After interviewing Alison Singer, co-founder of The Autism Science Foundation on the radio show this weekend, I thought it was imperative to re-iterate that The Lancet, a well respected British medical journal (somewhat like our JAMA), retracted the study done in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that first suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
It is extremely rare for a journal to retract an article, which means that the study will no longer be considered an official part of scientific literature. This is just another step towards dispelling the decade long myth that linked the MMR vaccine to the development of autism.
If you do recall, Dr. Wakefield’s study was even sited by “noted vaccine expert” Jenny McCarthy when she too took it upon herself to personally link her son’s autism to his vaccines. Hopefully, she has read the latest retraction by The Lancet as it seems that Dr. Wakefield falsified data that was used in his study.
Dr. Wakefield and two of his colleagues have also been found by the General Medical Council of the U.K. to have “acted dishonestly and irresponsibly” in conducting their research. It was the longest trial in history for the GMC to conduct and Dr. Wakefield was found to have more than 30 charges against him.
Unfortunately, Dr. Wakefield continues to “practice” in an autism clinic outside of Austin, Texas. How he can legally do that that really escapes me! Why is the medical board in the United States allowing that?
This story has been developing since 2004 when 10 of the 13 co-authors of Dr. Wakefield’s paper disavowed the study after a journalist reported that Dr. Wakefield had several conflict of interests as well as had used unethical methods in obtaining data, both of which made the study invalid.
Despite that, parental fears as well as sensationalized media reports (back to Jenny McCarthy), caused enough public hysteria to cause parents to “opt out” of the MMR vaccine.
Due to decreased immunization rates in UK and other European countries, measles cases have risen to record numbers and there has even been a death in an unvaccinated child secondary to a measles infection.
In the first 6 months of 2008, measles cases were reported in the U.S. having been “imported” by un-immunized children who unknowingly acquired measles while vacationing in Europe, and subsequently infected other un-immunized children. Fortunately, that “mini-epidemic” did not continue to spread as had been feared, but never the less there were over 130 cases of measles in the U.S. that year, higher than reported for decades.
Measles outbreaks continue to be problematic in other countries as well, and should be on the radar screen for anyone who is traveling outside of the United States.
The scientific evidence dispelling the link between vaccines and autism is compelling. The scientific community has never been able to replicate Dr. Wakefield’s results (now known to be falsified) and millions of research dollars have been spent to “undo” the damage and anti-vaccine sentiment which started with the Wakefield article.
We now need to re-focus the research dollars on finding the causes of autism. Scientists have made recent breakthroughs on the genetic link to autism and will continue to try to understand how genes may be involved in development of autism.
These are vital areas for funding research, rather than continued pre-occupation by some to discredit the science behind life saving vaccines.
Bottom line, get your child vaccinated, read good science and pray that more vaccines are developed to prevent disease. It is a matter of life and death.
That’s your daily dose. We’ll chat again tomorrow!