By Norma Erickson
The press has recently been covering the public disgrace of Dr. Andrew Wakefield in regard to a research paper he published in The Lancet in 1998. This paper was recently withdrawn from publication under allegations of misconduct on the part of Dr. Wakefield.
Just last month, Dr. Scott Reuben was accused of fraud for allegedly fabricating data on no less than 21 research papers published between 1996 and 2008. The reports on Dr. Reuben were news for a few days.
The controversy regarding Dr. Wakefield’s alleged misconduct regarding a single published research paper rages on. Why the disparity? Let’s take a look at the press coverage versus some verifiable facts.
According to the press, Dr. Wakefield is almost single-handedly responsible for the current controversy over vaccine safety. The fact is vaccine safety was questioned long before Dr. Wakefield published his findings. The National Vaccine Information Center, website http://www.nvic.org/, was established in 1988 in response to thousands of parents across the United States who were concerned about the possible side effects of vaccines and the lack of comprehensive scientific research prior to their approval.
According to the press, Dr. Wakefield linked autism specifically to the combined measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. The fact is this is not true. Read these direct quotes from Dr. Wakefield’s article that was published in “The Lancet” (volume 351) on 28 February 1998:
- “We identified associated gastrointestinal disease and developmental regression in a group of previously normal children, which was generally associated in time with possible environmental triggers.”
- “We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described.”
- “Further investigation is needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to the vaccine.”
The press condemns Dr. Wakefield for the small number of participants in his study and where they came from, even though the published paper clearly stated there were only 12 participants and that all of them were referred either by their parents, or their primary care physicians.
The press reports that “invasive procedures” were conducted on unsuspecting children. Once again, quoting directly from the paper in question, “Investigations were approved by the Ethical Practices Committee of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust, and parents gave informed consent.”
The press claims the results of the study are invalid because there was no “control group. Dr. Wakefield clearly addresses this issue in his once published paper saying, “intestinal and behavioral pathologies may have occurred together by chance, reflecting a selection bias in a self-referred group.”
Dr. Wakefield’s paper quoted several previous studies that indicated a “correlation between intestinal dysfunction and autism.”
He also cited several prior studies that “may support the hypothesis that the consequences of an inflamed or dysfunctional intestine may play a part in behavioral changes in some children.”
The only concern expressed by the press that could not be refuted was that Dr. Wakefield may have failed to disclose his source/sources of funding for this research. No report of any allegation was found to indicate that Dr. Wakefield stood to personally benefit from the outcome of his research.
If, indeed, the research was funded in part by an attorney looking to prove a link between the MMR vaccine and autism in children, the attorney must have been sorely disappointed to be presented with findings that only indicated “further investigation is needed………”
For the complete text of Dr. Wakefield’s controversial paper, visit this website.
For more information regarding concerns over vaccine safety, visit the National Vaccine Information Center here.
[Note: This article was written in March of 2010. The traditional press has not relented. If anything the War on Wakefield has escalated to grand proportions. One has to wonder what the purpose of pursuing these outrageous claims could possibly be. Take the time to read the original paper for yourself–become informed–make your own decision based on facts.]