Ten of the co-authors retracted the study in 2004, but not Wakefield. The Lancet retracted the study in 2010. Wakefield’s medical license also was revoked in Britain in 2010.
Wakefield’s story is in the news again, as a series of reports was published in the BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) starting on Jan. 5, 2011. BMJ’s editor-in-chief Dr. Fiona Godlee calls Wakefield’s study “a deliberate fraud.” 1
History behind Wakefield’s study
The original study co-authored by Wakefield was based on twelve developmentally challenged children, and nine had regressive autism – a form of autism when a child begins to develop normally then loses some ability to function. However, BMJ reporter Brian Deer discovered only one of the nine children in Wakefield’s study had regressive autism. And three of the children never had autism at all.
Deer’s reporting also proved that five of the twelve children had developmental delays and problems before receiving the MMR vaccine.
Also, some of the children developed signs of autism months after the vaccination – not an average of six days, as Wakefield’s study reported. 2
Wakefield’s unethical practices also include financial and medical deception. According to Sarah Boseley, health editor of The Guardian:
“The story took a new turn with revelations that Wakefield had received legal aid funding to carry out his study, through lawyers acting for children whose parents believed their autism was caused by the MMR jab and wanted to sue the manufacturers. It was alleged that he had not revealed this to the Lancet, which then retracted part of the paper.
“Subsequent investigations by the General Medical Council resulted in a lengthy charge sheet for all three doctors involved in the study. These centred [sic] on alleged inadequate ethical approval for the study. The doctors are charged with putting children through invasive and uncomfortable tests, including colonoscopies and brain scans, which they did not need in order to try to prove Wakefield’s theory.” 3
Aside from his unethical past, Wakefield also has to live with the fact that his study caused an international panic and countless children are susceptible to measles, mumps and rubella.
The truth about measles, mumps and rubella
While every vaccine has side effects, most are quite mild when compared to the actual diseases. (I’ll discuss vaccines at length in February.) As a comparison, note the complications of measles, mumps and rubella compared to the vaccine complications:
- Measles is a contagious infection that causes cough, eye irritation, fever, rash, and runny nose. One in three people develop pneumonia, which is the main cause of measles-related deaths in young children. One in ten get ear infections. One in one thousand develop encephalitis, a brain inflammation that causes convulsions, deafness, and retardation. And, one in one thousand will die.
- Mumps is a sickness with fever, headache, and swollen glands that cause swollen cheeks and jaw. It rarely causes deafness, encephalitis, and meningitis.
- Rubella, with a mild fever and rash, is fairly harmless for children. However, it’s incredibly dangerous to adults and unborn children. In pregnant women, rubella can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, and birth defects like blindness, cataracts, deafness, heart defects, liver and spleen damage, and mental retardation.
- The side effects of the MMR vaccine include one in four children having temporary joint pain and stiffness. One in six children develop a fever. One in twenty children have a mild rash. One in three thousand children have seizures. One in thirty thousand children develop a temporary bleeding disorder and low blood platelet count. And one in one million children have a serious allergic reaction.4
If you don’t mind sharing, what has been your family’s experience with MMR and the vaccine? Have you ever had measles, mumps, or rubella? Have you held off on the vaccine because of Wakefield’s study? Did you choose to vaccinate your children? Did they develop any side effects?
1. “Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent.” BMJ. Jan. 5, 2011. 2. “Wakefield’s paper linking MMR vaccine and autism a fraud on the scale of Piltdown man, BMJ editorial says.” Thomas H. Maugh II. Los Angeles Times. Jan. 5, 2011. 3. “From the Lancet to the GMC: How Dr Andrew Wakefield fell from grace.” Sarah Boseley. The Guardian. Jan. 28, 2010. 4. “Complications of Measles.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Complications of Mumps.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Rubella: Make Sure Your Child Is Fully Immunized.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Possible Side-effects from Vaccines.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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