A doctor commissioned as an expert witness for Scotland's Covid-19 Inquiry claimed just four years ago that routine childhood vaccinations "could be contributing to increasing rates of autism".

Dr Ashley Croft will deliver a "scene-setting" presentation to the inquiry at the University of Dundee later this month.

Medics have expressed concern that Dr Croft was still referencing the vaccine-link claim, which has been widely debunked and led to its originator being struck off. 

His report, which focuses on the findings of 22 studies, concludes that vaccines "reduce, or probably reduce" the number of people who get the virus or suffer serious disease.

However, he asserts that it "remains unclear if Covid vaccinations resulted in fewer deaths".

"Dr. Croft, a London-based public health consultant, also concludes that there was insufficient or no evidence to support lockdowns, test and trace and the use of face masks outwith healthcare settings."

Research from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in November 2021 showed more than 27,000 deaths in Scotland had already been saved by Covid vaccinations at that date.

Another study, published in the Lancet, estimates that vaccinations prevented 14·4 million deaths in 185 countries and territories between Dec 8, 2020, and Dec 8, 2021.

Dr. Croft, a London-based public health consultant, also concludes that there was insufficient or no evidence to support lockdowns, the 'test and trace' programme and the use of face masks outwith healthcare settings.

A recent paper, by Dr Croft, published in 2019 - "Rubella Virus Infection, the Congenital Rubella Syndrome and the Link to Autism" - includes claims that rapid increases in autism coincided with the expansion of the vaccination schedule. 

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Two more papers published by Dr Croft and a co-author, Anthony Mawson from Jackson State University in the USA, also include claims about an increased risk of autism in vaccinated children.

Claims of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism were initially promoted by Andrew Wakefield, a doctor who was subsequently found guilty of fraud and serious professional misconduct.

Wakefield was struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council in 2010.

The Herald:

Subsequent scientific studies, including a systematic review of the literature published in 2014, have debunked claims of a link between vaccines and autism.

Dr Croft was appointed by the chair of the Scottish Covid Inquiry, Lord Brailsford and the Scottish Government will not have been consulted.

He acted as an adviser for the UK military for 18 years and currently works in private practice in London's Harley Street and is also involved in medical legal cases.

His CV, also published in an appendix to the report, states that he was an invited expert advisor to UK parliamentary inquiries. 

In the inquiry report, under a  section entitled 'How safe are Covid-19 vaccines' he states that in 2021 there were multiple reports of vaccine-induced thrombycytopaenia and thrombosis with the adenovirus vector vaccines AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson.

He then references a two-year analysis of yellow card reports published in December 2022 by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which documented 2,362 separate reports suggesting a fatal outcome following Covid-19 vaccinations.

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He does not include the MHRA's statement that "the pattern of reporting for all other reports with a fatal outcome does not suggest the vaccines played a role in these deaths."

Dr. Croft also lists other adverse events "commonly reported" including Bell's Palsy and Guillian-Barre Syndrome.

Professor Neil Mabbott, an expert in immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh, said the evidence presented on Covid vaccines and deaths focuses on early trials.

He said: "Since then over 13 billion vaccine doses have been administered globally.

"During their first year of use (between December 2020 and December 2021) it is estimated that they prevented 14.4 million deaths. 

"As has fortunately been the case since their approval, for the vast majority of people the benefits of the vaccines in preventing serious illness, hospitalisation and death due to Covid-19 far outweigh any currently known side effects.  

He added: "Yellow Card data on its own cannot be used to confirm the association of certain side effects or to compare the safety profiles of the types of different Covid-19 vaccines."

He said it was "concerning" that a link between vaccination and autism had been given "credibility" in Dr Croft's publications.

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"The suggested links to autism are not proven and it is disappointing to see that these suggestions are still being proposed," said Prof Mabbott.

"Measles is a highly transmissible disease, and can be very serious.  We have safe and effective vaccines to prevent against infection from this, and many other diseases."

The Herald contacted Dr Croft for his response to the concerns but he did not reply.

A spokesman for the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry said: "The views expressed in Dr Croft’s report, which will be expanded upon, are his own professionally informed opinions. 

"The contents of the report, in the same way as any other evidence received by the Inquiry at this time, do not in any way pre-empt the eventual conclusions and recommendations the Inquiry will make.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government added: "While it is not appropriate to comment on detailed evidence presented to either Inquiry at this stage, it is clear that research from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in November 2021 showed more than 27,000 deaths in Scotland had already been saved by Covid vaccinations at that date.”

Aamer Anwar, Lead Solicitor for Scottish Covid Bereaved, said it was important to acknowledge that evidence would be "challenged and contradicted" throughout the inquiry.

He said: "That is inevitable in any fact-finding investigation.

"It is important to say however that the views of this expert do not represent the concluded views of the Inquiry. 

"The families I represent have fought very hard for a robust inquiry that will leave no stone unturned, that is what they have a right to expect."