I have decided that there is a school of people out there that will believe anything, as long as an “expert” says it. Case in point: In 1998, a British doctor by the name of Andrew Wakefield published a study linking the MMR vaccine with cases of autism. For those of you who may not know, MMR stands for measles, mumps and rubella and the shot is administered to children at one year and four years of age.
The reaction to the study was immediate and devastating. Vaccination rates in Britain dropped 80% and the cases of the three diseases the vaccination were made to prevent sharply increased in two of the three diseases (measles and mumps). In 1998 there were 56 confirmed cases of measles in the UK; in 2006 there were 449 in the first five months of the year, with the first death since 1992; cases occurred in inadequately vaccinated children. Mumps cases began rising in 1999 after years of very few cases, and by 2005 the United Kingdom was in a mumps epidemic with almost 5000 notifications in the first month of 2005 alone. The age group affected was too old to have received the routine MMR immunizations around the time the paper by Wakefield was published, and too young to have contracted natural mumps as a child, and thus to achieve a herd immunity effect. With the decline in mumps that followed the introduction of the MMR vaccine, these individuals had not been exposed to the disease, but still had no immunity, either natural or vaccine induced. Therefore, as immunization rates declined following the controversy and the disease re-emerged, they were susceptible to infection. Measles and mumps cases continued in 2006, at incidence rates 13 and 37 times greater than respective 1998 levels. Two children were severely and permanently injured by measles encephalitis despite undergoing kidney transplants in London.
It was later found that Mr. Wakefield fabricated his findings, using only 12 test subjects that were all recruited by anti-MMR campaigners. Wakefield also failed to disclose the fact that he was a paid consultant for a lawyer who was suing the makers of the MMR vaccine. Furthermore, five of the 12 test subjects were diagnosed with learning disabilities before they were given the MMR vaccine, a fact which Wakefield removed from the test subjects’ medical records, and three of the 12 were never diagnosed with autism at all. A 2011 study published in a prominent British medical journal called Wakefield’s study “the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years”.
In 2010, after many researchers tried and failed to recreate the findings in Wakefiel’ds paper, the journal that originally published Wakefield’s article fully retracted it and 10 of the original co-authors backed out. And in May of that same year, Andrew Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine. And in 2011, journalist Brian Deer provided the British Journal of Medicine with conclusive proof that the original paper was faked.
So with all the overwhelming evidence that this study was an elaborate, corporate funded hoax, why are parents still refusing to vaccinate their children? For two reasons. One, because they refuse to believe a doctor of medicine could possibly have an ulterior motive (like being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to fabricate a study) and two, because celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson Peete are keeping the rumor alive.
So what’s my goal with this whole post? To tell you to think. Do your research, know your subject and make an informed decision. Don’t blindly follow what someone with a PhD or an MD after their name tells you. Do your own research, make up your own mind and, for the love of God, don’t listen to celebrities who are just following the hype.