MMR chief has a 10,000 stake in firm which makes vaccine

Daily Mail, sat 15 dec

THE head of an official review which ruled out a link between the MMR jab and autism holds shares worth 10,000 in one of the vaccine’s makers, it emerged last night. Campaigners against the measles, mumps and rubella triple Jab were outraged at the conflict of interest, saying it undermined the review’s findings at a time of growing public concern.

Professor Eve Johnstone, a leading psychiatrist and academic at Edinburgh University, chaired the working party of the Medical Research Council which published the report earlier this week.

It concluded there was no convincing evidence that rising numbers of autism cases were linked to the MMR jab.

An appendix to the report states that Professor Johnstone has shares in GlaxoSmithKline, one of the three suppliers of the vaccine in the UK facing legal action over side effects. It does not give the holding’s value. But Professor Johnstone told an MMR expert group in Scotland three months ago that the shares were worth about 10,000.

Growing concern about the rise in cases of autism In children prompted the review, commissioned by the Department of Health In March.

The report claims the increase may be due to a growing awareness of autism by parents and doctors.

But anti-MMR campaigners dispute this. They claim the three-in-one jab — offered to babies at 15 months with a booster jab for preschool children - is behind the rise. Controversial research has linked MMR to the development of bowel disease and autism, and 2,000 British families are planning to sue the manufacturers over side effects.

Howvever the Department of Health and its medical advisers say studies around the world have failed to find a link between MMR and autism.

It will not allow separate, one-at-a-time doses of the vaccines to be made available again in the UK, claiming children would be unprotected in the gap between each jab. Worried parents, however, have paid for single vaccines to be given to their children privately.

Official figures show just 84.2 per cent of two-year-olds are having MMR — the lowest level since It was Introduced nationwide ten years ago. Jackie Fletcher, of the campaigning group Jabs, which wants the reintroduction of single injections, said the findings of the review were ‘contaminated’.

‘It is outrageous. Such a clear conflict of interest should raise questions about why the Medical Research Council thought it appropriate the professor should continue as chairman,’ she said.

‘GlaxoSmithKline is one of the major players in manufacturing and distributing the vaccine, and is being sued, which makes this a very sensitive conflict of interest.’

David Thrower the parent of a child who became autistic after a MMR vaccination, said: ‘The blatant conifict of interest of many of those who keep stating there is no link between MMR and autism.. .can only further undermine public confidence.’

Bill Welsh of Action Against Autism, a Glasgow-based group, said the MRC report ‘can now be consigned to the dustbin’.

Pressure Is growing on Tony and Cherie Blair to disclose whether they have accepted the Government’s advice and given 18-month-old Leo the MMR jab.

They have refused so far, claiming medical matters are private, although other MPs with young children - Including Public Health Minister Yvette Cooper - have come clean In a Daily Mall survey.

An MRC spokesman said the review was an ‘open process’ and declarations of interest were noted in the report.