It was a scientific paper heard around the world; especially the world of autism. And now the British medical journal The Lancet has retracted its 1998 article saying that vaccinations could increase a child’s risk of autism.
The original research, published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, studied 12 children and concluded that the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine – commonly referred to as MMR – could weaken the immune system and leave it open to the development of autism.
In late January, however, the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council found that Wakefield had acted unethically during the research, saying that he had known that half the children in the study were already part of a lawsuit looking into the MMR vaccine’s effects. Wakefield had claimed that the children had all been referred to him for stomach problems.
Wakefield also received payment in conjunction with the lawsuit, and had a patent for a new MMR vaccine in development when he submitted his research.
Here’s what the retraction in the Lancet said Wednesday:
"Following the judgment of the U.K. General Medical Council's Fitness to Practice Panel … it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect ... in particular, the claims in the original paper that children were 'consecutively referred' and that investigations were 'approved' by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record."
"The Lancet is an enormously prestigious journal with worldwide circulation, so its action of repudiation is very important," Dr. William Schaffner, chair of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine's Department of Preventive Medicine in Nashville, Tenn, told ABC News. "The retraction puts another nail in the coffin of this awful, painfully erroneous study."
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“The retraction is unlikely to close the Pandora's Box that the Wakefield study opened, other vaccination experts said.