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Lancet Formally Withdraws Autism/Vaccine Article

For quite some time now, there has been claims that autism in children has been linked to vaccines, namely the MMR vaccine. The reason for this, at least in part, was an article in the Lancet. That article has been formally withdrawn.

The scientific evidence since 1998 has been completely unable to find any link between autism and vaccines. Of course, this wont persuade any of the advocacy groups and the anti-vaccination movement will continue apace.

More by Orac (link fixed).

h/t Ronald Bailey.

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About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I don’t think it’s an “anti-vaccination movement”. I think it’s a pro-rent-seeking movement.

    In all honesty I can sympathize with that. Struggling with a kid with autism is exhausting and disheartening, hard on families and marriages. Parents will grasp at any help they can get.

    However, the harm that can be done by casting undue doubts on vaccination is real.

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  2. Steve Plunk says:

    So it took 12 years to debunk this junk science? I imagine it will take a bit longer for the AGW science (hah, science indeed) to be debunked. When will the public and the press learn that skepticism is healthy and prudent?

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  3. Benedict says:

    The worst year evah for the Kennedys continues, as RFK Jr. was arguably the highest profile peddler of this nonsense.

    And today Jim Geraghty at NRO is speculating that Patrick Kennedy Winehouse’s (D-Rehab) House seat may be swept away in the coming anti-incumbent tsunami.

    Oh, the schadenfreude.

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  4. Steve Verdon says:

    Dave,

    Check out the Orac link, he notes that since the publication of that article measles is now endemic in the UK again and that in some places vaccination rates have fallen as low as 50%.

    Here is one way to test this notion of vaccines and autism, go find children who were not vaccinated and randomly sample them and find their rate of autism. If it is no different that the vaccinated population we can be pretty sure that the vaccine is not the cause.

    Oh and some of the stuff Orac is listing that Wakefield did is pretty shocking. Performing spinal taps on children that were not in the best clinical interests, taking blood from children at his son’s birthday party, was working on an alternative MMR vaccine, and was paid by the lawyers looking to sue pharmaceutical companies on behalf of parents with autistic children.

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  5. Brett says:

    Of course, this wont persuade any of the advocacy groups and the anti-vaccination movement will continue apace.

    That’s the greatest tragedy. Even if Wakefield went to prison for this (and there’s definitely a case for doing that, considering what he did in some of his experiments), the damage has already been done. The anti-vaccine nutcases will continue to wield him and his study like a bloody shirt, saying he was “suppressed” by the Evil Pharmaceutical Companies.

    And in the meantime, children continue to die from the Measles, a disease that was wiped out in the UK and US before this nonsense came around. I can only hope there’s some type of karmic vengeance in store for Wakefield as well as McCarthy and RFK Jr. for their role in the anti-vaccine bullshitpalooza.

    In all honesty I can sympathize with that. Struggling with a kid with autism is exhausting and disheartening, hard on families and marriages. Parents will grasp at any help they can get.

    That’s what makes RFK Jr and McCarthy’s behavior even more reprehensible. They’re exploiting the struggles of desperate parents looking for someone or something to blame.

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  6. PD Shaw says:

    The Orac link appears broken, but there are plenty of news stories like this:

    Measles has returned as officially “endemic”.

    With less than 95% of the population vaccinated, Britain has lost its herd immunity against the disease. In 1998 there were 56 cases reported; last year there were 1,348, according to figures released last week that showed a 36% increase on 2007. Two British children have died from measles, and others put on ventilators, while many parents of autistic children torture themselves for having let a son or daughter receive the injection.

    Times of London

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  7. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m not supporting the idea that vaccines cause autism. I’ve written against that at length for years over at my place.

    I’m talking about the psychology. At least in the United States I think that what’s going on is that people are looking for settlements, financial support, and grasping at any straw to get it. Reduction in vaccinations are collateral damage in that campaign, not the objective of the campaign.

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  8. Steve Verdon says:

    I think that for some that might be true–i.e. lawyers and leaders of the movement. However for others, I think that there is a firm belief that vaccines are the cause and that they should be stopped. In reading some of the stuff Orac has posted…I just can’t go with your explanation alone Dave (it may very well be both though). Its crazy ass shit.

    Link is fixed by the way.

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  9. john personna says:

    Funny Steve P.

    With vaccination-autism you had cranks on internets, standing against science, until they ultimately failed.

    … the lesson you get from this is that your bunch of cranks on the internets, standing against the science on AGW, will win?

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  10. steve says:

    Paul Offit’s book is the best on this issue, Autism’s False Prophets. (Disclaimer, I took a peds course with him). There are many studies, from many countries which fail to show any link. Studies done with and without Thimerasol. Epidemiology is a pretty powerful tool. In my specialty we discovered a new complication at a rate of about 1/4000 within a year when a new anticoagulant was released.

    More disclosure, my son is an Aspie, so I have a fair amount of interest in the topic. My wife has done a fair bit of counseling in the area. She is the smart one having finished first in her med school class. Anyway, so many of these parents are desperate. Anyone who guarantees them an answer can hold great power over them. People do not respond well, some anyway, when we tell them we dont know what causes their child’s problem.

    Steve

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  11. Steve Plunk says:

    John P.,

    What I’m saying is skepticism is generally a good thing. It’s not to be ridiculed by calling skeptics flat earthers, deniers, or anti science. Skepticism should be met with countering logic, reason, and good science instead of backroom deals to deny publication or defame. The science is not yet in on AGW or whatever it’s called these days. Patience is needed before we take anything as fact and certainly before we start messing up the economy.

