Autism and MMR vaccine controversy

A timeline of major events in the controversy around autism and the MMR vaccine.

January 2010

Britain's General Medical Council ruled that Dr. Andrew Wakefield acted unethically in doing his research. ((Luke MacGregor/Reuters))
The General Medical Council in Great Britain censures Dr. Andrew Wakefield and other doctors who conducted research in the late 1990s claiming links between a common children's vaccine for combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and autism. 

Wakefield said the allegations against him and his colleagues were unfounded and unjust.

His study in 1998, published in The Lancet journal of medicine, had linked the MMR vaccine with a subgroup of autistic children who also had serious gastrointestinal problems.

That study reported that the measles virus was lingering in the children's bowels.

February 2009

A special U.S. court rules that measles vaccine is not to blame  for cases of autism. More than 5,500 claims had been filed.

September 2008

New research further debunks any link between measles vaccine and autism. Years of research with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) have concluded that it doesn't cause autism.

U.S. researchers retest by taking samples of children’s intestines and conclude there is no evidence that MMR plays any role in autism. 

August 2008

Measles cases in the U.S. are at the highest level in more than a decade, with nearly half of those involving children  whose parents rejected vaccination.

Doctors worry that the trend is fuelled by unfounded fears that vaccines may cause autism. 

Pediatricians are frustrated, saying they are spending more time convincing parents the shot is safe.

July 2007

British doctors, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, Dr. John Walker-Smith and Dr. Simon Murch, whose research into the alleged link between a children's vaccine and autism, face hearings into charges of professional misconduct in connection with their research.

The hearings, expected to last 15 weeks, could result in them losing their medical licences.

May 2004

The Institute of Medicine in Washington reviews five large studies that had tracked  thousands of children since 2001 and concludes there is no association between autism and the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine.

November 2002

A landmark Danish study of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine concludes there's no link between it and autism.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.