A now-retracted study linking autism to vaccine was an “elaborate fraud,” concludes an investigation published by BMJ, a British medical journal.
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,” charges investigator Brian Deer. Of the 12 cases in Wakefield’s paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism, said Fiona Godlee, the journal’s editor.
Wakefield received $674,000 from lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers, BMJ reports. He also hoped to make money from diagnostic and other tests for autism and MMR-related issues, said Godlee.
Wakefield was stripped of his medical license earlier this year.
“Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession,” BMJ states.
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 percent by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.
Measles cases are up in the U.S. as well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90 percent of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown.
“But perhaps as important as the scare’s effect on infectious disease is the energy, emotion and money that have been diverted away from efforts to understand the real causes of autism and how to help children and families who live with it,” the BMJ editorial states.
Evidence of fraud isn’t likely to change the minds of true believers. The damage continues.