A 1998 study that linked autism to vaccinations has been deemed an "elaborate fraud," in a new report released by the British medical journal BMJ. It says the author of the study, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, deliberately falsified data to make it appear there was a link between the two. While he lost his medical licence in May after errors were found in the study, this report's author says there's "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible and that he should be held criminally responsible.
The journal said they believe it was "a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data," and that "damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals, and the medical profession."
So has all of the fear been for naught, does this mean there's no evidence of a link between the two, and we can all go out and vaccinate our children without a question in our mind that there could be a negative consequence?
Some, like Jennifer LaRue Huget for The Washington Post, say yes:
"Okay, can we just be done with this autism/MMR link once and for all?" Huget writes. "It's been such a huge distraction, likely diverting energy and funds from the research that could detect autism's true causes, and has led to many kids' needlessly coming down with a disease that should be entirely preventable. Let's put this behind us and move on."
Not quite, say others. Wakefield himself vehemently denies the new report and says it's motivated by the pharmaceutical industry, who's trying to take him down.
Kim Stagliano, mother of three daughters with autism and author of the book All I Can Handle; I'm No Mother Teresa, agrees. She says the timing is suspect and points to links in the pharmaceutical industry as well. She said the Wakefield case closed last spring, but now Dr. Paul Offit, co-inventor of the Merck RotaTeq vaccine, has a new book out called Deadly Choices: How the Anti-vaccine Movement Threatens Us All.
"If RotaTeq sounds familiar to parents, that is because Dr. Julie Gerberding, former head of the CDC in Atlanta, placed it on the pediatric vaccine schedule during her tenure," Stagliano said. "Your baby now receives three doses of this oral vaccine. Dr. Gerberding is now the current President of the Merck Vaccine Division, which manufactures RotaTeq."
She said this report does nothing to sway her opinion that vaccines can injure children.
"Vaccine injury is real. Just as childhood diseases are real. The barrage against Dr. Wakefield is an unvarnished attempt to convince the American public that there is an 'anti-vaccine' movement, while ignoring that American children are chronically sicker than ever and autism now hobbles at least 1% of American children. Parents have every right to demand vaccine safety and honest science -- without those who have a financial interest controlling the conversation."
So basically, we're right back where we started, right? Some say yes, some say no, and parents are left with at least a lingering question as to if they could possibly be harming their children in an effort to protect them.
Does this new report change your opinion about vaccine safety?
Image via BLW Photography/Flickr