Sunday, February 07, 2010

Bring Out Your Dead....Horse

After years of near-hysteria, much of which has led to tragically avoidable outcomes, we finally get a definitive statement on the safety of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine:
The British medical journal The Lancet yesterday offered a mea culpa of sorts for its role in launching a global vaccine scare. Its regrets come about 12 years too late.

The journal finally issued a full retraction of a study it ran in 1998 linking measles-mumps-rubella vaccines to autism. The paper, with Dr. Andrew Wakefield as lead author, sent British parents fleeing from inoculations and fed U.S. alarm over preservatives in vaccines.

Even in 1998, overwhelming scientific evidence showed vaccines to be safe. Yet the press-savvy Dr. Wakefield had been getting headlines for his research, and the Lancet's publication fed the controversy by giving him an aura of respectability.

Evidence of vaccine safety continued to build, but the Lancet stuck to its story through 2004, when it was revealed that Dr. Wakefield had been paid to conduct his study on children who were clients of a lawyer ginning up a lawsuit. Even then the journal offered only a partial retraction, saying it had been correct to "raise new ideas."

Meanwhile, Britain's child vaccination rates had plummeted to below 70% in some areas, down from more than 90% in the mid-1990s. The country has since suffered waves of measles outbreaks. In 1998 England and Wales had 56 cases; by 2008 the number was 1,370. In 2006, the first British child died of measles in more than a decade.

The Lancet decision came after the General Medical Council—Britain's medical regulator—ruled last week that Dr. Wakefield had acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly." The panel confirmed years of allegations that he had been untruthful about his patients and funding and had shown a "callous disregard" for the children—subjecting them to invasive and unnecessary procedures. Only with the GMC now considering whether to strip Dr. Wakefield of his license has the Lancet finally said it "fully retract[s] this paper from the published record."
I won't hold my breath waiting for the wave of media attention to this. More likely the usual suspects will continue along, endangering their own and everyone else, and their groundless paranoiac bullshit will entwine itself into the conventional wisdom for decades to come. After all, this is a country where the fact that H1N1 did NOT result in a medieval pile-up of corpses at doorsteps is taken as proof that we were lied to about the pandemic.

No comments: