Another Lancet embarrassment: Vaccine-scare doctor faked data

For more than ten years, debate has raged over a possible link between the MMR vaccine shot and autism in children.  The routine injection creates immunities for children against mumps, measles, and rubella or German measles, but some parents have refused to give their children the vaccine after a British study strongly suggested that thimerosol, a preservative component, caused brain damage and autism.  Now the Times of London reports that the author of the study, published by the British medical journal Lancet, faked the data in order to support his conclusions:

THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found.

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.

The research was published in February 1998 in an article in The Lancet medical journal. It claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

Many parents may not have realized the anecdotal nature of the paper.  Wakefield used an incredibly small sample, from only one clinic, did no other studies, and yet reached conclusions that apparently satisfied the Lancet well enough to publish the paper.  As a result, British vaccination rates plunged from 98% to under 80%.  Measles made a comeback, and two children have died of the disease in the intervening decade since Wakefield and Lancet published the fraudulent study.

Normally, science demands replicability in such studies, or at least a larger sample size.  Since 1998, other scientists have wasted time trying to duplicate Wakefield’s results, to no avail:

No researchers have been able to replicate the results produced by Wakefield’s team in the Lancet study.

Some used statistics to see if autism took off in 1988, when MMR was introduced. It did not. Others used virology to see if MMR caused bowel disease, a core suggestion in the paper. It did not. Yet more replicated the exact Wakefield tests. They showed nothing like what he said. …

“This study created a sensation among the public that was impossible to counter, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” says Professor Gary Freed, director of the child health research unit at the University of Michigan, who has watched the scare take off in America.

“Overwhelming biologic and epidemiologic evidence has demonstrated conclusively that there is no association between the MMR vaccine and autism, and yet this thing goes on.”

Why does it go on and on?  It strikes at the heart of parents everywhere, who just want to protect their children from harm.  Injecting anything into the bodies of our children takes an act of faith in the science and the doctors who provide the vaccination or medication.  Any hint that safety could be compromised will drive parents away from vaccination, and as we have seen, it doesn’t take much more than a suggestion to succeed in scaring parents away.  Study after study showing no connection between vaccinations and autism have had little effect in alleviating the fright.

The Lancet just took another high-profile hit over its study estimating Iraqi civilian deaths during the war, in which its author refused to cooperate with his peers and reveal his methodology after the findings were discredited by later research.  This time, they have the deaths of two children on their heads and the unnecessary revival of deadly diseases, thanks to the fraud they perpetrated on the Western world.  Maybe someone should put the Lancet out of our misery.