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.
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.