In 1998, an article was published in the famous British medical journal "The Lancet", which still has consequences today. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues published a study describing a presumed association between the combination measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) and autism vaccine.
After a bit of silence, there was a significant amount of media hype later, at least in the UK, which shocked many people in the long run and, as a result, MMR vaccination coverage in the population is passed from 92% (1996) to 84% (2002). He refused. Even today vaccine aspirants cite the study regularly – although they do not meet the scientific criteria and "The Lancet" withdrew in 2010.
The controversial study
The study, published by a team of 13 scientists led by Wakefield under the title "Lymphoid lymphoid hyperplasia, nonspecific colitis and pervasive developmental disorder in children", analyzed twelve cases of children born in London from 1996 to 1997 The Royal Free Hospital he had been cured. All suffered from intestinal diseases and had developmental disorders (autism spectrum disorders).
Wakefield considered intestinal disease a new syndrome – later called "autistic enterocolitis" – and recommended further research into its potential causes, in particular vaccination with the MMR combined vaccine. The study suggested this relationship, as behavioral abnormalities were observed in eight of the twelve cases shortly after MMR vaccination.
A causal link between vaccination and autistic development disorders, however, can not be derived from it; There was no statistical information on the frequency with which such a relation exists. The study was not extensive enough anyway. Nonetheless, Wakefield used the press conference before the publication of the study to discourage the use of the combined MMR and to recommend individual vaccines instead.
Criticism and accusations
The findings of the Wakefield study could not be reproduced by independent scientists – in other words, they failed to produce the same results and found no association between MMR vaccination and autism.
Not enough: the British journalist Brian Deer was able to demonstrate to Wakefield different inconsistencies. For example, in 2004 it was announced that the doctor had received 55,000 pounds (equivalent to about 71,700 pounds) before the publication of the study – without the knowledge of his co-authors or magazines. One of the reviewers, who had then examined the study for "The Lancet", would have previously received 40,000 pounds.
The money came from a law firm that acted on behalf of the parents of five autistic children mentioned in the study. These were interested in finding a link between the vaccine and the autism to report the vaccine manufacturer. The fact brought ten of the twelve Wakefield co-authors to distance themselves from the study.
In 2006, the payment of another lawyer was announced in Wakefield, this time amounting to £ 435,643 (about £ 569,000). A total of 3.5 million pounds (4.6 million Swiss francs) for evaluations, counseling and research assignments for doctors and scientists who brought the combined vaccine was crucial.
One possible reason behind Wakefield's MMR vaccine is that he himself filed a patent for a single measles vaccine nine months prior to the publication of his study. This too was revealed by journalist Brian Deer. In the British Medical Journal BMJ accused Wakefield in January 2011, he sought to profit from the commercialization of a test for the alleged profit of the vaccine-related autism disease.
Withdrawal of articles and professional ban
Due to the continuing allegations against Wakefield in 2007, the British Medical Association, the General Medical Council, became active. The commission examined Wakefield's machinations and study for two and a half years, and in January 2010 said that the doctor had used "unethical research methods". He then subjected eleven children to over-treatment methods such as lumbar punctures or colonoscopy, which were not clinically indicated. He also presented his findings in a "dishonest" and "irresponsible" way; the diary has been deceived.
In February 2010, The Lancet completely withdrew the Wakefield article. Back in 2004, Journal Wakefield had a "fatal conflict of interest" attested and described its study as "imperfect", but did not withdraw. In May 2010, the Wakefield Medical Association issued a health ban at work in the United Kingdom. Among other things, the camera accused the doctor of taking blood samples for money from his friends at his son's birthday party.
However, Wakefield had already quit his job at the Royal Free Hospital in 2001. He left the United Kingdom and is currently working for a controversial private clinic in the United States. In 2016, he shot the skeptical-vaccine documentary "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe", in which the American health authority CDC is accused of covering the alleged connection between vaccination and autism. Among the many opponents of inoculation, Wakefield is now considered a kind of martyr.
An ineradicable voice
Despite the Wakefield ban, despite the withdrawal of his study, the rumor continues to claim that the MMR vaccine can trigger autism. Even the president of the United States of today Donald Trump, who was scanned in 2016 with Wakefield, has spread it several times via Twitter, for example in 2014:
In 2008, according to a survey of one in four Americans, it was believed that vaccinations would poison children. No less important are the efforts of organizations like Autism One, which feed the fear of vaccinations. It is quite understandable that parents of autistic children are often those who see the evil in the vaccine. In fact, many of them have experienced that the developmental disorder occurred shortly after vaccination. And temporal proximity suggests causality – so it must have been the vaccine that caused autism. But autism is very often only between 18 and 24 months a day, in which children receive many vaccinations.
Another reason why the alleged relationship between vaccination and autism may seem plausible is that the number of cases of autism in recent decades – in which the MMR vaccine has also been used – has steadily increased. The cause of the increase is not clear, but at least partly it could be due to the improvement of the diagnostic methodology.
Presumably, nothing will be able to clarify the rumor that vaccinations can cause autism. Even the outcome of the most comprehensive study to date, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of 2015, is unlikely to change this. On behalf of the US health authorities, Anjali Jain and her Lewin team have scoured a huge health record for over 95,000 children. The authors conclude: "In line with previous studies, we have not found any correlation between MMR vaccine and an increased risk of autism."