right, and starts banging on about bad driving on motorways, with ever-worse displays of implausible terrible driving, culminating with: ‘Just look at those idiots!” (cue motorcyclists doing pyramid stunt at speed). I can’t find it on youtube, but if you’ve seen it, you may find it hard to forget……

  40. CDavis said,

    March 12, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Superb! Very well done.

    Incidentally, it strikes me that La Barnett’s medical phobia may be self-limiting, if two statements on her blog are anything to go by:

    “I don’t have diabetes – I have high blood sugar”
    “Feeling a bit buzzy after two bottles of Lucozade.”

    Auy! Hyperglycaemia? Drink a pint of concentrated glucose and call me if you wake up.

  41. thepoisongarden said,

    March 12, 2009 at 8:24 am


    I wonder how much editing would explain the lack of specific debunking of the JB clip.

    Though Ben, rightly, steers away from making these things personal which adds to the weight of his arguments.

    Still, it would be interesting to know how much was recorded versus how much was aired.

    As for TV series, I’m not sure that people who think James Wong deserves a series would recognise the value of what Ben has to offer.

  42. chatsubo said,

    March 12, 2009 at 8:45 am

    I agree with Plato – the EBM version of Watchdog would actually be good old school public service broadcasting.

    Though I imagine these days, you would probably have to co-host with Jodie Marsh or Brian from Big Brother

  43. Margaret Morgan said,

    March 12, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Delighted to see this stouch getting good media.

    (And I think you look pretty damned sexy with your hair that length. But then I am an old hippie.)

  44. vertigo93 said,

    March 12, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Very good piece – think the LBC clip should have been Barnett arguing with the ‘vicious’ (ho hum…) nurse though. That was her at her most ignorant/unreasonable in the whole 45 minute farrago.

  45. gazza said,

    March 12, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Nice piece – I’m not in London but it was good to see this on a regional TV programme and to see one arm of the media trashing another on science/health reporting (I hope not just for rivalry reasons – I suspect that was why AS tried to be a touch cautious with a disclaimer).

    I presume LBC have to go through a regular re-licensing and competition procedure for their broadcasting rights? I wonder if members of the public can put in submissions or opinions on the award of licenses? And whether this MMR phone-in issue might be used as an objection?

  46. gazza said,

    March 12, 2009 at 10:36 am

    And your screen persona is just fine. In fact, it’s hard to take you seriously as a member of the ‘medical establishment’ with that eyebrow flexure and hair-do! You might even pass as a snake-oil salesman should you ever get fed up with honesty and want to earn a packet of money one day.

  47. nel said,

    March 12, 2009 at 11:13 am

    It’s a well known scientific FACT that scientific brilliance is directly related to size of hair (Einstein, Darwin, Egon out of Ghostbusters, the one out of Back to the Future…I could go on) so that can only add to your credibility. Not sure about the history of tank tops in science but loos cute anyway.

  48. nel said,

    March 12, 2009 at 11:14 am

    looks, I mean looks

  49. FairySmall said,

    March 12, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    I totally agree with you. I was at a media training day (for scientists actually) and one of the trainees was told that she was too slick. Enthusiasm and passion (along with some good reasoning) are just so much more convincing – no wonder I have so little faith in politicians.

    That was an amazing outro from Alastair – sincere and humble. I think was quite clear he agreed with Ben, despite the ‘personal opinion’ bit.

    And Ben – keep the hair. I have unmanageable curls too and am proud of them. Don’t let the ‘crazy-haired scientist’ stereotype scare you into a boring haircut.

  50. ChrisS said,

    March 12, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    If you search for MMR on the LBC website at the moment you only get one result:

    Has your child had the MMR?

    Less than half of children in London have had the MMR vaccine and booster by the time they’re 5 years old – and according to latest figures its getting worse!

    New stats from the NHS show only 49 per cent are protected from measles, mumps and rubella – down 3 per cent from last year…

    Nationally – 74 per cent of youngsters have had the triple jab – up 1 per cent from 2007.

    That’s it, nothing on Barnett (and how she may have contributed to the situation “getting worse”) at all…

  51. vertigo93 said,

    March 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    @ Nel:

    “It’s a well known scientific FACT that scientific brilliance is directly related to size of hair (Einstein, Darwin, Egon out of Ghostbusters, the one out of Back to the Future…I could go on)”

    Does Newton count? I’m pretty sure that was a wig.

  52. lasker said,

    March 12, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Great piece.
    Great hair.

  53. Bogusman said,

    March 12, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Just watched the piece. Excellent of course.

    I thought that Al Stewart’s line at the end about personal opinions was aimed at Ben’s view of how the media works rather than at the science of vaccination.

