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Feb. 2 2010 - 12:35 pm | 1,483 views | 2 recommendations | 6 comments

Study linking MMR vaccine and autism is retracted

Actress Jenny McCarthy (L), her son Evan, carr...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

If you’ve followed the debate as to whether vaccines cause autism then you have probably come upon a study published in the journal The Lancet in 1998 that purported to show just that. Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s work was held up by thousands of parents who believed that a combination of childhood vaccines was the reason their children contracted autism. But for the past decade, most every other researcher in the field disputed Wakefield’s findings, and pointed out that there were ethical conflicts with Wakefield, his study’s subjects and the pharmaceutical industry.

In the scientific community, the study was long ago discredited. But because of the internet, it lived on, convincing the likes of Jenny McCarthy (shown here with husband Jim Carrey) and others that vaccines were harmful to the children they are meant to protect. Dozens of further studies have failed to show any link whatsoever between the preservatives in vaccines with increased incidence of autism.

Well, now, in an unusual move, The Lancet has issued a full retraction of the article and its findings.

It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect… Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.

Wakefield himself may be stricken from Britain’s medical register. But will the pernicious notion that the MMR vaccine causes autism be fully put to rest?


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  1. collapse expand

    Well that research may have been retracted, however, what is their exact definition of “to discredit” and which scientific criteria did they employ to arrive at their conclusions? ”

    Are the studies they conducted even reliable or valid in their own right?

    According to the link, Dr Wakefield’s findings were not disproved , rather, his allegedly questionable methods and ethics have gotten the study stricken from the record. While admittedly smarmy, that doesn’t necessarily preclude valid results.

    Personally, i believe where there is smoke there is fire.

    • collapse expand

      What other smoke? This was pretty much it. If there was a link, we would have found it. There have been, and will continue to be studies on this that turn up no link. However, unlike Jenny McCarthy, if suddenly the scientific community were proven wrong, we would accept it. She never will, no antivaxxers ever will. Ridiculous.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    facundo,

    Click on the link at the top of the piece. I wrote a long article on vaccine skepticism in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and do not cause autism. There are numerous peer reviewed studies that show this.

    Nerdista,
    Agreed. Instinct seems to trump evidence in this case.

  3. collapse expand

    Hi David,

    I always question when dr’s. or whoever start with the “studies prove..” line.

    They very well may prove what they set out to, but I’m not going to take their words for it. There is too much room for too many nonobjective
    variables, including where the researchers possible biases may lie. Case in point, Dr. Wakefield, according to the press.

    From your article in the link:
    “Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at The Children’s Hospital, says there is no credible evidence that autism can be caused by the trace amounts of mercury found in childhood vaccine preservatives like thimerosal. Indeed, he points out that there are at least 10 studies that show just the opposite. ”

    Well that’s all well and good, but if the design is flawed, or it cannot be replicated, among other factors, then the “at least 10 studies” would not be valid or reliable. And the only way to ascertain that would be to see the actual scientific design .

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