The study, that helped fuel global anti-vaccine sentiment, has been revoked by medical journal The Lancet. In addition, a U.K. regulatory panel has ruled that the British doctor who led the study suggesting a link between the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.” The panel represents the U.K. General Medical Council (GMC), which regulates the medical profession. It ruled on whether Andrew Wakefield, MD, and two colleagues acted properly in carrying out their research, and not on whether MMR vaccine has anything to do with autism. The Lancet published the controversial paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues in 1998.
In 2004, ten of the study’s 13 authors renounced the study’s conclusions, and The Lancet has previously said it should never have published the research. “We fully retract this paper from the published record,” its editors said in a statement February 2, 2010.
In the ruling, the GMC used strong language to condemn the methods used by Wakefield in conducting the study. In the study, published 12 years ago, Wakefield and colleagues suggested there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Their study included only 12 children, but wide media coverage set off a panic among parents. It was later discovered that Wakefield — prior to designing the study — had accepted payment from lawyers suing vaccine manufacturers for causing autism.
The GMC’s Fitness to Practise panel heard evidence and submissions for 148 days over two and a half years, hearing from 36 witnesses. It then spent 45 days deciding the outcome of the hearing. Besides Wakefield, two former colleagues went before the panel -John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch. They were all found to have broken guidelines.
The disciplinary hearing found Wakefield showed a “callous disregard” for the suffering of children and abused his position of trust. He’d also “failed in his duties as a responsible consultant.” He’d taken blood samples from children attending his son’s birthday party in return for money, and was later filmed joking about it at a conference. He’d also failed to disclose he’d received money for advising lawyers acting for parents who claimed their children had been harmed by the triple vaccine.
The government and medical experts continue to stress that the MMR vaccine is safe. The MMR triple vaccine was licensed in the U.S. in 1971 and first used in the U.K. in 1988. Over 100 countries now use it, and it is estimated that more than 500 million doses have been administered.
At the peak of the MMR scare in 2002, there were 1,531 articles about MMR in the U.K. national press; in 1998 there had been just 86. Between 2001 and 2003, U.K. opinion polls showed that the percent of people believing the MMR vaccine to be safe dropped from over 70% to just over 50%. U.K. Health Protection Agency figures show measles incidence increased dramatically following the drop in the number of children being vaccinated. The number of confirmed cases between 2007 and 2008 was 2,349, roughly equal to the combined total for the previous eleven years.
Studies that refute the autism connection: www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4026.pdf