  54. cee said,

    March 12, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    it seemed to me that tiggerishness is the best presenting style: when talking a little more softly and slowly at the start it could come across as a little… patronising? but then as the excitability kicks in it becomes much more charming and the viewer starts to care more.

  55. rasanki said,

    March 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    More cuts than cheap barber. Nice content though. And those eyebrows are a bit…wriggly.

  56. The Biologista said,

    March 12, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    The hair is good branding, as are the eyebrows. Excellent piece overall, though there was a down point. Could the male presenter possibly have bookended you with more caveats and squirmy hand-washing? I can’t imagine how. Spineless.

    Good show Ben.

  57. misterjohn said,

    March 12, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    The tank top reminds me of the old Open University science programme presenters.
    But who am I to criticise, when my wife says I look like an Open University programme presenter, even when not wearing a tank top.
    What’s worse is that I do work for the Open University….

  58. EleanorC said,

    March 12, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    a propos Chris S at post 50 – however, Barnett has a current blog post entitled ‘Intolerance’ which is pretty hilarious.

  59. office_tramp said,

    March 12, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I came home the other day to find a leaflet from Lewisham NHS Trust basically begging people to have their children immunised. I can’t believe this is where we are now. Against all the evidence the myth seems to be winning. By the time I’m in my 40s we’ll be seeing rubella damaged babies again. It’s unbelievably sad.

    On a lighter note I loved the hair and tank top combo. Nerd chic!

  60. Dr Jim said,

    March 12, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    There’s nothing wrong with your hair, or your tank top for that matter!

    I was approached in the street the other day by a gentleman who asked me, “What do you do for a living?”

    Rather bemused, I told him I was a research scientist. “I KNEW IT! Fantastic!”, he exclaimed. I should probably add that I have hair not unlike yours, and rather furry jowls to boot.

    Rather than feeling like I had reinforced one member of the public’s opinion that we are all ‘mad scientists’ (which is a professional stereotype that doesn’t especially serve our best interests), it rather made my day.

  61. emen said,

    March 12, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Good work, Ben!

    Don’t worry about your hair, it’s fine! I also like the “white-shirt-with-turned-up-sleeves” that you seem to like wearing.

    I agree with biggerpills #29, such an excited, passionate presentation is much more plausible (and memorable) than an Aric Sigman.

    And I can see your point about the outro: good! :-)

  62. rogerhyam said,

    March 13, 2009 at 1:53 am

    I like the way it takes two television presenters to introduce you but you can say all those words all by yourself – and whilst walking along. Gosh aren’t scientists clever.

    I am a little worried you are becoming a media package but I guess you wouldn’t get on the telly otherwise and some one has to do it. The new Magnus Pyke?

    Did some one really say ‘Nerd chic!’ – about the tank-top!

  63. caffeineaddict said,

    March 13, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I wonder whether there’s a correlation between thinking the MMR is a pharmaceutical conspiracy and taking daily vitamin supplements. Someone should explore that inconsistency. Plus, statistics should be a required course for journalism students.

  64. T.J. Crowder said,

    March 13, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Great stuff! And surely you didn’t just use “tiggerish” in a negative sense? Tiggerish = Good!

    I’m curious: On Nick Wallis’ blog, he says that you told him that LBC have invited you on Jeni Barnett’s programme to discuss MMR, but (so far) you’ve refused. Why? I mean, it would be a seriously unpleasant thing to do, and that’s certainly reason enough. Time-consuming, too. But on the other hand, it would be a counterpoint in the same timeslot, which is one thing you’ve lobbied LBC to do…

  65. Dr Jim said,

    March 13, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    p.s. saw this and thought of you:

    (p.p.s. In a statement the like of which big pharma would be loathe to make, I have no commercial involvement with the above website)

  66. Psychedelia Smith said,

    March 13, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Bravo Ben, about as succinct a summation of the whole sorry saga as is possible to do. And could have thought Alistair Stewart could be so contrite?! Gawd bless yer, guvnor.

    Having remarked on this before, I think the tank top should definitely become a BG trademark. It’ll aid public recognition.

    Oh, and where can I get a “Talk Nerdy To Me” sticker?!

  67. jeffrey.warren said,

    March 13, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    This Yank was quite mystified about how he could have missed the tank top in the video, since a tank top looks like this in the States. I didn’t know this Briticism before.

    The piece was engaging. You will have really caught some thinking peoples’ ears with your claim that pharma companies have done crooked things, but this isn’t one of them. An uninformed thinking person will accept help from a proclaimed authority who shows such nuance and, thus, who appears to be honest. That gets them started in the right direction in their pursuit of the facts and their interpretation. We need such people in the realist camp.

