Home / General / Least. Surprising. Fraud. Ever.

Least. Surprising. Fraud. Ever.


This is Noon’s department, but any last shred of “scientific” justification for the autism/vaccine connection is dead:

The first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved, according to a new report on the widely discredited research.

The conclusions of the 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues was renounced by 10 of its 13 authors and later retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was published. Still, the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.

A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.

The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems. Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children’s parents.

Maybe Oprah can give more publicity to Jenny McCarthy so that illnesses and death can increase among children for no reason whatsover.

ADDED (from davenoon):  Predictably, David Gorski has the best run-down of Brian Deer’s article (available in all its gory detail here) and the unsurprising tantrums from those who continue to believe that vaccines are somehow responsible for causing autism. One point that should be added to all the commentary is that Richard Horton, chief editor of The Lancet, ought once again to don the hairshirt for publishing Wakefield’s small, inconclusive case series in the first place. Horton had admitted over the years that he and the journal were “deceived” by the study’s lead author, and obviously The Lancet formally withdrew the paper in February 2010, three months before Wakefield’s name was deleted from the UK’s medical register.

But the original decision to publish the piece — a decision that Horton has always defended — was enormously irresponsible on its own terms. The paper’s science was suspect at the time, long before Brian Deer exposed (in 2004) the seedy context in which the research was conducted. In the wake of Horton’s decision to publish, medical researchers assailed The Lancet, in disbelief that such nonsense would be offered the light of day. Not only that, but Wakefield’s only scholarly claim to fame at the time was having been part of a team that had already whiffed on measles research. Several years before the 1998 paper, Wakefield and several colleagues had published preliminary work suggesting that measles and/or measles vaccination were responsible for Crohn’s Disease. Although they received a great deal of press coverage (thanks in part to Wakefield’s own self-promotional acumen) these two studies failed, nevertheless, to find subsequent support. This vital piece of contextual detail — namely, that Wakefield had signed on to goofy and invalidated measles/vaccination theories before — would have been known by Horton at the time. Indeed, in December 1998 (ten months after his Lancet piece), Wakefield and his fellow researchers had to concede that their research on measles and inflammatory bowel disease was — well — an enormous load of shit.

So yes, it’s another bad day for Andrew Wakefield — which means that it’s a good day for every reasonable thinking person on the planet. But we can’t omit the enablers (who should have known better) who made all of this possible.

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  • Bart

    RFK Jr took this and ran with it. Just sad.

  • Randy

    It’s not dead, and probably never will be. It’s the classic zombie “theory”: no matter how many times it gets debunked, no matter how often and authoritatively the alleged science behind it is discredited, the true believers will remain convinced that vaccines cause autism. The discrediting, according to the acolytes, is just a further plot by the medical establishment to –what? Make sure children develop learning disabilities? I’ve never understood the motives, frankly.

    My youngest son has autism. The vaccine dogma is one reason we seldom try to tap into the autism “community.”

  • mark f

    I’m not normally a fan of Penn & Teller but I do like their bit on vaccines and autism, in which they demonstrate the absurdity of the hysteria:

    We have vaccinations against all [kinds of deadly things]. Which side do you want your child to stand on? So if vaccination did cause autism, WHICH IT FUCKING DOESN’T!, anti-vaccination would still be bullshit.

  • wengler

    The theory kind of became null and void after the thiomersal was removed from the vaccines anyway. Jenny McCarthy’s little crusade reminds me of the Know Nothing Tea Partiers. Take a misguided theory and shout it in the biggest megaphone you can find.

    • davenoon

      Well, the goalposts have shifted. First it was MMR (which never contained thimerosal); then it was mercury; then it was the adjuvants; then it was “too many too soon”; and so it goes.

      • DrDick

        Simply proves that there are leftwing know nothing whackjobs as well as the rightwingers, but just not as many.

        • Richard Hershberger

          These things are cyclical. Go back forty years and left wing crazies were a real force. I am just old enough to have caught the last gasp of the counter culture crowd as an undergraduate. They still held control of the student paper, and were utter whack jobs. You still see things like those guys who show up a trade summits with giant puppets. But they are just a minor embarrassment.

          Nowadays it is the right wing which has to deal with its crazies, who have in many cases taken over the asylum. But come back in thirty years. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that the positions have flipped again (and me voting Republican again).

  • Matt

    I *want* to be concerned about the kids who are unfortunate enough to have paranoid idiots for parents. I really do. But given that kids from those situations are likely to manifest the same ideology, I just can’t. You want your kids to have bad teeth because you think fluoride is a conspiracy? FINE. You want your kids to die of vaccine-preventable diseases? FINE – maybe we’ll *breed* the idiocy out of the gene pool.

    • mark f

      Ok, but how often is Jenny McCarthy accompanied on these programs by someone in a white coat who maybe has a “Dr” affixed to his name and talks a lot of sciencey gobbledygook in support of her position? A lot of people are just too busy to combat on their own a bunch of nonsense they get from the trusted mainstream sources that have given the crackpots a venue.

    • McKingford

      If only it were that simple, but there’s an entire difference between the harm that befalls someone who won’t fluoridate and someone who won’t vaccinate.

      The harm from not fluoridating falls only on those who don’t drink fluoridated water. But the consequences of not vaccinating are much more widespread. The benefits of vaccination are not just the immunity to the immediate subject of the vaccination, but through reaching a critical mass of the population. The problem with the anti-vaccination movement is that right as we have nearly extinguished many of these diseases from the world…because of vaccination – the vaccination rates are dropping below 80%, and thus we are seeing huge upticks in these diseases.

      So the failure to vaccinate doesn’t just thin the gene pool of the nuts, it encourages diseases in persisting.

      • Tirxu

        The worst thing is, I am pretty sure that the whole “herd immunity” argument backfires. It sounds like you can get the benefits of vaccination without the alleged costs and/or as if you are asked to put the well-being of your child in jeopardy for others.

        Just to be clear, I am not arguing to not talk about herd immunity, just pessimistic about human nature.

    • R.Johnston

      When idiots compromise herd immunity it’s not just their children who suffer; it’s all the children who are too young to take a vaccine, or who have compromised immune systems that make them unable to take a vaccine, or who avoid the vaccine because there are indications that they’d have a severe allergic reaction to it.

      Children, even children of idiots, go out in public. They expose themselves and others to easily preventable dangers. They are a direct harm to the community at large. That’s why the vaccination decision simply shouldn’t be left to these so-called “parents.”

      • Cackalacka

        Here here. It’s one thing to espouse these beliefs and then home-school your children on a desert island.

        Take this mindset, add a couple international flights from a third-world nations, and have the no-nothings send their vector-crystal children to a birthday party, and suddenly Junior got TWO birthday presents, a Buzz Lightyear figurine AND a dead infant sister from the Jones.

        I didn’t think that woman could trump Singled Out, but she did.

        • witless chum

          I’m pretty sure Eddie Kaye Thomas thought during filming about how his dignity was being severely compromised. Time to go back and do somethign a 1000x better, like a late-period American Pie sequel.

  • McKingford

    I dunno…this report isn’t featered prominently at Huffington Post so I don’t know how much validity it can have…

    Couple other things: I guess it is worth noting that Andrew Wakefield isn’t even licensed to practice medicine anymore, so that guy on 30 Rock has as much right to wear a white coat as he does. And Jenny McCarthy – how many kids have you murdered now?

  • Anonymous

    Surprises me. I thought that since she passed the Science portion of the Playmate test, she was an expert.

    • JBL

      Yes, because no thread about vaccinations is complete without some irrelevant misogyny.

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