select search filters
roundups & rapid reactions
factsheets & briefing notes
before the headlines
Fiona fox's blog

MMR timeline

You can download this Factsheet as a PDF.



1988 – MMR introduced in UK, for the first time boys are immunised against rubella, there is a chance of getting wider measles vaccine coverage and mumps vaccination is included for the first time.


1993 onwards – Andrew Wakefield proposes measles jab causes Crohn’s disease, this is later disproved.


1995 – Uptake rate of vaccine is 95% enough for herd immunity for mumps, measles and rubella.


1998 – Andrew Wakefield suggests MMR and autism link at press briefing to launch research published in the Lancet


1998 – 14 year study suggests no problems with MMR vaccine published in Lancet.


1999 – Research published in the Lancet from the Royal Free, where Wakefield did his research, finds no evidence for MMR and autism link.


2000 – Andrew Wakefield and John O’Leary present evidence to US congress suggesting link between MMR and autism.


2000 – Another large scale study suggests benefits of MMR vastly outweigh risks.


2001 BMJ study using GP Research Database suggests no link between MMR and autism.


2001 – Andrew Wakefield resigns from the Royal Free and University College Medical School


2002 – John O’Leary and colleagues suggest measles are present in guts of patients with austim in a paper in the Journal of Clinical Pathology: Molecular pathology. Scientists question methods and later a US legal case says methods unreliable.


2002-2004 – A large number of scientific studies find no link between MMR and autism including research published in British Medical Journal, New England Journal of Medicine, Pediatrics and Lancet


2004 – 10 co-authors on the 1998 Wakefield Lancet paper issue a retraction and editor of the Lancet says, with hindsight, they shouldn’t have published the paper.


2004-2005 – Uptake of MMR vaccine falls to 81%.


2005 – Large scale Japanese study shows MMR not linked to autism; Japan withdrew MMR and cases of autism continue to increase.


2005-2006 Uptake of MMR vaccine at 84%.


April 2006  – 13 year old boy becomes the first person in the UK to die from measles in 14 years.


June 2006  – It is announced that Andrew Wakefield is to face the General Medical Council over charges of professional misconduct.


2007 – Uptake of MMR vaccine increased to 85%. Department of Health would like the vaccine uptake to rise to 95% – a level that would give herd immunity.


July 2007 – GMC starts hearings against Wakefield and two of his colleagues.


January 2010 – GMC issues preliminary verdicts and finds Wakefield to have been ‘irresponsible’ in conducting unnecessary and invasive tests on children. The Lancet retracts Wakefield’s original paper a couple of days later.


May 2010 – Wakefield is found guilty of serious professional misconduct and is struck off the medical register.


sources/further information


This is a Factsheet issued by the Science Media Centre to provide background information on science topics relevant to breaking news stories. This is not intended as the ‘last word’ on a subject, but rather a summary of the basics and a pointer towards sources of more detailed information. These can be read as supplements to our Roundups and/or briefings.

in this section

filter Factsheets by year

search by tag