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To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, has it come to an end? February 4, 2010

Posted by Ashraf Faden in Health Communications & Marketing, Healthcare, Prevention.
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The title summarizes the unnecessary dilemma that many parents have gone through when it came to making the decision on whether to give their children the combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine or not.  More than a decade ago, a study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield was published in the Lancet and suggested a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).  Unfortunately, many parents became confused and uncertain when their children’s health risks and benefits were on the table regarding the MMR vaccine.  The proper approach for those parents was to vaccinate their children against these dangerous diseases, which some of them might become deadly, because many studies have shown the safety of the vaccine despite what Dr. Wakefield suggested in his study.

Fortunately, this dilemma might be coming to an end!

According to an article published in Reuters by Kate Kelland, the Lancet medical journal made the decision to pull out Wakefield’s study from the published record due to ethical issues.  Kelland said:

A disciplinary panel of Britain’s General Medical Council (GMC) ruled last week that Wakefield had presented his research in an “irresponsible and dishonest” way and shown a “callous disregard” for the suffering of the children he studied.

In a blog post by Jacob Goldstein in the Wall Street Journal health blog, he said:

In its retraction, the Lancet said the paper’s claim that the patients had been “consecutively referred” to physicians was false. Instead, blood was taken from children at a birthday party, and they were paid £5 each, according to the panel.

Goldstein also mentioned that there was a possible conflict of interest in terms of funding received by Dr. Wakefield for research.  He said that the funds were given by “solicitors acting for parents who believed that their children had been harmed by MMR.”

In my opinion, retracting the study was a proper decision.  Since Dr. Wakefield’s study was published, many parents, out of concern about ASDs, refused to give their children the vaccine despite the risk of getting one of those dangerous, and possibly deadly, diseases the vaccine protects against.  Consequently, as Kelland mentioned, recent evidence has shown an increase in measles’ cases in the U.S. and parts of Europe.  According to an update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

From January through July 2008, CDC received reports of 131 measles cases from 15 states and the District of Columbia—the highest year-to-date number since 1996. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated, or their vaccination status was unknown. Many of these individuals were children whose parents chose not to have them vaccinated. Fifteen of the patients, including four infants, were hospitalized.

This decrease in vaccination has been continuing despite the assurances by health professionals that the vaccine is safe.  According to the CDC’s website, many studies continue to prove that vaccines are not associated with ASDs.  Now, with Dr. Wakefield’s study out of the picture, parents should feel safe again and decide to vaccinate and protect their children.


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Comments»

1. Martin Williams - February 4, 2010

🙂 I don’t necessarily believe that this argument has come to an end! In fact, if anything, I think it’s just getting heated!

For me, as a parent, it’s hard to imagine that Wakefield’s study wasn’t removed from medical journals sooner. Why did it take so long to see that his findings were faulty? I don’t know…

Sara Imershein, MD - February 5, 2010

It’s so unfortunate that one bad study has created such an uproar and people don’t look at the numerous medical groups and studies that have discounted any relationship between vaccines and the increase in autism. Some people would rather place blame incorrectly, in this case with substantial public health consequences, rather than understand we have NO good explanation for autism, to date… they’re working on it….

Ashraf Faden - February 6, 2010

Yes, that’s just unfortunate Sara. I do hope they find a REAL explanation for autism to help all those out there affected by it.

Ashraf Faden - February 6, 2010

That was exactly my thought. It took them 12 years to figure it out? And you’re probably right, the argument might still go on..


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