The Wakefield paper debunked?

“One of the greatest national security and public health threats to the United States of America (or anywhere in the world, for that matter) is a poorly trained, apathetic, and gullible media. Because in such a world not only does there cease to be a watchdog against government, industry, and general hucksterism, the media itself becomes prone to manipulation, deception, coercion, and outright recruitment by precisely those it is supposed to be watching for the good of the people.

Take the case of the paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, Prof. John Walker Smith, and Dr. Simon Burch (plus 10 co-authors) published in the British medical journal The Lancet in 1998. The paper consisted of a series of 12 clinical observations of children who had received the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine and later developed gastrointestinal dysfunction, developmental delays, and autism. The paper determined that there may be a possible correlation between the vaccine and the problems experienced by the children, and that there was sufficient cause for concern to justify further study. That’s it, plain and simple.

The paper did not state a conclusive causal effect. And yet, nearly every reference by the media to the Wakefield study states that it was ‘debunked.’ … Uh, there was nothing to debunk. But the chant has been repeated (and continues to be repeated) so much that it has become ingrained in the American psyche, to the point where no attempt to explain and try and correct the mischaracterization is taken seriously.

Without even so much as bothering to go back and evaluate the series of articles by reporter Brian Deer which led to the retraction of the multi-authored paper by The Lancet and the destruction of Dr. Wakefield’s reputation, so-called journalists have simply assumed that there was only one side to the story. No matter that Mr. Deer misrepresented himself when interviewing parents of some of the children referenced in the paper. No matter that Mr. Deer was not a science or medical writer, and thus was unqualified to write his articles. No matter that there have been numerous peer-reviewed papers that support Dr. Wakefield’s findings.

And finally, no curiosity about the possible motivations behind the hiring of Mr. Deer by section editor Paul Nuki of The Sunday Times of London, given that Mr. Nuki was the son of Prof. George Nuki, who just happened to be a member of the vaccine licensing authority committee in the United Kingdom when MMR was introduced in the country in the late-1980s.

In other words, no balance, no perspective, no original-source material. Why go to the trouble. It’s easier to go with what everyone already assumes to be the whole truth and nothing but. Why bother to do your job when you can lean on someone else’s work. The Wakefield paper was debunked, and the good doctor was discredited. It all “proves” that there is no link between MMR and autism, right?”

— Marco Cáceres

 

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