Andrew Wakefield published a bogus study in the Lancet. Bogus study has been disproved over and over again. Andrew Wakefield is outed as a quack and tried for professional misconduct. Media still reporting on the bogus non-existent link between vaccines and autism. And Jenny McCarthy still runs her mouth as some sort of Playmate/Autism expert.
The decadelong vaccine-autism saga began in 1998, when British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues published evidence in The Lancet suggesting they had tracked down a shocking cause of autism. Examining the digestive tracts of 12 children with behavioral disorders, nine of them autistic, the researchers found intestinal inflammation, which they pinned on the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Wakefield had a specific theory of how the MMR shot could trigger autism: The upset intestines, he conjectured, let toxins loose in the bloodstream, which then traveled to the brain. The vaccine was, in this view, effectively a poison. In a dramatic press conference, Wakefield announced the findings and sparked an instant media frenzy. For the British public, a retreat from the use of the MMR vaccine—and a rise in the incidence of measles—began.
A 2007 hearing with the General Medical Council is examining charges of professional misconduct against Wakefield and two colleagues involved in the Lancet paper. The charges include:
- He was being paid to conduct the study by solicitors representing parents who believed their children had been harmed by MMR, and failed to disclose this in his IRB.
- He ordered investigations “without the requisite paediatric qualifications”.
- Acting “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in failing to disclose how patients were recruited for the study, and that some were paid to take part.
- Performing colonoscopies, colon biopsies and lumbar punctures (“spinal taps”) on his research subjects without proper approval and contrary to the children’s clinical interests, when these diagnostic tests were not indicated by the children’s symptoms or medical history.
- Conducting the study on a basis which was not approved by the hospital’s ethics committee.
- Purchasing blood samples – for £5 each – from children present at his son’s birthday party, as described by Wakefield himself in a videotaped public conference.
In February 2009, The Sunday Times reported that a further investigation by the newspaper had revealed that Wakefield “changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism”, citing evidence obtained by the newspaper from medical records and interviews with witnesses, and supported by evidence presented to the GMC. The newspaper went on to state that the rates of inoculation fell from 92% (very slightly below measles herd immunity) to below 80% after the publication of Wakefield’s study, and that confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales have risen from 56 in 1998 to 1348 in 2008, with two child fatalities, as well as others seriously ill on ventilators.