  68. biggerpills said,

    March 13, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    @emen 61: I’m guessing that the rolled-up sleeves are MRSA chic.

    @ Dr Jim 60: I’m jealous. People are always surprised to learn I have a science degree. Maybe I should go for the Gail Trimble look.

  69. Tony Sidaway said,

    March 16, 2009 at 9:15 am

    It’s great that you got air time to make that personal view.

    It’s still an absolute disgrace that the news reporters are still captioning this as “a personal view” while still spreading ridiculous scare stories with no such caveats.

  70. baratron said,

    March 17, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Your hair and waggly eyebrows are awesome. I love geek boys 😀

  71. chascoppard said,

    March 18, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Extraordinary. I’d always considered Alastair Stewart to be a kind of ambulatory Daily Mail, but it appears he can be contrite when faced with a convincing enough argument couched in nice simple terms.

  72. Runnett said,

    March 23, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Hey Ben,

    A very compelling presentation. I’m impressed with your passionate arguement about media “scaremongers”. This included rolling out the MP to support this.

    I’m more concerned you are becoming the media you personally regulate on health matters. For example, you missed broadcasting information about Merck, who are replacing the single MMR with indiviudal doses. This is monumental decision in attempt to kerb falling sales and to increase vaccinations. It’s important this message gets through to families who need to make the decision about MMR.

    I’ve researched Autism and links with MMR over a period of two years. I agree the Denmark research holds, as you conclude no direct link. Although, there are a number of organisations conducting smaller studies. A good resource for Autism is the Autism research insitute.

    Autism is growing at an alarming rate (perhaps detection is better 1:150)on a global scale. Parents are latching onto hearsay trying to establish what happend to their son or daughter. Most Medical practitioners pursue chronic desease management for Autism, leaving parents to their own devices. This is not acceptable as this leads to what you presented in your report, scaremongering and attempting alternative primary care with little or no knowledge or support. Parents are naturally looking for scapegoats, in this case MMR vaccinations.

    For the record, I have two sons (3yr, 4yr), one with autism and one without. I have researched:

    Autism/ASD as a chronic desease
    Early intervention
    Biomedical intervention
    Aleternative interventions

    I would advise readers to consult their GP and ask the awkward questions. Any GP worth his or her salt will be able to produce information about MMR and safety aspects. Make informed decision.

    My own conclusion,the MMR is an important vaccination and parents need understand the risks of taking or avoiding. I have not been convinced either way about links with Autism. My concentration is working with my son, on his future learning and development.

  73. calvin said,

    April 6, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    The Danish report is a study of around 500,000 children born between 1991 and 1998. Approximately 400,000 were vaccinated and 100,000 were unvaccinated. The MMR vaccine was introduced in Denmark in 1987. The most straightforward way to establish any temporal correlation between MMR and autism would be to compare the incidence of autism in the period preceding the introduction of MMR with the incidence of autism after the introduction of the MMR vaccine. If you read the BMJ report on the Danish study by J H Tanne it states quite clearly that autism had definitively risen by 1995, eight years after the introduction of MMR. Autism is typically diagnosed at around four years and three months, and autistic spectrum disorders at five years and three months. If the rise in autism was connected to MMR vaccination the full impact would not become apparent until a high enough percentage of the vaccinated population had reached an age where diagnosis was possible. It seems to me that he tipping point for statistically relevant impact would occur around 1995, which is, funnily enough, exactly when the rise autism did become apparent.

  74. mark g said,

    April 8, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Calvin : Surely simply comparing the incidence pre and post MMR would ignore environmental causes, increase in diagnosis rates etc as other potential causes for the increase?

  75. rustum said,

    April 21, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Now, who said:

    “There is a great deal of evidence to prove that immunisation of children does more harm than good.”

    Dr. J. Anthony Morris, former chief Vaccine Control Officer, US Food and Drug Administration, FDA

    and who said:

    The only wholly safe vaccine is a vaccine that is never used?”

    Dr. James A. Shannon, National Institute of Health(NIH)

    Look for Dr. Archie Kalokerinos on the web, look for scientists and doctors against vaccine and you will be surprised at what you may find.

    look up John Rappaport and vaccines, and you will be astounded.

  76. ter2000 said,

    April 22, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Hi Ben
    I really like your column in the Guardian and have only recently discovered your blog. I thought you might be interested in this article by Jim Carrey that appears in The Huffington Post –

    You might also find this episode of the podcast “This American Life” interesting –
    (you don’t have to listen to the whole thing – just the first bit).

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