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Risk expert who predicted MMR crisis says governments still in danger of not getting it right

29 April 2013

Media release

A Cardiff University academic who predicted the current MMR crisis in Swansea a decade ago has warned the UK and Welsh governments to be even more direct about the case for vaccination.

Research carried out by Professor Tom Horlick-Jones, an expert in risk and health at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, a decade ago predicted an epidemic in which children could be harmed or even die.

At the time, he pointed to a crisis in trust in the MMR vaccine. Importantly, he argued that the crisis was not simply about the now-discredited research on links between the jab and autism. The crisis has more complicated roots, including the secretive behaviour of past governments, the lack of folk memories about measles epidemics, and the genuine wish for parents to protect their children.

“It’s not sufficient for governments to simply rubbish the autism research and expect parents and young people ‘to behave sensibly’” he said. “Parents and young people may have genuine reservations about the MMR jab, for whatever reasons. The important thing for governments to do is to respect peoples’ views, but to argue very strongly that the jab will almost certainly be not only a public-spirited act but also a self-interested one.”

Professor Horlick-Jones continued: “It’s great that pre-school child vaccination rates are now up to 95%, but we now need to see teenagers up to 17 coming forward for the jab, and that’s a different sort of challenge.”

“Having the jab needs to be seen as a ‘cool’ sort of thing to have. If you haven’t had it done, then you’re missing the boat, not keeping up with the crowd. We need some teenage role models to come forward and be seen to have the jab. Young people often have strong, idealistic views about how they would like the world to be. Here’s the chance for them to remind their parents of what needs to be done.”



Further information

Catrin Palfrey

Cardiff School of Social Sciences


T: 029 2087 4983


Notes to Editors

The Cardiff School of Social Sciences is established as one of the leading interdisciplinary social science centres in the UK. In the 2008 RAE the School was rated first for research power and within the top five centres on most other indicators.  Its reputation lies in world leading research, but also in the quality of its professional training, postgraduate and undergraduate programmes.