A 1998 British study that launched an international fear that certain childhood vaccinations can cause autism has been labeled an “elaborate fraud” in a medical journal.
The news — contained in a Jan. 5 study in the BMJ — is seen by some as the beginning of an end to a major distraction in autism research.
Perhaps now researchers and parents will “devote more effort” to finding what is really behind the increased incidence of autism, said Dr. Michael F. Roizen. More promising avenues to explore are genetic triggers and how they interact with environmental materials, such as pesticides, he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who is at the center of the scandal, has defended himself as the victim of a “hit man” journalist, while parents’ groups who believe in a vaccine-autism link have rushed to his defense.
In the BMJ investigation, journalist Brian Deer said the 1998 Wakefield study used “bogus data” to link the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine with the rapid onset of autism in eight of 12 “previously normal” children.
After examining the children’s medical records and interviewing their parents, only one of the 12 children was found to have “regressive autism,” or late-onset of the syndrome, the core concern of the 1998 study, Mr. Deer wrote.
In other odd findings, Mr. Deer said three children didn’t have autism diagnoses; two children had bowel problems and “fits” before they received the MMR vaccine; and one child was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which is not regressive and is distinct from autism.
Mr. Deer wrote that the parents didn’t know that Dr. Wakefield, a gastroenterologist, was already seeking to prove that vaccines were linked to a “new syndrome” of enteritis (a bowel disorder) and disintegrative disorder (late-onset autism) in children.
A key goal of Dr. Wakefield’s study, published in the Lancet in 1998, was to show a clear “time link” between the MMR vaccinations and the onset of symptoms, wrote Mr. Deer. This would bolster a case against vaccine makers, he wrote, noting that Dr. Wakefield was receiving payments from lawyer Richard Barr, who wanted to pursue such a lawsuit.
The Wakefield study “was in fact an elaborate fraud,” BMJ editors said in an editorial, noting that Lancet retracted the study in 2010 and independent studies “consistently found no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.”
“Who bought this man? Who is paying this man?” Dr. Wakefield asked CNN host Anderson Cooper. “This is a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any investigation into valid vaccine concerns,” Dr. Wakefield added, noting that Mr. Deer once received financial support from the British pharmaceutical industry.
Generation Rescue, an anti-autism advocacy group led by actress Jenny McCarthy, the mother of an autistic son, called the BMJ study “much ado about nothing.”
“If all the science on vaccines and autism has been done, how come no one has yet looked at unvaccinated children?” the website asked, adding that the BMJ study has sparked a “vaccine-industry-funded media circus.”
Ms. McCarthy wrote the foreword to Dr. Wakefield’s 2010 book, “Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines: The Truth Behind a Tragedy.”View Entire Story
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor. Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
By Elaine Donnelly
Extending sexual misconduct to combat units
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
One man’s perspective. Exploration and commentary designed to challenge the conventional thinking of day on the political issues affecting our nation.
Politics, economics, and business from a real world perspective.
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention