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Basis of Anti-Vaccination Campaign Shown Fraudulant
The original paper proposing a link between autism and the MMR vaccine has long since been discredited on a scientific basis. Now, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) accuses the report's primary author of deliberate fraud.
No matter. Hyped by Hollywood stars such as Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy, and promoted by media heavyweights such as Oprah, Larry King and in Canada, CBC’s The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos, the public predictably overreacted. (Jenny McCarthy looks way better on television than Ben Goldacre as does Jim Carrey.) Parents withheld permission for child vaccinations and in Europe, some MMR vaccination programs were canceled. The results - rates of autism didn't change but the number of children becoming sick and dying from these diseases skyrocketed. The website: Jenny McCarthy Body Count estimates the number of deaths in the United States alone at 624 as of January 1, 2011.
Follow up studies were conducted after the publication of Dr. Wakefield's paper but could not confirm his results. This, of course, only fueled conspiracy theories. In 2009, however, Wakefield was found to have altered the records of patients that took part in the study. The Lancet immediately retracted his publication. After an investigation, The British General Medical Council found that Wakefield had acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly"
The latest news, however, concerns the most recent edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). An investigation by BMJ journalist Brian Deer concludes Wakefield's paper is fraudulent. Among other things, Deer claims that preexisting symptoms were "played down" to make it look as though children in the study had serious reactions to the MMR vaccine. Deer states that medical "records cannot be reconciled with what was published". BMJ editors have recommend that other publications by Wakefield, be scrutinized. No kidding.
It is unusual for a scientific publication to make such a strong statement - accusing Wakefield of deliberate fraud. Clearly, the BMJ feels the issue warrants it. It does. Dr. Wakefield's actions, and those of others choosing to promote anti-vaccination nonsense, have done enormous harm.
It would be nice to think that the investigation by Mr. Deer would be the end of this sad chapter in media hype. That will only happen if the media takes it role seriously and reports the results of the BMJ investigation as actively as it promoted the anti-vaccination hype. For the record, CNN's Anderson Cooper did a an excellent piece on the BMJ investigation, conducting an interview with Wakefield of the kind that should be done with alternative medicine quacks and frauds.
Our own Calgary morning show on CBC radio, The Calgary Eyeopener featuring Jim Brown, also did an a pretty good piece on the story. Mr. Brown continues to display an investigative edge that is rare for morning radio show hosts and even rarer on the CBC. His story actually featured an interview with a University of Calgary scientist. The national CBC news also reported the story, but treated it more as a minor curiosity - the anti-science, pro-quackery bias of the national network is just too pervasive for them to do much else. Same thing for the Calgary Herald.
The message to parents should now be clear:
The reported link between the MMR vaccine and autism is not just based on bad science, but on deliberate fraud. The reported link was manufactured by those prepared to sacrifice the life of your child for money.
It doesn't matter that Oprah, Larry King or George Stroumboulopoulos treated the anti-vaccination campaigners as hero's for challenging the medical establishment. As media personalities, they were just doing their job (as they see it) of promoting any sort of nonsense in pursuit of ratings with little or no regard for the consequences. As a parent, you should do better and consider the consequences.
Dr. Wakefield may no longer practice medicine in the UK, but no matter, he operates an autism clinic in Austin, Texas (despite not having a medical license in the United States either). Whatever happened to Don't Mess with Texas? Either way, parents are well advised to stay clear of quack clinics that operate outside of the scientific/medical mainstream.
and most important of all, don't be stupid . . . VACCINATE YOUR KIDS!
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ASkepticRTN is dedicated to battling pseudo-science and superstition in the media. Specifically where facts, rationality and truth have been sacrificed upon the alter of entertainment.