If only this ended the debate

An utterly unsurprising bit of news from the Times:
The first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved, according to a new report on the widely discredited research.

The conclusions of the 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues was renounced by 10 of its 13 authors and later retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was published. Still, the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.

A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.

A lie. The first study to suggest a link between vaccination and autism was a lie. Really, what further commentary need one add?

Why is this important? We'll start by looking at the last paragraph of the same article:
But measles has surged since Wakefield's paper was published and there are sporadic outbreaks in Europe and the U.S. In 2008, measles was deemed endemic in England and Wales.
A disease that is easily prevented with routine vaccination is now endemic in one of the world's wealthiest and most advanced nations. But measles is no big deal, right?

From the WHO:
Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus.

It remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. An estimated 164 000 people died from measles in 2008 – mostly children under the age of five.

Admittedly, the overwhelming majority of deaths occur in the developing world. But the disease has killed in the developed world, too, and doubtless many more would become severely ill or die if the majority of people didn't continue to vaccinate their children. Frankly, it is unspeakable that anyone should die anywhere because of concern about a safe vaccine that was based on a lie.

And yet, as I type this, Wakefield's study is still cited with approval by Jenny McCarthy's "Generation Rescue." I wonder if they will continue to dig in their heels and defend him like they did after Lancet retracted the study, or if they will scrub their page of any mention of him.

For every patient who could have received the vaccine but didn't, only to develop a disease they never would have gotten otherwise, the damage is already done. Here's hoping this goes a little way toward ending the lunacy of linking vaccination to autism.

Update: First of all, anyone interested in a thorough discussion of the Wakefield fiasco would be well-served by this post at Science-Based Medicine. From there, I learned that the wagons are, indeed, circling around the vaccine-autism crowd's charlatan hero.

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