A possible link between the measles vaccine and autism scared parents in the UK into not getting their children vaccinated. The research that resulted in this theory has since been discredited and now the UK is trying to address the rise of the measles epidemic.
At least one million children didn't get the vaccine over ten years ago and, this year alone, over 1,200 measles cases were reported in the UK. Last year, the number of measles cases reached an all time high of 2,000. These are astronomical figures since at one point only a few dozen cases were reported each year.
Health officials in Wales are doing what they can to control the contagious disease. Emergency vaccination clinics offered vaccines every weekend last month. Other parts of the country started immunization drives; efforts aim to get 1 million children between the ages of 10 to 16 vaccinated as soon as possible.
The cause of the current measles epidemic was traced back 15 years ago to an error in research led by Andrew Wakefield in 1998. The paper was published in the Lancet medical journal and suggested there was a link between autism and the common childhood vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella called MMR.
Most scientists rejected the study and never found a connection between the two. Eventually, the Lancet retracted the paper in 2010. According to the UK General Medical Council, Wakefield and colleagues were dishonest and irresponsible in conducting their research. Among other inappropriate actions, Wakefield was said to have obtained blood for the research from a child at his son's birthday party, paid them 5 pounds for it, and even joked about having done this. "This is the legacy of the Wakefield scare," spokesman for the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, David Elliman said.
In the United States, most states require that children get vaccinated before they begin school, but the UK does not have this rule at the moment. As ABC News reported, Britain's Department of Health said that mandatory vaccinations will not be implemented, but parents are advised to have their children immunized. According to the CDC, measles kills approximately 200,000 people every year worldwide.