Autism Vaccine Link Study Denounced As Fraud


Coughing boy
A new article reveals the scam behind the MMR vaccine scare. Image: US Dept. of Health and Human Services

Back in October we had a lively discussion here on GeekMom on the subject of vaccinations, so it seemed like a good idea to post an important update to that topic: The controversial study that linked increased occurrences of autism to childhood vaccinations has been declared a fraud by the British Medical Journal.  (The study’s author blamed the article’s retraction on pressure from drug companies.)

Luckily, my kids were vaccinated years ago, long before the possibility of a link between childhood vaccinations and autism was explored. It is a hard, tough subject and one I am glad I am not currently wrestling with, as I can see both sides. Even so, I like to stay on top of this topic, just to stay informed. I also found the GeekMom post back in December that pointed to the Seattle pediatrician who discussed the issue of immunization with her colleagues to be hugely helpful and informative.

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7 thoughts on “Autism Vaccine Link Study Denounced As Fraud

  1. How is it a “hard, tough subject?” No, it’s not. It’s simple, it’s cut and dried. How can you “see both sides?” You can see the side of a snake-oil salesman selling quackery with a profit motive, and just incidentally also causing a modern-day endemic of diseases we conquered sixty years ago?

    It’s science. It’s unequivocal. Don’t make the mistake of buying into quackery and pseudoscience. This is one of those times where you don’t have to respect someone else’s opinion. It’s okay to tell them they’re wrong.

  2. I agree with you Ron. People these days are too afraid to rock the boat and tell someone they are wrong. There is science to back up the fact that they are wrong. Course, they are so blind to it you would probably be wasting your breath anyway.

  3. I have to agree with the above. Tossing out science, how geeky is that, in a geek-mom setting?

    Even without the disclosure of fraud, it’s based on only 12 cases, no-one were able to reproduce it, and even if had shown co-occurrence, that is not the same thing as causation. First signs of autism is often generally noticed around the age when the MMR-vaccine is given, and parents are more likely to notice such signs at a time when they’re told to watch out for side effects of the vaccine, anyway.

    And even if the vaccine actually HAD increase the chance of onset of autism: you’d STILL have to weigh that chance against the chance that your child would die in the measles. Measles (and whooping cough) is potenitally lethal, it’s easy to forget that these days.

    Besides, I’d like to point out that whooping cough is NOT part of the MMR-vaccine (which takes care of mumps, measles and rubeola), is generally given at a much earlier age, and has nothing to do with the fraudulent study. I’m not aware that there’s been a similar scare/scam connected to the whooping cough-vaccine…

    1. Hege, thanks for pointing out the error in the picture caption. My editor replaced my original picture and that was a mistake in the caption.

      Also, I never said I was tossing out the science, I said I could see both sides of this issue. And there are a number of reasons for that. For one, very little discussion or mind-changing comes about with loud declarations of “You’re wrong!” What usually happens in that scenario is that people get bowed up and get defensive and stop listening–nothing accomplished.

      Secondly, I hold the media partly to blame for the rampant inflation of this flawed study. It has been waaay over-reported given how flimsy the original study was. Many, many parents just catch snippets of news bits and, if they see it enough times, assume where there is smoke there is fire. Should all parents have the time, inclination, and scientific acumen to research this issue thoroughly? Of course they should, but they don’t.

      Thirdly, there have been a number of vaccines that have ended up being removed from the market (one that springs immediately to mind is the no longer available Lyme Disease vaccine) so it’s not *un*heard of that these things come to market before they should.

      1. I do agree that one of the problems here has been how media reports the study. And certainly, there are vaccines that should never have been released. But that’s part of the difficulty of vaccination (or medication): everything that has an effect can potentially have a side effect. And mediacation or vaccination is often not entirely risk free. It’s important in all cases to weigh risks against each other. The more dangerous the disease, the higher risks one would be willing to accept.

        As you’re writing in your response, parents (including myself, a Biology PhD) do not have the resources (time, knowledge, access to databases) to investigate all possible implications of studies or disclosues like this one. -Which is exactly why I think that the statement in your blogpost (“as I can see both sides”) is unfortunate. It left at least one reader (me, and possibly the commentators above) thinking that you still thought the jury was out on this (i.e. talking against evidence, or in other words, that you were tossng the science out).

        Incidentally, I am also the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, and just as the mother above, I find my son “worthy of respect”. We’re not looking for a cure, allthough it would be wonderful if some symptoms could be alleviated. And I find it interesting what people on the spectrum make of the fear of autism seen in the wake of this scam:

  4. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I saw this in the news. I was an Autism Hub blogger for some years and Wakefield’s study monopolised the discussion for far too long. The most damage, on my opinion, was done by giving the impression that autism is anything other than a genetic (perhaps exacerbated by environmental factors) condition, leading some people to think that there’s a “cure” out there… My son is autistic, an individual worthy of respect, & we have never considered him in need of a “cure. Support, yes, but not a “cure”. I just hope that this declaration will undo some of the paranoia that caused the vaccine scare.

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