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  12. john personna says:

    My observation is that a lot of the science that is in on AGW, like the basic behavior of CO2 gas when exposed to electromagnetic radiation, is completely ignored.

    There could be a rational conversation if more folks said “agreed, co2 absorbs energy heating an atmosphere” and moved from there to “but how much?”

    Instead we get things like “we exhale co2, so it can’t be bad.”

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  13. just me says:

    Well I know a lot of people from a variety of message boards aimed at mothers/parents, and there are plenty of people who don’t have a child with autism who are convinced vaccines cause autism and/or are dangerous. I do think there are some parents out there who are looking for money, but even more so I think they want something to blame.

    I have a child with autism, but have always viewed the vaccine/autism link with skepticism. The symptoms of the disorder were prevalent long before he got the MMR.

    Another interesting thing I noted, is that while vaccine compliance for MMR has gone down in Europe the rate of autism has not. It seems to me, if vaccines were the problem, then there would be a reduction in autism rates comparable to the reduction of MMR vaccination, and there hasn’t been.

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  14. Franklin says:

    John P and Steve P –

    Sounds like you two are moving together, let’s keep it up. There’s cranks on both sides and they’re the ones who get on TV and post in forums for the most part. The rest of us have to sort out their nonsense.

    BTW, much like Godwin’s Law, if you bring up Al Gore, you automatically lose your argument.

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  15. Franklin says:

    “There are” cranks, not “there is” cranks. Must apologize for my grammar …

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  16. Have a nice G.A. says:

    BTW, much like Godwin’s Law, if you bring up Al Gore, you automatically lose your argument.

    Err, or evolution, shouldn’t we all be getting smarter, healthier, and stronger. But heck lets blame it on man made global retarding since we are to scared to believe in God and the blatant effects of everything being 2nd going on 3rd rate crap after the fall.

    I get board with silly mortal logic:(

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  17. Grewgills says:

    Here is one way to test this notion of vaccines and autism, go find children who were not vaccinated and randomly sample them and find their rate of autism. If it is no different that the vaccinated population we can be pretty sure that the vaccine is not the cause.

    That has been done and no difference was found. The mercury in the vaccines that was the supposed culprit is no longer in most of the vaccines available in the US and has been gone for ~20 yrs in parts of Western Europe and there has been no decline in autism. The people who believe this are largely immune to evidence.

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  18. Grewgills says:

    Err, or evolution, shouldn’t we all be getting smarter, healthier, and stronger.

    You clearly do not understand the concept of evolution.

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  19. Have a nice G.A. says:

    You clearly do not understand the concept of evolution.

    I understand it, how you became indoctrinated with it, why you can’t believe I’m not, and all kinds of other stuff too:)

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  20. Steve Verdon says:

    Err, or evolution, shouldn’t we all be getting smarter, healthier, and stronger.

    No. If that is your belief with regards to evolution, as Grewgills said, you don’t understand the concept.

    Grewgills,

    That has been done and no difference was found.

    Figured as much as it is a blindingly obvious way to test the claims.

    The mercury in the vaccines that was the supposed culprit is no longer in most of the vaccines available in the US and has been gone for ~20 yrs in parts of Western Europe and there has been no decline in autism.

    Yeah I heard that claim as well, “it is the mercury”, and I knew about the mercury being removed ~20 years ago too with no change in the rates of autism. That hypothesis has to be rejected, IMO.

    The people who believe this are largely immune to evidence.

    I know.

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  21. M1EK says:

    Steve Plunk’s analogy is horse crap. In this case, the scientific consensus was for vaccines not causing autism; this one study was an outlier (‘skeptic’). In fact, his attempt to analogize this with AGW actually proves his opponents’ point, if you think about it.

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  22. Steve Verdon says:

    M1EK,

    I think there is still room to be skeptical about AGW. I accept that there has been warming. I accept that man is likely behind a big chunk of it and maybe even all of it. I am skeptical of the dire predictions. I am skeptical of the claims that we must stop it (vs. other strategies for dealing with the potential problems).

    And I think having some degree of skepticism about the magnitude is also reaonable. Taking a second or third or even fourth look at the numbers is not unreasonable. Making data and calculations, adjustments, programs etc. publicly available is not unreasonable. We are talking about making changes that could cost 10s of trillions over the next several decades I think its not asking too much to put it all out there in the public domain. Screw intellectual property rights in this case. If you are working on this, then too bad. Besides many of the people working on it are working for publicly support universities and/or off of publicly supported grants. Any resistance to making information public should be met with skepticism, IMO.

    And keep in mind I like Greg Mankiw’s pigouvian tax on fossil fuels. I think it is the simplest and fastest way to get reductions in fossil fuel usage which can reduce GHG emissions. It also has a number of other nice side bonuses too:

    1. Reducing our consumption of fossil fuels means less reliance on the middle east.
    2. Makes alternatives and research into alternatives relatively more attractive.
    3. Can raise desperately needed revenues.

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  23. Have a nice G.A. says:

    No. If that is your belief with regards to evolution, as Grewgills said, you don’t understand the concept.

    So your of the school that we git weaker but grow giant brains and and start doing everything with our minds? We got one of those for Presadent….lol

    You should know my belief on evolution by now, I believe it’s a indoctrinated hoax built upon a foundation of lies that has almost destroyed freedom as we know it on this planet, multiple times, and is responsible for more deaths by diabolical murderous crimes against humanity then can be easily counted.

    But I digress….

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  24. Have a nice G.A. says:

    Steve is this a don’t understand the concept?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKtyKDdb7mI

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