Science

The Fraud Behind Autism-Vaccination Scares

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In 1998, the British medical journal Lancet published a study linking autism to childhood vaccines authored by Andrew Wakefield and others. Last February, Lancet retracted the article amid concerns of its accuracy. In May, Wakefield was stripped of his British medical license and now another journal has wrapped up an investigation that concludes that Wakefield cooked the data for all 12 of the patients discussed in his hugely influential article.

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study—and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible….

Wakefield has been unable to reproduce his results in the face of criticism, and other researchers have been unable to match them. Most of his co-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he had had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers—a serious conflict of interest he failed to disclose. After years on controversy, the Lancet, the prestigious journal that originally published the research, retracted Wakefield's paper last February.

More here.

Last May, in the wake of controversy, Reason.tv asked whether vaccines cause autism. The short answer is no. Here's our take:

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  1. Somehow I doubt this will stop Jenny McCarthy though. People like her are hell bent on a nihilistic take on science and modern medicine for who knows what reason.

    1. A lot of the people who believe this shit are parents pf autistic kids who are just looking for a reason–some reason–to explain why their kid is fucked up. It’s illogical, but human, to want to blame something for it other than your own genes, or pure chance.

      They’re still shitheads for trying to push this garbage that could harm other kids, but that’s why they do it. Jenny can tell herself each day that her kid is retarded because of something society made her inject the kid with, and not through any fault of her own (not that it is her fault; it’s just the way the genes came out).

      Fucking personal responsibility, how does it work?

      1. You can’t blame desparate parents for believing stupid shit. But you can blame scientists and lawyers for giving said stupid shit a false veneer of respectibility.

        1. Yes, I can blame desperate parents, because even if you want to believe something, if the evidence isn’t there, or actively counters it, and you keep believing, you are a fucking moron.

          I don’t blame them for wanting to know “why our child”. But it’s also their responsibility to look into whether someone’s explanation of “why” is credible and not just believe it because it’s convenient and makes them feel better, and if they don’t, they deserve blame for that.

          1. Not everyone is as smart or as skeptical as they should be. these people were great con artists. They used their credibility as scientists and lawyers to dupe people. Yeah, the people should have known better. But this guy needs to be shot.

          2. I have little sympathy for these advocates with autistic children who WASTE SO MUCH PRECIOUS TIME on something that has no basis in science or fact. You’re right about personal responsibility. These parents have a responsibility to their children to do something more useful for them.

            However, as a mother with a child with autism who, as a 2 year old, has 35 hours of intensive behavioral therapy a week, I gotta tell you, time IS precious, and when your child regresses a week after their last shot (which happens all the time- happened to my son, but the 2nd year of life you get so many shots, it’s not a surprising coincidence) it’s not really realistic to expect these parents to start combing the peer reviewed articles in medical journals. Those who have no background education about false causation fallacies can easily be misled by their google searches and fear.

            1. Yes, it is pure coincidence that regression often happens after an immunization. Why not blame the red shirt they wore for the first time the week before? Or the cheerios they ate for the first time? It’s makes just as much sense – none!

              It’s not realistic to expect parents to “comb peer reviewed articles in medical journals” but it is realistic to expect they have an ounce of common sense or brains, that they understand the difference between correlation and causation. If they did, they would listen to their pediatricians when they tell them what the studies actually show – that there is no link between vaccines and autism!

              Basic reason and common sense do not require a high education. Unfortunately, common sense is not a requirement for parenthood and is even inversely correlated with parenthood at a young age – a tragedy our monstrous welfare state encourages at the expense of more responsible and intelligent citizens.

              The refusal of these idiot parents to immunize their children causes many deaths every year from preventable infectious disease – deaths of their own children and others.

              1. So Doc, perhaps you can enlighten us on why the surge in Autism over the last few decades? And don’t say there hasn’t been an increase, because that would be a lie.

                1. Is it more autism cases or simply more diagnoses of autism?

                  1. THIS (Pro Lib)

                  2. It is probably a combination of more awareness leading to less severe cases of autism being diagnosed and neurological conditions which would have previously been diagnosed as something else being recognized as autism.

                    There is interesting data from the California social service system showing an increase in autism diagnoses and at the same time a decrease in mental retardation diagnoses of about the same size.

                2. Could it have something to do with women having children later and later in life, on average? As women get older, the risk of birth defects increses.

