U.K. website ordered to remove unsubstantiated claims about vaccines and autism

Babyjabs.co.uk to remove MMR autism claim.

A website offering parents advice on childhood immunisation has been ordered to remove information about the MMR vaccine after renewing claims that it could be linked to autism.

Babyjabs.co.uk said the vaccine “could be causing autism in up to 10% of autistic children in the UK”.

A further claim said the vaccine-strain measles virus has been found in the gut and brain of some autistic children, which supports many parents’ belief that the MMR vaccine caused autism in their children.

Defending the claims, Babyjabs referred to one study in particular from 2002, which it considered to be one of the strongest pieces of evidence that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism but which it claimed includes the lead author’s conclusion: “We cannot rule out the existence of a susceptible subgroup with an increased risk of autism if vaccinated.”

Tip: @senseaboutsci via Twitter

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) does give Babyjabs credit for acknowledging that the original claims made by Andrew Wakefield was rejected by the government but the ASA are afraid that the other claims might make parents think there is scientific evidence for the vaccine causing autism. The damage has been done. Vaccination rates have plummeted.

The claims made by the site cannot appear in their current form. It’s not clear what might happen if any ASA order is ignored. It’s likely the claims will be removed but the intent is still clear, many people still maintain there is a link between autism and vaccines and will, in other ways, continue to spread this wrongheaded and dangerous message.