The exposure of Andrew Wakefield’s study as not only flawed but based on fake data has led to renewed confidence in the MMR vaccine.
Rising incidence of measles has also helped to boost uptake of the vaccine, which is now protecting 91.6% of children under the age of two – an increase of 2.1% from 2011.
However, this still falls below the WHO target of 95%, which experts consider sufficient to prevent outbreaks of measles.
The incidence of measles in England and Wales in the first half of this year (964 cases) was nearly twice that in the first half of 2011 (497 cases), with significant outbreaks in Merseyside and Sussex.
The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine protects against the three viral infections. It is thought to give 99% protection against measles.
Wakefield’s 1998 article claimed to prove a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. It took 12 years for flaws in his research to be uncovered, and a further year before it was exposed as fraudulent.
“Today’s report marks a significant point in the continued rise of MMR coverage since it hit a low in 2003–04,” said Tim Straughan, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Information Centre. “For the first time in 14 years, nine out of 10 children in England have had the MMR vaccine before they turn two.”
Dr Helen Bedford of UCL Institute of Child Health commented: “It is good news that parents have regained their confidence in this highly effective vaccine. However, some teenagers and children have never caught up with missed vaccines and remain at risk of these potentially harmful infections.”