                  1. Older age of either parent is a recognized risk factor, so that’s another potential contributor.

                    I think it is unlikely that there is any single cause that explains all of the increase in autism diagnoses, and it is possible that there is an environmental contribution too (although the science is pretty solid that vaccination is not it).

          3. Yes, I can blame desperate parents, because even if you want to believe something, if the evidence isn’t there, or actively counters it, and you keep believing, you are a fucking moron.

            Ironic coming from an anarcho-capitalist.

            1. Ironic coming from an anarcho-capitalist.

              Super-ironic coming from someone who believes that government can be controlled or limited in any meaningful way over time, and will not always, always grow and become an out of control monster…that you somehow thought could be controlled.

              1. It’s still better than South-Central Somalia.

                1. It’s still better than South-Central Somalia.

                  No it’s not. Compare stateless Somalia to other comparable states in the same region and you’ll see that they had much higher growth rates of live expectancy, GDP and other factors.

          4. Bravo.

            It is reasonable to expect parents to rise above the level of imbecility.

          5. I’m with Epi on this–and I’m a parent of a child with Asperger’s syndrome. Friends and even some family suggested that my son’s Asperger’s was probably due to environmental issues, vaccine-related, or due to processed foods. This is all crap–IMHO.

            My son is much better off if I concentrate my efforts on helping him adjust to the neurotypical world, and advocating for (minimal) acceptance of his differences rather than chasing chimeras.

        2. Well, at lest one scientist, and a lot of lawyers. However, I don’t think any other respectable scientist was duped by this, especially since every attempt to confirm the results resulted in utter failure.

      2. Um. Jenny McCarthy’s kid isn’t retarded, in fact, if you take what she says at face value (I know, I know, but I believe what she’s saying is sincere even if she’s completely wrong) he’s fully mainstremed now.

        Mental retardation and Autism are two completely separate conditions. Every passing year, it becomes more and more obvious that the intelligence of even the lower functioning autistic individuals is underestimated. Parents of children who are on the autism spectrum face a lot of hard choices about disclosure, education, and treatment based on this completely destructive misconception about the mental capabilities of those with autism.

        Just sayin.

        1. I am completely aware of the clinical distinctions between autism and mental retardation. I also happen to be a dick who uses “retard” as a catch-all term for any severe mental disability, because it tickles my South Park style sense of humor. I wouldn’t read any more into it than that.

          1. Yeeeah, that’s why I felt inclined to end with “Just sayin” instead of “Knowledge is power” or something haha.

            I would really hate to think that my role as a parent of an autistic child has made me ultra sensitive, it’s just that it’s a common misconception, so I’m doing my part in preventing the association from prevailing.

      3. “We got this one kid, Mongo. He’s got a forehead like a drive in movie theater, but he’s a good shit.”

    2. Even if vaccines don’t cause autism, they ought to!

      1. Let the tits do the talking, Jen, and you’ll be miles ahead.

        1. LARGE RACKS LIKE DR. MCCARTHY’S GIVE THE URKOBOLD AUTISM-LIKE SYMPTOMS.

    3. Imus believes it like Birkenstockers believe we are running out of fresh water. I think his wife sells something that can fix it.

  2. and cue in the attacks from the “Vaccines-cause-autism” crowd in 5…4…3..2….

    Seriously, Wakefield is an embarrassment to the medical community. He has sent untold numbers of parents of autism sufferers on a wild goose chase.

    1. He got untold other parents to put their kids in dnager by not vacinating them. Wooping cough and other long forgotten diseases are coming back now thanks to that jackass. He ought to be in jail.

      1. No, he ought to be exposed for shoddy methodology and dubious results.

        They tried jailing people for being wrong in the past. It didn’t work out so well.

        1. Looks to me that he committed fraud by faking results, so I have to agree with John here.

          1. yeah, by committing fraud, he’s guilty of manslaughter at the least.

          2. I doubt scientific fraud would normally fall under commercial fraud statutes. At best I could see him being hit with a ton of lawsuits.

            1. Wakefield had also patented a measles-only vaccine that he pushed as a safe alternative to the MMR vaccine, so he had a financial motive (beyond the 400,000 pounds he was paid by the lawyers) to make the MMR vaccine appear unsafe.

