Opinion Brief

Linking autism and the MMR shot: Conclusively false?

The original research that connected autism to a childhood vaccine was deliberately falsified, says the British Medical Journal. Will this finally silence the debate?

A controversial study linking a childhood vaccine with autism was based on fraudulent information, a new report in the British Medical Journal says. The 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield, published in the medical journal The Lancet, claimed that giving young kids the MMR shot increased their odds of developing autism, prompting a widespread vaccine scare. Many doctors dismissed the study as flawed, and The Lancet finally retracted it last year, but journalist Brian Deer now claims the study was deliberately falsified. Though Wakefield stands by his findings, many say Deer's evidence ends the debate. Does it?

Case closed. Can we move on? Enough already, says Jennifer LaRue Huget at The Washington Post. This so-called "link" has been "debunked, disclaimed, and now debunked again." Deer makes the case that many of the original subjects — children who supposedly became autistic after receiving the MMR shot — had already manifested documented developmental problems that Wakefield failed to disclose. This controversy has already taken "energy and funds" away from vital research into "autism's true causes." Let's end this discussion now.
"Autism/vaccine link: Another nail in the coffin"

We can't ignore parents' own reports: Nothing in these revelations changes the "irreversible decline thousands of parents witnessed as they saw their children fall to autism after the MMR," say the founders CryShame, a lobbying group quoted by Age of Autism. Brian Deer would have parents' accounts dismissed as "anecdote." But "the frequency of these accounts represents a pattern deserving of serious research."
"CryShame response to BMJ report"

This won't dissuade the rabid anti-vaccine lobby: Unfortunately, Wakefield's fraudulent theories were picked up by "celebrities like Jenny McCarthy," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, and mindlessly repeated by "other anti-vaccination activists." This new evidence comes too late. The "anti-vaccine crowd" has "grown into a mass movement with its own mythology," like the birthers or 9/11 truthers. If only new parents would "listen to science rather than fear."
"Report linking childhood vaccines and autism declared a fraud"

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