More ammunition emerges to counter parents' vaccine concerns

January 7, 2011

Even more information has emerged about the 1998 Andrew Wakefield measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) study that is important for you to communicate to parents, especially those who are concerned about their perceived risk of autism. Here are highlights of the latest reports in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) discrediting Wakefield,s work (originally published in the Lancet), which make the case that Wakefield purposely set out to skew data and present fraudulent information to support an association between vaccination and the onset of developmental and behavioral problems in British children.

 

Even more information has emerged about the 1998 Andrew Wakefield measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) study that is important for you to communicate to parents, especially those who are concerned about their perceived risk of autism. Here are highlights of the latest reports in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) discrediting Wakefield’s work (originally published in the Lancet), which make the case that Wakefield purposely set out to skew data and present fraudulent information to support an association between vaccination and the onset of developmental and behavioral problems in British children.

The original study by Wakefield and 12 other researchers from the Royal Free Hospital and Medical School in London is responsible for scaring parents worldwide into refusing MMR vaccinations for their children and causing a drop in general vaccination rates below the standards recommended by the World Health Organization.

According to a series of investigative articles appearing this week in BMJ, Wakefield’s new syndrome of enterocolitis and regressive autism precipitated by MMR vaccination was perpetrated by selecting case histories of children presenting with developmental/behavioral delays and digestive issues and manipulating the facts to support his discovery for financial gain. His paper specified that all 12 children in the study were “normal” before receiving the MMR vaccination. However, later investigation of the research by BMJ and the UK General Medical Council showed many discrepancies between the children’s medical records and the published paper and that “in no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal.”

BMJ says that Wakefield already had developed a “bowel-brain” syndrome as the centerpiece for a lawsuit as long as 2 years before his research project “discovered” it. The journal cited Wakefield’s clear falsification and gross misrepresentation of facts linking MMR vaccine with autism as “an elaborate fraud” on families of developmentally challenged children.

The Lancet article had been retracted, but not until 2010 and for lesser misconduct than BMJ’s reports show. BMJ states that it hopes that declaring the paper a fraud will end any speculation that any of the science in that paper is still valid.

Deer B. How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed. BMJ. 2011;342:c5347. www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5347.full. Accessed January 6, 2011.

Godlee F, Smith J, Marcovitch H. Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent. BMJ. 2011;342:c7452. www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452.full. Accessed January 6, 2011.