Dr. Wakefield, The Lancet, Vaccines, Autism, and a Useless Retraction
This is my site Written by Alex on February 3, 2010 – 11:02 am   

The retraction by The Lancet of a clinical study erroneously showing a link between childhood vaccinations and autism comes too little too late. (Read the story here.) It reminds me of when I was a reporter for newspapers. Occasionally an error would occur in a story, such as a misspelled name, and the subject of the article would point it out. I would tell them that we would print a correction the next day. The correction of course was buried on the second page where barely anyone saw it. It was a worthless gesture . The paper – and myself – however felt as though we did our duty and could feel less at fault than we would otherwise. The Lancet‘s retraction comes 12 years after Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a research paper purporting that a clinical trial on only 12 children showed that the combined mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine contributed to increase in autism rates among children. The positive impact of the retraction will be negligible at best.

That’s unfortunate because the paper helped give rise to a backlash against childhood vaccinations in Britain and, to a greater extent, in the United States. The retraction will not unring that bell, even though Wakefield has scientific and financial conflicts connected to the research, even though he caused suffering among his child subjects, and even though he violated research ethics. According to Jim Moody, a director of SafeMinds, a parents’ group that advances the notion the vaccines cause autism, the retraction will actually increase Dr. Wakefield’s credibility among parents. “Attacking scientists and attacking doctors is dangerous,” he said in the New York Times. “This is about suppressing research, and it will fuel the controversy by bringing it all up again.”

Moody is probably correct but he’s also, obviously, an idiot. The same holds true for any parent who selectively chooses research – especially what is now discredited research – in order to bolster an opinion to justify providing substandard medical care to their own children. These clinical trials results are being selectively ignored or embraced at convenience because for parents to continue to hold the opinion that vaccinations cause autism when the research stating that has been disproven is not only stupid but dangerous.

The Lancet can help those parents let go of their long-held but incorrect beliefs about the connection between vaccines and autism. They should undertake sponsoring research that conclusively disproves the link between vaccination and autism and/or aggressively educate parents about what the research shows. To do anything less is to simply bury the retraction on page 2 and go on like nothing serious has happened.

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