A discredited claim that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism and bowel disease could be the reason for the spread of measles in the latest outbreak, a health official says.

The 1998 research paper by former British doctor Andrew Wakefield claimed a link between the vaccine and the appearance of autism and gastrointestinal disease, leading to a decline in MMR vaccination rates across the United States, Britain and Ireland.

Wakefield was struck off in 2010 after an investigative journalist discovered undeclared conflicts of interests, and he was found guilty of dishonesty and misconduct offences relating to the research.

Waikato District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Felicity Dumble said the effect of the discredited research was becoming apparent in Hamilton where 80 per cent of the 114 measles cases were aged between 10 and 20. Only four of the 114 cases were fully immunised.


"This is the generation that would have been due for that vaccination around the time that report came out and we do know that some people have vaccinated their children with every vaccine except MMR," Dr Dumble said. "There was a lot of damage done by that report."

The Ministry of Health targets 95 per cent of children with its immunisation schedule which includes MMR, given in two doses at 15 months and four years.

"At 95 per cent coverage you have got so few people vulnerable to it that it's got no place to take hold and spread," Dr Dumble said.

"And that's what we've seen here with measles in Hamilton, that it got into a community where we had a pocket of a particular age group that have low rates of uptake of the vaccine."

18 Jul, 2014 9:30am
3 minutes to read