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"Dodgy research pushed by publicity-happy academics. False claims burnished into golden truths by irresponsible newspapers, apparently trying their hardest to manufacture a panic. Finally, the repercussions: bad decisions and, years later, huge worries about the harm posed to the public.
"I'm describing the MMR scandal, the story of how one paper published in a top medical journal prompted a mass scare about a possible link between the triple jab and autism, and led to around one million children being deprived of full vaccinations against measles, mumps and rubella. It's been in the news again this week, following a measles outbreak in Swansea affecting 900 people, and worries that London may be next.
"Yet listening to the radio discussions, a feeling nagged at me. Didn't this saga, with its origins going back more than a decade, sound similar to a more recent episode in a different field – the economics of austerity?"