Reason Freely

Wakefield MMR Study is Fraud

Posted in news by reasonfreely on January 7, 2011

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) retracted the Wakefield study and called it a fraud.  Finally!

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study — and that there was “no doubt” Wakefield was responsible.”


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.

Anderson Cooper 360


MMR-Autism Researcher Loses Medical License in UK

Posted in news by reasonfreely on May 25, 2010

Dr. Andrew Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in Britain yesterday.  Unfortunately, in addition to martyring him to his supporters, this decision has no impact on him.  He stopped practicing medicine in 2004, and has been running an autism recovery clinic since.

Some of the crap this guy pulled is just offensive.  To quote NYT:  “taking blood samples for his study from children at his son’s birthday party” and “the costs of Dr. Wakefield’s research was paid by lawyers for parents seeking to sue vaccine makers” and “he had shown “a callous disregard” for the suffering of children involved in his research…”  Ultimately they slapped him with 30 charges of professional misconduct.

The ban does not prevent him from continuing to do research and publish it, though at this point no professional medical journal will print his work.  Wakefield became  an alternative medicine practitioner since 2004, working in both the US and UK.  This goes to show you what value alternative medicine has — it’s the last refuge for quacks, hacks, greedy liars and cheats.

(I was recently alerted to this comic strip on the subject: )

MMR Conspiracy Theorists: The Power of Fear

Posted in news by reasonfreely on February 4, 2010

Yesterday, The Lancet posted the following retraction of the MMR vaccine/autism article that started the whole vaccine/autism kerfluffle.

Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al. are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were “consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record. [click for original source]

I don’t want to go into the history of the “controversy” (see wikipedia for that) but I’ll summarize it in brief:  Dr. Andrew Wakefield (et al.), in 1998, wrote a paper in The Lancet whereby he claimed (and showed evidence supporting this claim, mind you) that the mercury-based preservative in the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine caused a bowel problem he called “autistic enterocolitis” which then quickly led to autism in these twelve children.  Panic ensued.

In 2004, ten of the paper’s co-authors retracted their support for Wakefield’s conclusions, and between 1998 and 2004, researchers spent millions on epidemiological studies of the vaccine and autism finding no evidence, but the damage was done.  The two things I will discuss here are 1) speculation on why this misinformed theory was so appealing to young mothers, and 2) why people still believe it despite a staggering amount of evidence to the contrary, including a full retraction.