BMJ: Wakefield’s vaccine-autism study fraudulent

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The Internet and other media are abuzz with the news, published by BMJ yesterday, that the study published in The Lancet in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield linking autism to the MMR vaccine was fraudulent. The study of 12 children is frequently cited as proof that vaccines cause autism or play a part in the disorder, despite the fact that it was retracted. The BMJ calls the study “fatally flawed both scientifically and ethically” in a new editorial.

Covering Health has compiled some links to interesting reading on this subject, much of it specifically for journalists.

Ivan Oransky, on Embargo Watch, looks at an entirely different facet of the news with “Does a tweet break an embargo? A case study involving the BMJ, autism, vaccines, and an alleged hoax.”

Meanwhile, Gary Schwitzer, publisher of HealthNewsReview.org, writes that the Wakefield MMR/autism dismantling demonstrates what a difference one journalist can make.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed Andrew Wakefield last night about the charges that his study was flawed. And Brian Deer, the investigative journalist who reported the BMJ story, was interviewed on CNN’s World Report.

Update: Seth Mnookin, who has spent two years looking into vaccine scares, has written an interesting post about the topic, including his view that BMJ over-hyped its story, which almost certainly helped drive media coverage. Mnookin also appeared on CNN.

By sending out breathless press releases and prepping the worldwide media for a series of bombshell stories, the BMJ created the impression that this was fundamentally new news – and it wasn’t. We knew that Wakefield’s work wasn’t reliable or accurate on January 3 – and we still know that today. The stories that are currently running are not really all that different in tone or content than the stories that ran almost exactly a year ago, when a UK medical panel found there was sufficient evidence to justify stripping Wakefield of his right to practice medicine.

Covering Health posts

Tip sheets

  • Background on autism from Pauline A. Filipek M.D., director of the Autism Program for OC Kids Neurodevelopmental Center and associate professor of clinical pediatrics and neurology at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine.
  • Investigating alternative treatments for autism: Trish Callahan & Trine Tsouderos, of the Chicago Tribune, wrote “Dubious Medicine,” a look at the world of alternative treatments for autism, treatments that are often risky and unproven.

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4 thoughts on “BMJ: Wakefield’s vaccine-autism study fraudulent

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention BMJ: Wakefield’s vaccine-autism study fraudulent : Covering Health -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: Some quick thoughts and links on Andrew Wakefield, the BMJ, autism, vaccines, and fraud « Retraction Watch

  3. Liz Ditz

    I’m keeping a list of positive responses to the BMJ (Yes Wakefield is a fraud, and here are the implications…) and negative responses (Wakefield’s research IS TOO valid and vaccines cause autism anyway) at A roundup of responses to the BJM & Wakefield’s research was motivated by fraud.

    Some observations
    1. The positive responses come from a broad range of sites — politically left and right; people who are skeptics/ people who have heretofore (to my knowledge) never commented on vaccines or autism before, and so on. The negative responses are from a predictable set of sites and people.
    2. The news coverage in the US has (perhaps inadvertently) perpetrated the idea that all parents of children with autism believe in the vaccine causation myth. It is a complete falsehood. Many parents of children with autism and adults with autism robustly reject the myth.
    3. Kev Leitch, whose daughter has intense autism, has a moving post on how Wakefield’s actions have damaged everyone affected by autism

  4. Pingback: Online comments lead to BMJ’s disclosure of ‘competing interests’ : Covering Health

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