Yesterday the British Medical Journal found that Andrew Wakefield, who authored “studies” linking autism with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines, had committed “an elaborate fraud” in a study published in the journal The Lancet in 1998. Wakefield, the BMJ report noted, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of the 12 children included in the study.
His purported results caused an international hysteria about the MMR vaccine and led to many thousands of parents opting out of childhood vaccination.
In May 2010 Wakefield had had his medical credentials yanked because he “repeatedly breached fundamental principles of research medicine,” a medical disciplinary council found. The council also said that “his actions in this area alone were sufficient to amount to serious professional misconduct.”
CEI scholars and adjunct fellow Steve Milloy had repeatedly pointed to problems with Wakefield’s studies and the health consequences of parents’ not vaccinating their children. As Milloy wrote in 2005:
Epidemiologists refer to “herd immunity” as a population’s overall resistance to epidemics once that population achieves a 90 percent vaccination rate. Among a “herd” of 90 percent immune individuals, a non-immunized person enjoys a fairly low risk of contracting whatever deadly communicable diseases to which the “herd” is immune.
As the herd’s immunity falls below 90 percent, however, not only do the non-immunized individuals face a greater danger of becoming ill, but the greater availability of more non-immune persons provides the diseases with an “opportunity,” if you will, to replicate throughout the population in the form of various epidemics.
Each epidemic, in turn, strikes hardest at those individuals least capable of defending themselves – the elderly, the newborn, the immuno-compr[om]ised, and, of course, pregnant women and their developing fetuses.
Junk science can have life-threatening consequences.
Image credit: DrShapero’s flickr photostream.