Journal: Study linking vaccine to autism was fraud
LONDON – 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.
The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield's paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems. Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children's parents.Wakefield could not be reached for comment despite repeated calls and requests to the publisher of his recent book, which claims there is a connection between vaccines and autism that has been ignored by the medical establishment. Wakefield now lives in the U.S. where he enjoys a vocal following including celebrity supporters like Jenny McCarthy.
Deer's article was paid for by the Sunday Times of London and Britain's Channel 4 television network. It was published online Thursday in the medical journal, BMJ.
In an accompanying editorial, BMJ editor Fiona Godlee and colleagues called Wakefield's study "an elaborate fraud." They said Wakefield's work in other journals should be examined to see if it should be retracted.
Last May, Wakefield was stripped of his right to practice medicine in Britain. Many other published studies have shown no connection between the MMR vaccination and autism.
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.
Now there are a few very key facts related to this story that bear repeating. First, we know now - 13 years after this study was originally published, that Wakefield's science was not only shoddy, but outright fraudulent. That said, it should not come as a surprise to anyone to learn that vaccine conspiracy theorists like Mr. Hubbs are still professing Wakefield's innocence and claiming the original study was accurate. They claim Wakefield's conclusions were sound and that he is merely being picked on for daring to question the medical establishment.
However, as time has shown us, even though the rates of MMR vaccination have dropped significantly since Wakefield originally perpetuated his fraud onto the innocent public, the rates of autism have gone relatively unchanged. In fact according to recent data, rates of autism have actually INCREASED during this period which is the exact inverse of what Wakefield, Mr. Hubbs, and all other anti-vaxxers would want us to believe.
However, during this same period of time we have seen numerous outbreaks of measles. The World Health Organization (WHO), has stated that more than 20 million people worldwide are affected by measles each year and it is the single leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths among young children, resulting in 164,000 deaths globally in 2008. Therefore, by publishing his fraudulent study, Andrew Wakefield has actually led to increase risk, and thus increased number of deaths, of children that are no longer being vaccinated.
Thankfully Wakefield's fraud has had very little impact within the US, therefore for the most part due to the continual usage of the MMR vaccine within our population, we have not seen major outbreaks across the nation. However in the United Kingdom where people followed Wakefield's work more closely (and where his study effectively went unchallenged the first few years after publication), they have actually witnessed outbreaks in both England and Wales. There was also the first measles related deathreported in the UK in over 14 years, and it was due to a young boy being unprotected from the measles virus because he did not receive the MMR vaccine.
So even though we have not witnessed a decrease in the rates of autism (as Wakefield would have us believe would be the case with fewer children receiving the MMR vaccine) we have seen outbreaks of measles which have been proven to lead to death. The lesson we can take from this is that not only do the actions of the anti-vaxxers not actually solve the autism issue, but in fact they lead to higher rates of viral infections which can result in pain, long-term side effects, and even loss of life.
So what does Mr. Hubbs think of all this? Well according to his most recent statements, and in spite of the mountain of evidence which has proven Wakefield to be nothing short of a charlatan, Mr. Hubbs still supports Wakefield 100% and even continues to post information about Wakefield's study on his silly website. In fact, Mr. Hubbs has even signed an online letter of support for Wakefield and he continues to make excuses in a vain attempt to paint Wakefield as the victim.
Sorry Mr. Hubbs, but the real victims are those children who are now suffering due to their parents (unsubstantiated) fears of having autistic children which due in large part to the fraud that is one Andrew Wakefield, led them to bypass the proven safety which comes along with the MMR vaccine. The real victims are those 164,000 humans who die each year from measles which equates to 450 deaths each and every day or 18 deaths every hour!
Wakefield himself is not and has never been a victim, but the damage he has done will last decades, and for that we have no one to blame other than Wakefield himself and his loyal troop of ignorant followers such as Mr. Hubbs who overlook science and instead believe this is all some vast conspiracy to protect profits of the drug companies.
Is it any wonder that Mr. Hubbs and his fellow anti-vaxxers have never been able to come up with one single peer-reviewed study which has proven there is even a remote link between autism and the MMR vaccine? They have a lot of excuses, but at the end of the day they are still left with zero science.
So this leads us to the next point - the fact that Wakefield actually doctored information and altered facts about his patients. Wakefield even went so far as to make claims about these children which have now been proven to be factually incorrect such as his claim that the children were "normal" prior to receiving the MMR vaccine (whereas in reality at least five of the 12 children referenced had documented developmental problems).
This is the type of person that Mr. Hubbs considers to be an expert... a man which has been proven to falsify data, to manipulate findings, to change information, to distort historical fact, and even one who engaged in unethical behavior by paying children at a birthday party $5 to take samples of their blood. This is a man who has had his license to practice medicine revoked, his studies retracted, and who has been found of numerous ethical violations and professional misconduct.
The problem here is that Mr. Hubbs' standard list of excuses won't work here. The fact is Wakefield did originally publish his work, so the conspiracy theory employed by Mr. Hubbs that nobody is ever allowed to publish work which calls into question actions taken by drug companies, "big pharma", or mainstream medicine has been proven to be factually incorrect.
Even though the study has since been proven to be nothing more than a fraud, the simple truth is for over a decade Wakefield's study was published and available, which proves that anyone can publish a study if they actually take the time to perform the research (or in Wakefield's case take the time to fabricate and manipulate the research). This minor fact seems to go a long way to call into question why Mr. Hubbs' other laundry list of "experts" have never bothered to publish any of their nonsense, but that is an issue we have addressed previously (and likely will do so again in the future).
Another common excuse from the convoluted mind of Mr. Hubbs is that drug companies or medical agencies such as the CDC, FDA, or AMA seek to destroy anyone who dares speak out against them. However, once again we see this excuse has more holes in it than a box of Cheerios. First, the particular article cited above was paid for not by a drug company nor a medical agency, but actually by a newspaper (the Sunday Times of London) as well as a television channel (Britain's Channel 4). Thus unless Mr. Hubbs wishes to add investigative journalists and media outlets to his list of people who are in on this vast conspiracy, there really isn't anything to this one.
The facts continue to pile up against Wakefield, and against conspiracy theorists like Mr. Hubbs, although perhaps the most damning statements and admission of guilt comes from Mr. Hubbs himself:
"noone [sic] said anything about that the [...] studies PROVED a vaccine link to autism.” ~Lowell HubbsTherein lies the problem. While Mr. Hubbs is out there attempting to defend snakeoil salesman and ethically challenged "experts", he ignores the true goal of science which is to find proof. This all just goes to show that in a mind of a conspiracy theorist it isn't important to determine fact or to discover the truth. No - in the mind of a conspiracy theorist the one and only true goal is to challenge authority and deny reality.
Is it any wonder why anti-vaxxers like Mr. Hubbs can never be taken seriously?