KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Study Linking Autism And Vaccines Is Retracted By Medical Journal

The Los Angeles Times: "Twelve years after Dr. Andrew Wakefield published his research in the international medical journal the Lancet purporting that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine causes autism, the journal on Tuesday formally retracted the paper. ... the U.K. General Medical Council's Fitness to Practice Panel concluded that [Dr. Andrew] Wakefield had provided false information in the report and acted with 'callous disregard' for the [12] children in the study. ... His words and actions led to a sharp drop in vaccination rates in both Britain and the United States and a resurgence in measles. Despite multiple subsequent studies that have refuted the link, vaccination rates have remained lower than they were before his report ... " (Maugh III, 2/2).

The Wall Street Journal: "Concern about the safety of vaccines, particularly regarding the preservative often used, thimerosal, which contains mercury, spread to the U.S. as well. Research has shown that as many as 2.1% of U.S. children weren't immunized with the MMR vaccine in 2000, up from 0.77% of children in 1995, according to a 2008 study published in Pediatrics.'This retraction by the Lancet came far too late,' said Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a coinventor of a vaccination for babies against a gastrointestinal virus, Rotateq, that is marketed by Merck & Co. 'It's very easy to scare people; it's very hard to unscare them'" (Wang, 2/3).

CNN: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention praised The Lancet's retraction, saying, 'It builds on the overwhelming body of research by the world's leading scientists that concludes there is no link between MMR vaccine and autism. We want to remind parents that vaccines are very safe and effective and they save lives. Parents who have questions about the safety of vaccines should talk to their pediatrician or their child's health care provider'" (Park, 2/2).

Associated Press/Fox News: "The retraction by The Lancet comes a day after a competing medical journal, BMJ, issued an embargoed commentary calling for The Lancet to formally retract the study. The commentary was to have been published on Wednesday. …Ten of Wakefield's 13 co-authors renounced the study's conclusions several years ago and The Lancet has previously said it should never have published the research" (2/2).

The Times of London: Wakefield was "found to have brought the medical profession into disrepute after taking blood samples from youngsters at his son's birthday party in return for payments of £5 and failing to disclose vital conflicts of interest. He received £50,000 to carry out the research on behalf of solicitors acting for parents who believed that their children had been harmed by MMR, but could not account for how at least half this money had been spent" (Rose, 1/29). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.