Earlier this year, the British medical journal The Lancet
retracted a paper it published in 1998. This was more than housekeeping on the publication’s part, because the discredited paper caused more than a ripple around the world: The report had linked autism to the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and the paper, in turn, became linked to declining vaccination rates and increasing measles rates in countries around the world.
Another shoe has dropped in that continuing story.
On May 24, after an exhaustive misconduct inquiry, the British medical doctor most closely associated with the study and the vaccine scare received the harshest judgment he could from the country’s governing General Medical Council.
Dr. Andrew Wakefield is banned from practicing medicine in Great Britain, having been found “irresponsible,” ‘’misleading” and “dishonest” in how he carried out the vaccine-autism study. The physician, who left his British practice after the study was published and moved to Texas to direct an autism clinic, has 28 days to appeal the judgment.
The tragedy of this story is not about the doctor, but about what the doctor wrought with a study that, despite scientific proof and professional admonishment, some people continue to believe, and continue to want to believe. And that means that some parents still will not have their children protected against measles, mumps and rubella with the vaccine.
On the heels of this week’s verdict by the British medical council, the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health said Dr. Wakefield’s “false link” between autism and the vaccine had done “untold damage” to the country’s vaccination program.
It also told parents that it’s never too late for their children to have the vaccine: “We cannot stress too strongly that all children and young people should have the MMR vaccine. Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that it is safe.”
Wise words for this side of the ocean, too.
— The Courier-Journal, Louisville