Study Linking Childhood Vaccines with Autism a "Fraud"

By now, we’ve all heard The Associated Press report that the 1998 study conducted by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, from which he concluded from his study of 12 children that a link existed between the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine and autism, has now been renounced and regarded as “a fraud” by Britain’s preeminent medical journal. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) condemned Wakefield’s work, claiming that he intentionally altered data to produce false results. The original publisher of Wakefield’s study, The Lancet, retracted the article last year, following which the British General Medical Council stripped Wakefield of his license to practice medicine.

As we previously reported here, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments recently in a case that likely will have significant implications for hundreds of pending lawsuits against vaccine makers, the vast majority of which allege a causal link between childhood vaccines and autism. The BMJ’s recent denunciation of Wakefield’s study certainly should play a significant role, too, in the disposition of these pending suits. According to a recent report in The Chronicle Herald, past investigations into Wakefield’s study revealed that his study received funding from lawyers who were suing vaccine manufacturers and that Wakefield, who had developed an alternative to the MMR shot, stood to gain financially if the leading vaccine was dropped from use.

Unfortunately, Wakefield’s bogus study has already caused some significant damage. In spite of the fact that numerous, more expansive studies found no causative link between childhood vaccines and autism, hundreds of thousands of parents–mostly in the U.K. and U.S.–have forgone vaccinations for their children. Not surprisingly, this has led to significant outbreaks of various preventable diseases, most notably those of measles and whooping cough. In 2010, California broke a 55-year-old record for the number of reported cases of whooping cough. We here in South Carolina also have seen a significant rise in the number of cases of whooping cough in recent months.

Although the recent exposure of Wakefield’s fraud brings good news to the scientific community, it seems as though the damage has been done. Though fraudulent, Wakefield’s study certainly was successful in raising long-lasting skepticism over vaccines.

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