Commentary on British Medical Journals finding that autism study was an elaborate fraud

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) today published an article that went further than the previous position of merely retracting the article published by Wakefield in the Lancet by outright calling the article not just bad science but a deliberate fraud. Anyone who read the original article when it came out would have thought that it did not make sense then either. Yet the lay press ran with the article. Conspiracy theorist, most of whom probably did not read the article ran with the idea that we are poisoning our children.

Vaccines are highly cost effective in promoting public health. This is medicine on a community and global level

Unfortunately the damage has been done. As a consequence more and more consumers have been moving further and further away from vaccinations based on his findings in a preselected 12 patients. Yes; you heard it the whole study was just a retrospective review of just 12 patients who were enrolled merely for the purpose of investigating causes of diarrhea in children with autism. Yet he came away with labeling the measles vaccine as the cause of the childrens problems. On the basis of this single small uncontrolled study now labelled as a fraud the great work of such pioneers such as Jenner, Pasteur, Salk, Sabin, Hillman and countless others who have helped eradicate and reduce most of the dreaded disease of childhood has been destroyed. Several other larger studies have since been published in several countries that refuted the Wakefield claims but never got press coverage. study 1, study 2, study 3, study 4.

Unfortunately it is very hard to change minds once the possibility of a conspiracy has been raised. Many families have joined the movement to stop vaccinating their children. Some are even celebrities who attract even a larger audience adding to the momentum. This would not have been such a great problem if the potential recipient of the vaccine were the only ones effected by the choice. But when a number of unimmunized individuals are in the community the “herd” is less protected as there are now reservoirs for disease in the community (see herd immunity). In our local area we have several cases of pertussis every year as a result of under vaccination putting the vaccinated population at greater risk.

Similarly we have seen several outbreaks of measles and mumps across the country for the same  reasons. Don’t get me wrong I am not a blind fanboy either. Just as with any science there have been its share of setbacks and scares.
But the progress continues and lives more lives are saved than lost. Examples include Polio from the vaccine in the 1950s from a manufacturing defect, Guillain barre from influenza vaccination in 1976 (which later turned out to be statistically insignificant) but the sheer number of lives saved from death and disability has been forgotten in modern times. On the plus side no cases of wild type polio have occurred in the US since 1979. Smallpox a dreaded disfiguring disease has been eradicated in 1979. Vaccines are overall inexpensive, effective tools to improve public healthcare. This is medicine on a community and global level. No other healthcare product can match the achievement of the smallpox vaccine dollar for dollar in the history of medicine.

Doesn’t nutrition make up for
vaccination?

In short it does not, they complement each other but each on their own cannot complete the process. Many will argue that nutrition is the way to prevent disease and promote health. I agree that it is necessary but it will only go so far.
Knowledge of nutrition and nutritional deficiencies goes back almost 200 years. This is nothing new. But just having a good dinner does not make us healthy. It helps but it does not stop there. The pillars of health are: Sanitation, optimal nutrition (being overweight is also malnutrition), vaccination, antibiotics, preventive care (diabetes, smoking cessation, cholesterol management etc) all are needed in a “healthy” dose to achieve health. I often use the example of Michael Phelps, the Olympic super athlete winner of sixteen olympic medals. When it comes to pushing human body to its limits he is Superman. The question is what does he eat to give him this kind of superhuman energy? He must have special berries, juices, extracts and supplements to give him this super strength; right? Not really- Look at this article describing the 12,ooo calorie per day diet consisting mostly of ordinary stuff like cheese, eggs, grits, pasta etc. Notice that there is nothing exotic. What makes the him a super athlete- good genes, lots training and a balanced diet for his activity level. Look at his pictures, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci would have been thrilled. In conclusion Wakefied did substantial damage to the world health, the effects of which will be felt for years to come.
This has been unfortunate.

References:

Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud,’ British journal finds – CNN.com.

Wakefield, Aj, Sh Murch, A Anthony, J Linnell,
Dm Casson, M Malik, M Berelowitz, Ap Dhillon, Ma Thomson, and P
Harvey. “RETRACTED: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia,
non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in
children : The Lancet.”
The Lancet 351, no. 9103 (February 1998):
637-641.
.

“Measles — United States, January 1–April 25, 2008.” MMWR, 2008.

“Update: Mumps Outbreak — New York and New Jersey, June 2009–January 2010.” MMWR (2010).

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