By Beezy Marsh
Last updated at 10:00 PM on 09th May 2009
The Government has been accused of using a school exam paper to indoctrinate children about the controversial MMR vaccine.
Teenagers sitting a GCSE (General Certificate Secondary Education) science exam were awarded marks only if they agreed that the study that first raised fears over the safety of MMR was bad science and biased because money changed hands.
The exam paper was set by UK exam board the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA).
It stated that Dr Wakefield claimed to have found a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism and went on to say that his research into children with autism and bowel problems was being funded by lawyers who ‘wanted evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers’.
Marks were awarded for those who said the research was not based on ‘reliable scientific evidence’ and then went on to attack the study sample size either for being too small or for relying on ‘hearsay from parents’ who claimed that their children had suffered damage from MMR.
Answering ‘yes’ to the question ‘Might Dr Wakefield’s research have been biased?’ earned another mark if it was backed up with a comment about him being paid by ‘parents/lawyers’.
Dr Wakefield and a campaign group of parents who believe vaccines have damaged their children last night accused the Government of adopting sinister tactics over MMR.
Speaking from Texas, where he works at a centre for autistic children, Dr Wakefield said: ‘The thought police appear to be saying, “To pass this exam you have to adopt this particular point of view.”
‘We didn’t make any claims that MMR was the cause of anything. The exam question completely misrepresents what we said. The Lancet study received no funding whatsoever.’
Jackie Fletcher, of campaign group JABS, said: ‘This is an insidious way of shaping young people’s opinions.’
Last night AQA apologised for any ‘misunderstanding’ and removed the GCSE January 2008 Science paper from its website, where it had remained active for schools to use as a test paper.
The study in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield led to a crisis of public confidence in immunisation.