Right Thinking From The Left Coast
No legacy is so rich as honesty - William Shakespeare

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Vaccine Fall Out Continues

This, as Phil Plait says, is huge:

A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an “elaborate fraud” that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study—and that there was “no doubt” Wakefield was responsible.

“It’s one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors,” Fiona Godlee, BMJ’s editor-in-chief, told CNN. “But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.”

Here is the link.  Among other things, Wakefield collected more than 435,000 pounds from lawyers hoping to sue vaccine makers.  Of the 12 cases he reported on, five showed developmental problems before they were vaccinated and three never had autism.

Scientist very rarely use the word “fraud” in scientific disputes.  It is the most serious allegation on can make—well, apart from ethical violations in research methods (which Wakefield has also been accused of).  It’s an accusation not just of messing up or not knowing what you’re doing, but deliberately falsifying results.  It can destroy careers.  Deer has done an incredible thorough job of exposing just how awful Wakefield’s work was ... how fraudulent.  This isn’t your run-of-the-mill “debunking”, which might consist of quoting obscure contrary studies, eliding published research and citing thirty-year old data.  This is a systematic destruction of the supposed research.

I have to think that criminal charges or civil suits will emerge at some point.  This wasn’t some study on the health effects of oat fiber or something.  Children died because of Wakefield’s study and the anti-vax movement it spawned.

It’s also time for our politicians to stop shilly-shallying on this issue.  During Campaign 2008, both McCain and Obama waffled on the vaccine-autism issue.  The Administration needs to come out swinging and make it abundantly clear that they stand with the science ... they stand with vaccination.

Just to post it again, here’s Penn and Teller in an NSFW episode of Bullshit!.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 01/05/11 at 10:32 PM in Science and Technology  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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