  3. Just think how much more autism would have occurred had the vaccines not been given!

  4. So when will we see these scumbag lawyers disbarred?

    1. First, you have to show that they actually told Wakefield to falsify his data which would not be in their interest to do. Studies done in anticipation of litigation are usually well done because they have to stand up in several courts unlike studies done for political purposes which just just have to fool the willing.

    2. Never. “Reasonable doubt”, don’t ya know.

  5. the pro link comments to the CNN article are appalling.

  6. After hearing the NPR report about the history of Lancet I’m wondering where the whole “prestigious [medical] journal” rot comes from. According to the report Lancet has always been a hack activist rag pushing for whatever “public health” fad was in vogue at the time.

  7. This still doesn’t mean it’s OK for the government to force people to get vaccinations.

    1. My understanding is that they don’t really. They just require them for public school attendance, right?

      1. It is my understanding that you are not immediately immune after a vaccine. It takes a few months for your defenses to build up. If you have 100 percent vacination, that is no big deal since the disease becomes nonexistent in a few years. But if you have a significant portion of the poplation that is not vaccinated, the disease doens’t go away and you can get it from them before your immune system builds up from the vaccine. So these jackasses endanger every kid not just their own.

        1. So these jackasses endanger every kid not just their own.

          I have not ever been vaccinated, specifically in the hopes of infecting you some day. OK, I didn’t have a say back in the 60’s but looking back now it is like gravy! Come visit Oklahoma at your very soonest opportunity!

        2. Plus there is the portion of the population for whom vaccinations do not “take”: They are still susceptible to the disease.

          Such people, who have tried their best to protect themselves, are placed at risk by those who refuse to be vaccinated and thereby become potential vectors for the disease.

          1. And?

            Tough shit, dude, that’s the cost of life. Your right to preemptively protect yourself from diseases stops inches before the depth of a needle in somebody else’s arm.

            1. It’s always the toughest guys who are afraid of a little needle.

            2. If I have taken all reasonable precautions and get the disease after being exprosed to it by someone who has not been vaccinated, I claim the right to sue their ass off for all costs incurred.

              1. Do you also plan to sue people who don’t cover their mouths when they cough if you get the flu?

            3. Your right to be a petri dish for virulent microorganisms ends when you exhale into my air supply.

        3. Also people with egg allergies can’t get vaccinated, since the vaccines are cultured in chicken eggs and usually contain some residue from the egg.

          1. That’s only the flu vaccine, and a flu vaccine not cultured in eggs should be available in the US within a few years. It is already in use in Europe, but the FDA is holding up its introduction in the US.

            1. Are you sure about that? My niece has severe egg allergies, and her mother/my sister was just telling me that she could never get vaccinated for anything because of that.

              1. According to the CDC the only vaccines approved for ues in the US which have egg components as part of their ingredients are various influenza vaccines and the yellow fever vaccine.

                The linked page has documents listing the ingredients for all the vaccines approved in the US. None of the usual childhood vaccines contain eggs or ovalbumin (the protein responsible for most egg allergies).

      2. They just require them for public school attendance, right?

        Absolutely not! Forced to do anything to receive the “right” of public schooling? Surely you jest. I would take it to the Supreme Court (if I cared so little for my children to send them to borg “school”) if my children were “denied their rights”!

        Well, I wouldn’t, but someone else would.

        1. “Conscientious objectors” — people whose faith and beliefs prevent them from vaccinating their children can have kids in public school in FL.

          1. Many states only require a “philosophical objection” (ie any reason you pull out of your ass) rather than a bona fide religious objection for exemptions to the vaccine requirement for school entry. In some (mostly affluent) areas of California, more than half of all children are exempted.

    2. Jeez, this again. It takes quite a while (about a year) for a newborn to go through the standard series of vaccinations and boosters. During that time the newborn is vulnerable to dying, the risk enhanced if there are significant nimbers of unvaccinated people running around out there.

      Requiring vaccinations is a perfectly legitimate government function. As legitimate as organizing armed forces for defense.

      1. Awesome, dude, good to know. You are not a libertarian, and you don’t believe people own their own bodies.

        1. Ugh. The blue-skinned libertarian priests are out in force tonight.

          1. Ugh. The blue-skinned libertarian priests are out in not initiating the use of physical force tonight.

            FIFY

          2. God, you are such an authoritarian. Even if you think that forced vaccination is a valid use of the government monopoly on force, you can’t deny that it’s still morally squishy, and is therefore a perfectly valid thing for a libertarian to think is wrong.

