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Autism Doctor a Fraud, But Hardly Alone

"A deliberate fraud." That's what the British Medical Journal, one of the world's most prestigious periodicals, has written of the study that kicked off the current anti-vaccine movement. It's "clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare," it said in a heavily documented editorial. The lead author of that anti-vaccine study, which also appeared in one most respected medical journals, The Lancet, was British physician Andrew Wakefield. And its consequences, as I write in AOL News, include millions of terrified and confused parents, large drops in vaccination rates and death. In part or fully because of reduced vaccination levels, California is suffering its worst pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak since 1947, with about 8,000 cases last year. (The inset shows a baby with the disease.) In the 1980s, there were just a handful annually. Sixty percent of those hospitalized have been infants. Ten have died. Many people, including me, have spent years puncturing his claims and those of his acolytes in the anti-vaccine movement. But a media that thrives on sensationalism instead played up the phony link. Yet while this "deliberate fraud" has been exposed, others continue to go unchallenged, or worse, get trumpeted by reporters who should know better. Last year the World Health Organization, having exaggerated the world AIDS problem by 12-fold, then hyped SARS and then spent four years terrifying us over avian flu (remember avian flu?), converted the mildest flu strain in decades (swine flu H1N1) into the first flu pandemic in 41 years simply by rewriting the flu pandemic definition. Aiding it was a study in Science magazine that completely misrepresented the citations it used as authority. Likewise, San Francisco last year became the first jurisdiction in the country to put warning labels on cell phones, influenced in great part by a series of studies published in peer-reviewed journals alleging they cause brain tumors. Yet as I wrote in a CEI paper, "Celling Fear," they're all by a single environmental activist and totally fly in the face of the main body of research. Plus the city relied on an Environmental Working Group paper that used citations saying exactly the opposite of what the report claimed. Why does fraudulent science thrive? Better to ask, "Why not?" It pays. Even when the fraudsters get caught, they often laugh all the way to the bank. Wakefield gets more than $300,000 a year in salary alone from an anti-vaccine group. Why! That's even more than I got for writing that article for AOL News!