Friday, February 5, 2010

Article Positing Vaccine-Autism Link Withdrawn

About time:

The Lancet has retracted a 1998 study that kindled a firestorm of opposition to vaccines by suggesting that autism arose in a handful of children because they had received measles-mumps-rubella shots.

On January 28, the U.K. General Medical Council sealed the fate of the controversial study, saying its selection of participants may have been biased and that lead author Andrew Wakefield committed several breaches of ethics in his work.

The Lancet formally retracted the paper February 2. “It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al. are incorrect,” the journal editors wrote.

They weren’t the first to lose faith in the study. Six years ago, 10 of the 13 coauthors on the report got queasy about the findings and disowned the paper, fearing it could damage public health efforts.

Since then the Sunday Times of London has done much of the heavy lifting in bringing down the dubious research, publishing details of recruitment bias and ethics questions. The General Medical Council investigated and agreed, leading to the Lancet retraction this week.

Formally, the scientific paper no longer exists.

Unfortunately, enormous damage has already been done.

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