            1. I’m not the one excommunicating people from the church of libertarianism, bub.

            2. Well I’m agreeing with Epi. While NBC situations are a legit place for government, forcing people to vaccine is no good.

            3. … you can’t deny that it’s still morally squishy, and is therefore a perfectly valid thing for a libertarian to think is might be wrong.

              FIFY

        2. I have to shield my unworthy eyes from the brilliance of your libertarian purity.

        3. Seriously, the non-aggression principle is a valuable tool for figuring out the best liberty-respecting solution to most dilemmas caused by human beings living in proximity to one another.

          However, it should never be forgotten that there’s a real world out there, and in that real world messy scenarios arise that just don’t respect the perfection of our abstract principles.

          There are situations where not all the human actors involved are independent adults with nicely separable spheres of activity.

          There are situations where you really can’t follow the Western movie gunfight ideal of waiting for the bad guy shoot first. If you want to protect yourself and your family, you have to stop the bad guy before he shoots you.

          1. And I don’t even want to hear the counter-argument that if we can’t rely on the non-aggression principle for deducing the answer to every conceivable social conflict then we are lost in a quagmire of subjectivity.

            Real life requires wisdom and judgement. That’s just the way it is. Live with it. You can’t figure out the answers to everything from your parents’ basement.

            1. But you can certainly figure out the answers to everything on your pedestal. The government does not have the right to initiate force (in this case, force a needle into someone’s arm) for the safety of others.

              1. “The government does not have the right to initiate force for the safety of others.”

                Initiating force to eliminate threats to the health of the general population in an area is one of the few compelling reasons we establish governments.

    3. From a libertarian perspective, it still might be OK. Failure to vaccinate a child places the child at risk of serious illness and death and might be reasonably considered a form of neglect or abuse. This failure also places others at increased risk of serious illness and death since they might be infected by these unvaccinated children. The right to refuse a vaccination is superseded by the right of others to live.

    4. In this one area I might have to step off the libertarian reservation. You see, there’s this thing called the non-aggression principle. Not vaccinating your children is actually aggressing on the health of other children.

      Go look up “herd immunity” in Wikipedia. If it were just your kids not getting vaccinated, no problem. But if enough parents refuse to vaccinate we suddenly have a big problem. This is a difficult for libertarians to understand they’re hyper-individualistic, unable to understand that individuals exist in herds.

      I don’t know how an anarcho-utopian society would solve this problem. But a minarchist state is still charged with protecting the lives, liberties and properties of its citizens, which makes public health a legitimate function of that state.

  8. Can someone please define “Autism” in terms at least as specific as the definition of, oh, mental retardation?

    1. That was fucking awesome. Americans would never do that to the pigs. We’ve been conditioned way to well to fear them.

    2. Live by the sword, die by the sword. The thing I regret is that the dude doing all the baton tricks escaped unscathed, while the one who got the beat down appeared like he was chastising baton boy right before all hell broke loose.

  9. Wake me up when Reason highlights something it got wrong or reports anything that doesn’t support libertarian dogma.

    1. If they don’t, will you promise to never wake up?

    2. Good Max, go to sleep, good boy.

    3. Well then get back to sleep and prepare to never wake up. That is not meant as a death threat.

  10. doctors have private connection with the manufacturer.they do business with them.they wont take care about the health of the people.
    http://www.pathtoasia.com/jobs/

  11. Autism is now a pretty meaningless definition. The main (perhaps only) reason for the increase in diagnosis is the definition of it has been progressively loosened to the point where literally anyone could be diagnosed autistic if you wanted to.

    I know some anti-vaccination fanatics. After some brief discussion I saw they believed that no vaccine, at all, ever had any positive effect. That they were a scam perpetrated by drug companies.

    These anti-vaccine types are a special kind of willful ignorance. Before the advent of modern medicine the child mortality was something like 60%. This is no doubt that a very big part of why it has been reduced to almost nothing is vaccines.

  12. My pediatrician told me this: consider what many immigrants do right after they come to this country – get vaccinated. He’s had patients who have seen people die of measles and live life crippled by polio. They don’t want to take those chances with themselves or their kids, so they get vaccinated.

