A study published in 1998 in a major scientific journal has questioned the doubt. Since then it has been withdrawn.
This could be the end point of one of the scientific manipulations that has had the greatest impact on public health in recent years. In 1998, a study of 12 children published in the prestigious journal The Lancet, suggested the existence of a link between MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and autism. Since then, about ten more solid studies have been made. Nobody confirmed this hypothesis. In 2010, under the pressure of the scientific community, The Lancet at the end the article ended. However, it is still wielded by anti-vaccines.
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A large study published this week in the newspaper Annals of internal medicine he twists his neck again and confirms that MMR does not trigger autism. The authors, four Danish academics, examined the medical records of 650,000 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010. During this time, 6,500 children developed autism spectrum disorders. The researchers then compared the number of autistic children among the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated (in Denmark, vaccination is not mandatory) and found no differences.
"A total renunciation"
How to explain that a small British study published twenty years ago still has such repercussions today? "Its authors were very skilled, the publication was made in the rules of art, said Françoise Salvadori, senior professor of immunology in Dijon and coauthor of Antivax, resistance to eighteenth-century vaccinesis century until the present day (Vendemiaire Edition). What you need to know is that this study did not intend to link the MMR vaccine to autism. They described a new syndrome, autistic enterocolitis, and it is only in conclusion that they suggested this hypothesis. "
The authors, whose leader was Andrew Wakefield, a digestive surgeon, however, did not hesitate by such precautions once the study was published. "Wakefield was quick to organize press conferences in which he clearly announced the existence of this link," says Françoise Salvadori. But the doctor was not all white in the case. In 2011, a poll conducted by Brian Deer, a British journalist Sunday Times, revealed that the data had been tampered with and that the scientist had a personal interest in the case. "Not only was he paid by a law firm commissioned by families of children with autism to appeal against the vaccine manufacturer, but he also created a company to commercialize diagnostic tests," reports Françoise Salvadori.
Donald Trump's support
The year before these revelations, The Lancet he had decided to withdraw the study twelve years after its publication. "It is a very rare act, a total disregard by the scientific community", says the immunologist. But while the study had benefited from strong media coverage at the time of publication – most often favorable to Wakefield's thesis – the announcement of the retraction was only weakly transmitted by the media. Subsequently, Andrew Wakefield, repudiated by his peers, deprived of the practice of medicine in the United Kingdom, emigrated to the United States where he obtained the support of Donald Trump himself!
Despite this reversal, the damage was done. "In the United Kingdom, the case had an immediate impact," says Françoise Salvadori. In the years since the publication, vaccination coverage has fallen dramatically in England, up to 50% in some parts of London, before going back ten years.
In France, it is only recently that this case has been talking about this. "Information has been disseminated underground in circles against vaccination, including blogs and social networks," says Jocelyn Raude, a researcher in social psychology at the School of Advanced Studies in Public Health. This controversy has penetrated the collective representations on vaccines, but not as much as that on the presence of aluminum, which is French-French ".
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For his part, Andrew Wakefield continues to defend his theory. In 2016 he directed a film (Vaxxed) that MEP Michèle Rivasi tried to send to the European Parliament in 2017. "Despite the weight of scientific evidence, there will always be people who believe that there is no smoke without fire, this fraud still has a bright future" , says Salvadori.
The incredible growth of measles in the world
From the beginning of the year, 288 cases of measles have been reported in France. This is less than last year at the same time as Santé Publique France had 745 cases. Would the situation improve? France is indeed a bad student on the face of this disease because, last year, it was one of the ten countries that contributed most to the increase in the number of cases in 2018 compared to 2017 (2269 additional cases ).
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Worldwide, there were 229,000 cases (136,000 deaths) in 2018 versus 170,000 in the previous year. If even Ukraine or Brazil are accused in the United States, experts have launched the alarm last week to report the return of the disease in the country, while it was declared uprooted in the United States. beginning of the century. "After years of progress, different phenomena combine to provoke a global rebirth of measles". In Europe in particular, there is "a loosening of vigilance about the disease and the spread of false information about the vaccine" ", Deplores the World Health Organization.