Friday, January 7, 2011

Vaccine Autism Research Fraud

For over a decade, controversy has raged about whether or not vaccinating children causes them to develop autism. British doctor Andrew Wakefield published a study in 1998 that claimed there was a solid link between the MMR Vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) and autism in children. The study induced panic among parents world wide who refused to have their children vaccinated.

Measles Virus. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Since Wakefield's original study 12 years ago, 14 independent studies have found absolutely no link between the vaccine and autism. Yet, to this day parents still refuse to have their children vaccinated. This has led to a surge in the numbers of measles, mumps, and rubella cases.

Last year the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Lancet, issued a full retraction of Wakefield's study and he was stripped of his medical license in England. Now, the BMJ has published the results of an investigation into Wakefield, calling him a fraud. The investigation led the BMJ to conclude that Wakefield was not only unethical in his research, he also fabricated data.

Essentially, the guy made stuff up, he scared parents and confused them about what was the best course of action to care for their children, and ultimately numerous children became seriously ill with preventable diseases. This is infuriating. It makes me mad that even with all the precautions and restrictions we impose (peer review, for one) bullshit research still manages to get published in a reputable journal causing people to panic.

This case is pretty notable for the way that the belief of a link between vaccines and autism has persisted, even though the medical community considers the theory completely debunked. I hope that the media will step up and disseminate the (relatively) new idea that there is no link to help combat the misinformation that has already become so widespread.

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