    I don’t want to take those chances with my children, either, so they are getting all the standard vaccinations. I hedge on the flu shot every year, because it has made DD1 sick in the past (DD2 is too young for it), and the flu shot is a shot in the dark, unlike the oral polio vaccine or the MMR.

    I will likely also hedge on the HPV vaccine, but my kids won’t be old enough for that one for a long time – but by then it might be required if they want to go to college or into the military, so I may not have a choice.

    1. Also consider the Baby Boom generation–virtually all recieved the recommended vaccines. Their parents grew up before many of the vaccines were available and remember the horrors of many of the diseases which vaccines have now nearly eradicated.

      Those who are having children today are acouple of generations removed from those diseases being widespread, and thus don’t have the (healthy) fear that they should have.

  13. Ok, so the revelation has come forth that some jerk falsified a vaccination/autism linkage, and as a result, a lot of skittish parents ran off and made poor decisions based upon bad information.

    How about taking a look at the bad information that allows parents that either have odd expectations of how kids should act (or, at least THEIR perfect little angels), and grasp at the straw tossed out by the ‘professionals’ who make their living telling such people that the reason is this thing called ‘autism’, which seems, at this point, to be a convenient catch-all for a kid not behaving the way that adults think it should, 24/7/365? Is it even POSSIBLE that there’s nothing “wrong” with the children at all, other than their parents/educators/etc’s poor expectations and/or skills in dealing with kids in the first damned place?

    Not a scientific survey or fact, but I’ve seen a number of examples of people covering their poor parenting/life skills by blaming the kids involved as ‘defective’, and trying to ‘fix’ them through chemistry. And if I had to point to a major societal ‘foul’, then the perpetration that this is acceptable is totally fucked up, and the results are not going to be what a lot of folks expect (i.e. ‘normal’, ‘well adjusted’ people). But what the fuck is ‘normal’? I, for one, don’t even have the first fucking clue, given the variability of individuals that I’ve randomly encountered.

    1. I could see a “normal” kid being diagnosed with, say, Asperger’s by mistake, because there are plenty of childish behaviors that fall under the diagnostic criteria for that…and frankly, most psychiatric “professionals” are no better at diagnosis than a random person pulled off the street and handed a copy of DSM-IV.

      But most disorders on the autism spectrum are going to make a kid appear extremely abnormal.

  14. As a parent I’d like to think I would not make major decisions based on one peer reviewed article with a N=12. Replication is a pretty important part of science.

    1. Heard. But that kind of logic does not compute with certain groups. If a study was done by an expert, its conclusions must be true, and gospel.

      People are taught to trust science without understanding how it’s done, and then go Nomad when they get conflicting information.

    2. People buy products all the time based on an N=1 (testimonials). As much as we would like to think otherwise, humans are superstitious, gullible animals.

  15. What? 73 comments and no mention of Climate Change? Sheesh.

    1. Does it cause autism, too?

      1. No. However, just mention of the subject causes retardation…

    2. I’d lump nutrition and that asshole Ancel Keys into this discussion as well.

  16. Even if Wakefield has been thoroughly discredited, this does not necessarily mean that the notion that vaccines cause autism has been discredited or, more generally, that it is a wise decision for parents to subject their children to the full slate of vaccines in the CDC schedule.

    1. Every testable hypothesis about how vaccines might cause autism has been discredited, the MMR and thimerosal claims being the most prominent.

      Vague claims about “toxins” in vaccines are not testable, and the “too many too soon” claim is not testable without leaving children unprotected to a number of diseases, which means that a study would never be approved by an ethics panel at a reputable institution.

      1. I disagree that “Every testable hypothesis about how vaccines might cause autism has been discredited, the MMR and thimerosal claims being the most prominent.”

        The whole process for evaluating these issues is so corrupt that its findings do not lead to such sweeping conclusions.

        Check out this series of articles by neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock and you will see what I am talking about:

        http://articles.mercola.com/si…..t-one.aspx

        Moreover, most of the commenters here have taken a huge leap of faith from evidence that purports to show that Wakefield’s research has been discredited to a conclusion that the whole vaccine program has somehow been vindicated wholesale. Obviously, this is sloppy thinking, to say the least.

  17. Jenny McCarthy’s response. I don’t have time to read it right now:

    http://fastflip.googlelabs.com/view?q=source:”Huffington Post”&a=BMpgjLdGeM-rTM

    1. Whoops, wrong link. Here it is:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…..06857.html

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