Further details

The first, in the Lancet tables, concerned the first child in the paper: Child One, from Cottesmore, Leicestershire. He was 3½ years old and the son of an air force pilot. In November 1995, his parents had been devastated after receiving a diagnosis of autism.

“Mr and Mrs [One]’s most recent concern is that the MMR vaccination given to their son may be responsible,” their GP told the hospital in a letter. In the paper this claim would be adopted, with Wakefield and his team reporting that Child One’s parents said “behavioural symptoms” started “one week” after he received the MMR.

The boy’s medical records reveal a subtly different story, one familiar to mothers and fathers of autistic children. At the age of 9½ months, 10 weeks before his jab, his mother had become worried that he did not hear properly: the classic first symptom presented by sufferers of autism.
Child One was among the eight reported with the apparent sudden onset of the condition. So was the next child to be admitted.

This was Child Two, an eight-year-old boy from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, diagnosed with regressive autism, which, according to the Lancet paper, started “two weeks” after his jab.
However, this child’s medical records, backed by numerous specialist assessments, said his problems began three to five months later.

The difference between 14 days and a few months is significant, according to experts. Autism usually reveals itself in the second year of life, when the vaccine is routinely given. If there was no sudden onset after the MMR injection, as claimed for the “syndrome”, the condition could be ascribed to a conventional pattern.

More apparent anomalies lurked among the following 10 children, as they arrived at the Royal Free hospital between September 1996 and February 1997. Only one was a girl, Child Eight, aged 3, from Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear. She was reported in the journal as having suffered a brain injury “two weeks” after MMR. Her medical records did not support this. Before she was admitted, she had been seen by local specialists, and her GP told the Royal Free of “significant concerns about her development some months before she had her MMR”.

Child Six, aged 5, and Child Seven, aged 3, were said to have been diagnosed with regressive autism, with an onset of symptoms “one week” and “24 hours” after the jab respectively.
But medical records show that neither boy was “previously normal”, as the Lancet article described all the children, and that both had already been hospitalised with brain problems before their MMR.
Child Six received his vaccine at the age of 14 months, but had twice previously been admitted with fits.

Child Seven was given his at the age of 20 months but, again, problems already showed.
“He developed well, had social smiling and was responsive to his mother,” a psychia-trist wrote. “But he began to have pale episodes and ? [sic] petit mal [convulsions], and had an EEG [an electroencephalogram, a common test for epilepsy] done at 15 months, which was abnormal.”
Meanwhile, neither was diagnosed with regressive autism, or even nonregressive classical autism.

Three of the children had been diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder, in which language is not lost, and which is not regressive: nothing like what afflicted One and Two. This was also the diagnosis for Child Twelve in the series, a six-year-old boy from Burgess Hill, West Sussex.

And Seven would be diagnosed with an odd behavioural condition called “pathological demand avoidance syndrome”. This usually manifests as social manipulativeness, and is nothing like the “syndrome” being claimed. It is sometimes marked by a child putting his hands on his ears, while singing “lah-lah-lah, can’t hear you”.