So … I was reading FARK today when I came across this: the man cited as the initiator for much of the current climate of anti-vaccination fear has been called out as fraudulent and discredited by the British Medical Journal (see also: coverage via Seth Mnookin and NYT Magazine). Wakefield was the person who tried to claim that MMR vaccines cause autism — an unproven allegation that has unfortunately carried a disproportionate amount of weight in the minds of some parents.
According to sources, Mr. Wakefield’s paper has been completely withdrawn; additionally, he has been struck off of the General Medical Council’s register due to professional misconduct and was found by the medical body to have acted unethically in the course of his research.
Quoting the coverage at briandeer.com:
“The goal was to find evidence of what the two men claimed to be a “new syndrome”, intended to be the centrepiece of (later failed) litigation on behalf of an eventual 1,600 British families, recruited through media stories. This publicly undisclosed role for Wakefield created the grossest conflict of interest, and the exposure of it by Deer, in February 2004, led to public uproar in Britain, the retraction of the Lancet report’s conclusions section, and, from July 2007 to May 2010, the longest-ever professional misconduct hearing by the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC).”
Mr. Wakefield’s efforts represent a very grave packet of disinformation that continues to survive even to this day, largely among the fringes of society and those who aren’t yet aware of the full extent of his misconduct. His anti-vax theory has been discredited as it does not represent scientific fact or the consensus of the community.
Thankfully, the end result has been that the truth came out, and it’s officially safe to put yourself out there and get up to date on those vaccinations.
Incidents like these ought to give us pause to consider the manner in which we interpret information. It’s not only a good idea to question the source, it’s advisable to delve a few levels deeper and fact-check the material that was used to produce the conclusions they are trying to sell you, especially when it comes to people dealing in politics, money, or controversial topics.