A 1998 study, that linked the MMR vaccine to autism, has been found to be false.
The investigation published in the British Medical Journal by Brian Deer lays out in detail, how the paper published in 1998 by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield, linking the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism was a deliberate fraud.
According to the investigation, a law firm that hoped to sue the vaccine manufacturers hired Wakefield. The law firm wanted Wakefield to provide scientific evidence that vaccines caused autism. Wakefield received roughly $750,000 for his efforts.
The conclusions in the research paper by Wakefield and colleagues, were renounced by 10 of its 13 authors, and in February of 2010 were retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was originally published. Still, the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.
The analysis found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, that in fact, the children’s medical records show that some clearly had symptoms of developmental problems long before getting their shots, BMJ says. Several had no autism diagnosis at all.
This week, Wakefield continued to defend himself, calling the journalist “a hit man” during an interview with CNN. And some parents of autistic children and other advocates argue that the criticisms of Wakefield are actually attempts to close off research into the safety of vaccines.
“A character assassination initiative against those who look for answers only serves to stunt medical progress for our children and perpetuate unnecessary public health risks,” said Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association, in a prepared statement.
But health officials counter that the science is settled and prolonging the debate is dangerous.
Few studies have had such far-reaching and harmful effects, especially after being so thoroughly discredited, says William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Vaccination rates in England plummeted after Wakefield’s news conference to promote his study. Measles outbreaks in the United Kingdom and Ireland hospitalized hundreds of people and killed four children, says Paul Offit, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Nearly 40% of American parents also have declined or delayed a vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many parents now have a vague distrust of vaccines — with little to no memory of diseases that terrified their grandparents, Schaffner says.
Offit says it may take years to rebuild trust in vaccines. “It’s very hard to un-scare people. You can do study after study, but people are far more compelled by their fears than by their reason.”
For Pediatrician Sue Hubbard’s insight into the autism and vaccine report, check out her Daily Dose post at http://www.kidsdr.com/daily-dose/vaccine-autism-study-a-fraud