Weird Science

After more than a decade of controversy, the 1998 study that launched the autism controversy about vaccines has been completely discredited and called fraudulent by the British Medical Journal. Andrew Wakefield, who ran the study on 12 children, has been stripped of his medical license and 10 of the 13 authors of the study have renounced. New research comparing data and interviews with the 12 children in the study have shown that Wakefield falsified results to back up an outcome favored by a law firm paying Wakefield money to find a connection between vaccines and autism.

As it was reported in CNN:

“It’s one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors,” Fiona Godlee, BMJ’s editor-in-chief, told CNN. “But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.”

Of course, since the 1998 study caused this controversy, there have been numerous studies showing no link between vaccines and autism, including a study of 1,008 children released in October 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control showing no connection. In fact, no other study has been able to reproduce Wakefield’s initial study results but many studies have shown no link between autism and vaccines.

So, who’s going to tell Jenny McCarthy, the world’s leading champion of Wakefield and the anti-vaccine crusade? She’s spent a lot of time, written books and launched an all-out war on vaccines with her son as her symbolic proof. Indeed, McCarthy has said that it might take some diseases coming back to cause vaccines to become safer. For her, the immediate threats to children’s safety — a recurrence of diseases that can be deadly to infants and children such as measles, whooping cough and more — are the sad but necessary casualties of the war on vaccines.

So does that mean their deaths are for the greater good? Shame on you, McCarthy. Shame on you.

Indeed, CNN reports a sharp decline in vaccinations in the UK and US following Wakefield’s study:

The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80% by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.

In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.

So, what do we tell the families of the children who have died because they refused to vaccinate because of fears of autism? Honestly, this is a tragedy. Wakefield deserves a lion’s share of the blame. But Jenny McCarthy has played a major role, too. Indeed, I agree with Salon‘s take: This makes McCarthy a menace:

But any organization using a celebrity to mislead parents with claims of “new” data that rely on decade-old vaccine formulas and schedules is more than disingenuous, it’s flat-out dangerous. It’s high time the woman who once said that “I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe” took a step back and reconsidered the merits of that increasingly crackpot stance. And it’s time she acknowledged that clinging to research that’s been deemed patently fraudulent does not make one a “mother warrior.” It makes her a menace.

Enough is enough! We need to do all we can to protect our children. Moreover, we need to finally put this “controversy” to bed so research can focus on actual causes of autism. Too many people have been hurt by all this. And too many families are struggling with autism now. They need help today.

Originally posted to The Tired Feminist.

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