A campaign by the South Wales Evening Post in the late 1990s has been cited as one possible cause for a measles outbreak in Wales.
The BBC’s Today programme's Hywel Griffith reported today: "Health service officials claim that one of the main reasons Swansea is at the centre of the epidemic is because the local Evening Post ran a campaign raising concerns about the MMR vaccine in the late 90s."
A report in the Journal of Epedemiology and Health from 2000 linked the paper's "MMR Parent's fight for facts" campaign, started in the late 1990s, with a drop in MMR vaccinations in the paper's circulation area.
Widespread concerns about MMR were aired across the media after Dr Andrew Wakefield published a now-discredited study in the Lancet 1998 linking MMR to autism.
The latest figures quoted by the BBC show that measles cases have risen by more than 100 in a week, taking the total to 588 across Wales – mostly in Swansea. According to the South Wales Evening Post, one in four teenagers in the area have not had two MMR jabs, and are not fully protected against measles.
The current South Wales Evening Post editor declined to appear on the Today programme, but said the local campaign “pre-dated their entire newsroom” and that he couldn’t comment on the potential effect it had.
Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at Bristol University told Today: “People’s decisions are based on what they hear about, and the media play a role in that.
“While I don’t think we should entirely blame this problem on the media, they have obviously played their part over the last decade or so in this debacle.”
Dr Paul Cosford, director of health protection for Public Health England, added: “We now have a lot of people who are in their teens and early adulthood, who have not been vaccinated because of that scare.
“It’s not too late to be vaccinated. We have the possibility of eradicating measles.”