After two-and-a-half years of hearings, Wakefield was found by the General Medical Council yesterday to have acted ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly' in doing his research, which suggested a link between MMR vaccinations and autism.
After the publication of his research in the Lancet in 1998, vaccination rates plummeted resulting in a rise in measles. His research was later discredited.
Insignia Communications founder Jonathan Hemus said: ‘The media needs to take greater responsibility when writing stories of this kind. It has a real and direct effect on people's lives. A high standard of care needs to be shown by the media.'
He also added that PR professionals involved in the communication of a story need to be careful. He said: ‘This story shows the ability to create mass panic and cause harm to the health of children. Anyone who puts news out there must be very responsible and needs to understand that what they say has the potential to create mass panic.
Tonic Life Communications CEO Scott Clark said the Government will now need to promote vaccinations more in the wake of the findings. ‘The Government needs to listen to the concerns of parents but proactively communicate the importance of vaccine uptake and the wealth of evidence we have about their benefits. Beyond physicians and experts, the Government needs to harness word-of-mouth and social media as that is where Mums get most of their recommendations and make decisions for the family.'