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Reporting of MMR evidence in professional publications: 1988–2007
  1. S Hilton1,
  2. K Hunt1,
  3. M Langan1,
  4. V Hamilton2,
  5. M Petticrew3
  1. 1
    MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2
    VRH Information Services, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  3. 3
    London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Shona Hilton, MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK; s.hilton{at}


Objective: To examine how journals and magazines disseminate research evidence and guidance on best practice to health professionals by aligning commentaries on measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) evidence in journals with key events in the MMR controversy.

Design: Content analysis.

Data sources: Comment articles in six commonly read UK publications.

Main outcome measures: Number of comment pieces by publication, year and article type; trends in the focus, tone and inclusion of recommendations on MMR.

Results: 860 articles met the inclusion criteria (BMJ n = 104, Community Practitioner n = 45, Health Visitor n = 24, Practice Nurse n = 61, Nursing Standard n = 61 and Pulse n = 565). Of these 860 comment pieces, 264 made some reference to evidence endorsing the safety of MMR. Around one in 10 were rated as negative (10.9%, n = 29) or neutral (11.3%, n = 30) in relation to MMR safety, and nearly a quarter (22.7%, n = 60) were rated as mixed. Following the publication of Wakefield et al’s 1998 paper there was a period of neutrality. In 2000, despite growing public concerns and widespread media coverage, fewer than 20 comment pieces were published. Less than a quarter of comment pieces (n = 196, 22.7%) included recommendations.

Conclusion: While a period of neutrality may reflect a professional response to uncertainty by holding back until consensus emerges, it may also represent a missed opportunity to promote evidence-based practice.

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  • Funding This study was funded by the MRC’s Population Health Sciences Research Network. SH, KH and ML are funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC). MP is funded by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and VH by the University of Glasgow.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Contributors SH participated in the design, drafted and critically revised the manuscript and analysed and interpreted the data. KH and MP participated in the design and critically revised the manuscript. ML and VH participated in the data collection. All authors approved the final manuscript.

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