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Autism and Vaccines Taken On By Matt Lauer

by Kirsten Sanford, Aug 28 2009

This Sunday before game-time you might want to set your Tivos to record Dateline. This week, supposedly, Matt Lauer interviews Dr. Andrew Wakefield and several other affiliates of the Thoughtful House Center for Children, along with Dr. Paul Offit and journalist Brian Deer.

The Thoughtful House agreed to the interviews because they figured they would get fair treatment from the likes of Matt. I’m interested to see what kind of a program NBC has put together on this very sensitive subject.

Depending on how this major media outlet writes the script, it could either be a major affirmation of what many within the science community already know, or it could increase the divide between anti-vax’ers and science.

Please, Matt… don’t go Jenny McCarthy on us. Don’t do the usual journalistic job of being “fair-and-balanced”. This is not a “he said, she said” issue. This is science. Do tell the world what the science supports.

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Were the original data linking vaccines and autism faked?

by Phil Plait, Feb 11 2009

The UK-based Sunday Times has a potential bombshell on their site; they claim Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who started the whole "vaccines cause autism" garbage, faked his data to make that claim.

About 10 years ago, Wakefield published a study dealing with children who were autistic, developing symptoms shortly after getting their shots, and linked this with irritated intestinal tracts. This study came under a lot of fire, and eventually most of the authors retracted the conclusion that autism was associated with "environmental factors", that is, vaccinations. By then, though, it was too late, and the modern antivaccination movement was born.

The Sunday Times investigated Wakefield’s original research, and alleges that the symptoms Wakefield reports in his research do not match hospital records of the 12 children studied at the time. In only one case were there symptoms that arose after the injection; in many of the other cases symptoms started before the children had been vaccinated (in fact, there have been allegations for some time that neurological issues occurred in the children before they had actually been vaccinated, casting doubt on Wakefield’s work). Also, hospital pathologists reported that the bowels of many of the children were normal, but Wakefield reported them as having inflammatory disease in his journal paper.

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An unvaccinated child has died from a preventable disease

by Phil Plait, Jan 28 2009

This story is so sad, and what makes it worse is that it was preventable.

The Centers for Disease Control has put out an alert: in Minnesota in 2008, there were five confirmed cases of Haemophilus influenzae type b (or Hib) among children younger than five years old. Of these five cases, three of the children were unvaccinated, one had started the series of vaccines but did not complete the series due to shortages, and the fifth — who had been fully vaccinated — had an immune deficiency.

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Skeptical Battlegrounds: Part IV – Anti-Vaccine Hysteria

by Steven Novella, Dec 22 2008

There is a dedicated fringe anti-vaccine movement. They are dedicated to some permutation of the collection of beliefs that vaccines are: 1) not effective; 2) have not reduced or eliminated any infectious disease; 3) are not safe; and 4) are a conspiracy of Big Pharma, the government, and paid-off doctors. Specific claims have wandered over the years, but they have as a central theme that vaccines are bad. When one specific claim collapses, they will move on to the next anti-vaccine claim.

While anti-vaccine cranks have been around as long as vaccines, it is only recently that they have captured the attention of the mainstream media and the skeptical movement and the battle has really been engaged.

Anti-vaccinationists have focused much of their recent efforts on the claim that vaccines cause autism. At first the MMR vaccine was blamed, sparked by a now-discredited study performed by Andrew Wakefield. This led to declining vaccination rates in the UK and a resurgence of measles.

As the MMR claim was in decline (although by no means abandoned), attention shifted to thimerosal – a mercury-based preservative in some vaccines. There are many flaws with the thimerosal hypothesis, and numerous studies have shown no link between thimerosal and autism or any neurological disorder. But the fatal blow to the thimerosal hypothesis was struck when thimerosal was removed from the routine childhood vaccine schedule (thimerosal, incidentally, was never in the MMR vaccine) in the US by 2002. In the subsequent 6 years the rate of autism diagnoses kept increasing at their previous rate, without even a blip. Only the most rabid (or scientifically illiterate)  anti-vaccine fanatics still cling to the thimerosal claim. Continue reading…

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