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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.
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.