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Talk Back: Vaccines, autism, Wakefield ... why is this still an issue?

January 07, 2011|Tami Dennis / Tribune Health

Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who launched -- in firebomb fashion -- the allegation that childhood vaccines increase the risk of autism was excoriated again this week, and by now the story is in the details.

The new reports published in the British Medical Journal explain not only the liberties taken with the research, but also just how extreme those liberties were. Original Booster Shots post: Wakefield's paper linking MMR vaccine and autism a fraud on the scale of Piltdown man, BMJ editorial says.

The impact of such liberties -- a charitable word, considering the extent of the data manipulation -- can't be denied.

As an infectious disease specialist says in this story from WGN in Chicago:

"The major hysteria that this created is, it caused a real drop in vaccination rates for the MMR vaccine. And this has resulted, especially in Europe, in outbreaks in measles, in mumps. It's a major disservice to all the children who did not get vaccinated, and a lot of it has been perpetuated since that time by the anti-vaccine movement."

True, some believers have since altered their views and moved on to other questions -- as described in this story from WXIN in Indianoplis. 

But not all. Certainly not all.

This parent, quoted in the Hartford Courant's Give 'em Health blog, sums up the refusal to abandon the belief that vaccines are linked to autism:

"There are so many children that are affected, I don't think you can limit your information to this one [study] because someone didn't do the right thing," she said. "It doesn't make me all of a sudden say 'I'm going to have my child vaccinated.' "

Such adherence to a connection that seems so undoubtedly nonexistent baffles some people.

From the blog Science-based Medicine : "What I can’t figure out – I mean, really, really can’t figure out – is why the anti-vaccine movement continues to cling to Wakefield’s tattered 'science' and lionize this fraud as a hero. "

That's a good question.


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