I’ve not written much in this blog lately, because there wasn’t a great deal of breaking developments to comment on. However, the recent story on the fraud surrounding childhood vaccination is noteworthy.
The British Medical Journal published a series of 3 articles and editorials charging that the study published in The Lancet in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues linking the childhood measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to a "new syndrome" of regressive autism and bowel disease was not just bad science but fraud. According to the first article published in BMJ the study's investigators altered and falsified medical records and facts, misrepresented information to families, and treated the 12 children involved unethically. In addition, Mr. Wakefield accepted consultancy fees from lawyers who were building a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers."
Although The Lancet published a retraction of the study last year right after the UK General Medical Council announced that the investigators acted "dishonestly" and irresponsibly," the BMJ editors note that the journal did not go far enough. "The Lancet retraction was prompted by the results from the hearing and was very much based on the concerns about the ethics of the study. What we found was that it was definite fraud and that is a very important thing for the world to know. This article shows that the science was falsified and should be discounted. This evidence "should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare.
The study of only 12 patients (small, by any standard) faced almost immediate criticism by the scientific community, which only fueled the paranoia of those paranoid about organized medicine. And although the study was never validated, the media hyped it, setting off a panic among parents. As a result vaccinations decreased dramatically. The 2003 to 2004 vaccination rate of 80% has now recovered slightly in the United Kingdom, but it is still well below the recommended 95% level recommended to ensure "herd immunity."