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“It takes a talking ass”

Jim Carrey, rube-tool of the month!

A seminal event in the vaccine-autism controversy was the 1998 publication of an article in The Lancet, an old and prestigious medical journal in Britain. Coauthored by Andrew Wakefield and 12 others, the article reported on an examination of 12 children who had developed both gastro-intestinal problems and severe behavioral problems after receiving the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Nine of the children had become autistic. The authors concluded that they had identified a new syndrome involving “colitis and pervasive developmental disorder,” which they surmised but had yet to demonstrate was caused by the MMR vaccine.

Although immediately criticized as scientifically implausible, the article nevertheless created a firestorm—as did its flamboyant lead author. Ever since, the Wakefield Lancet article has been the single most prominent weapon in attacks on vaccines as a cause of autism. Among its consequences was that MMR vaccination in England dropped to dangerously low levels.

The Wakefield article cried out for close scrutiny, which it eventually received. Investigative reporting by Brian Deer, a British journalist, has played a crucial role. Starting in early 2004, Deer’s reports for the Sunday Times (of London) and a television network revealed numerous troubling details about the Wakefield study, including that Wakefield, some of his coauthors, and some patients in the study were involved in liability litigation against vaccine firms, that some of Wakefield’s research was funded via the plaintiff bar, and that subjects were recruited in a non-scientific manner. (One source for these and other details is the excellent Medscape medical news service.)

Junk Science and the Anti-Vaccine Fraud

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