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US faces worst measles outbreak in nearly three decades

The disgraced British former doctor behind the anti-vaccine movement has defended his recent communications with the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in the US.

Andrew Garfield published now widely discredited and condemned research suggesting a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

In 2010 his licence to practice was revoked and he was struck off the medical register in the UK after being found guilty of dishonesty, the "abuse" of developmentally delayed children by giving them unnecessary and invasive medical procedures, and acting without ethical approval of his research.

However despite the widespread criticism he received in Britain, the 62-year-old has emerged as a prominent voice in the anti-vaccine movement in America.

His rise and return to the headlines comes as the US faces the worst measles outbreak in nearly three decades.

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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York have been at the epicentre of the epidemic.

Mr Wakefield, who remains a vocal critic of the MMR vaccine, recently appeared via Skype at a "vaccine symposium" in Rockland County which drew hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Image: Andrew Wakefield told Sky News that vaccine safety studies should be carried out

But his licence to practice was revoked and he was struck off the medical register in 2010 by the UK's General Medical Council.

He had been found guilty of dishonesty, the "abuse" of developmentally delayed children by giving them unnecessary and invasive medical procedures, and acting without ethical approval of his research.

But despite the widespread criticism he received in the UK, the 62-year-old has emerged as a prominent voice in the anti-vaccine movement in America.

His rise and return to the headlines comes as the US faces the worst measles outbreak in nearly three decades.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York have been at the epicentre of the epidemic.

Mr Wakefield, who remains a vocal critic of the MMR vaccine, recently appeared via Skype at a "vaccine symposium" in Rockland County which drew hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Rockland County in New York has declared a state of emergency
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Health officials accused him and others of spreading propaganda and putting peoples' health at risk.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Wakefield told me the community had a right to hear from a range of different voices.

"I was asked to speak to the civic community about the particular problems that they face and my genuine scientific concerns about the safety of this vaccine," he said.

"The severity of measles doesn't obviate the need to do vaccine safety studies and produce an adequately safe and effective vaccine and that does not exist….

"So the Hasidic community need information. They're getting plenty of information from the public health authorities.

"What they needed to do was to balance that with the information from those who have studied this and I've studied measles virus since 1990 and have a great deal of understanding of what's going on."

This week, federal health officials said 880 people have contracted the disease so far this year.

They say the virus has spread among school-age children whose parents declined to give them the vaccine.

Health officials have been running a sweeping and exhaustive campaign in Rockland County and Brooklyn, urging people to get vaccinated and threatening to impose fines on those who opt out.

Experts say that in Brooklyn, where the ultra-Orthodox community eat, pray and shop together and live in close quarters, people are especially vulnerable.

The vast majority of people do vaccinate, but the highly contagious nature of the disease means it can have a disproportionate impact.

Andrew Wakefield had his medical licence revoked in 2010
Image: Andrew Wakefield had his medical licence revoked in 2010

Mr Wakefield claims the problem lies with the vaccine not the failure of people to take it though.

"It's not failure to vaccinate. It's failure of the vaccine. And they've run into major problems about which they know. No they do not know what to do," he said.

However, subsequent studies in the last nine years have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

One conducted by the Statens Serum Institut, the University of Copenhagen and Stanford University School of Medicine followed up to 650,000 Danish children until they were on average eight years old.

Researchers found 1% of them developed autism.

Most of the childrenRead More – Source

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