January 5th, 2011
11:59 PM ET

Retracted autism study an 'elaborate fraud,' British journal finds

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study - and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.

"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."

Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May. Efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday.

"Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession," BMJ states.

The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80% by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.

In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.

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soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. chris candido

    Vaccines this one is easy.Give the MMR in 3 shots with no thymerisol.the dotors get 3 visits the drug company gets 3 sales not 1
    and in approx 3 years if a huge decline in autism you will have your answers without hurting any kids.wakefeild said split the shots NOT to not do them. EASY

    January 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  2. Lisa Majors

    I have four healthy children. I decided AGAINST vaccines 26 years ago due to harmful effects of injected toxic viruses-half dead or half live! This research is NOT new and should not be downcast by your own opinions. Wakefield should have the freedom to state his research and parents should have the choice to vaccinate! NO VACCINES for us!

    January 6, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  3. Holly Masclans

    Anderson Cooper – Dr. Wakefields said, "I suggest you do your investigations properly before you make such allegations." Holly Masclans says, "Read the book jerk off. You're hurting kids and families."

    January 6, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  4. Jennifer Durling

    My son was diagnosed with Asberg Autism/High Functioning Autism last year.He was 35 years old. As a cgukd he was only diagnosed as ADHD. I was told by the testing lab psychologist that there was a possible connection between the two since they both involved the the same cerebral lobe. It was certainly a relief to have an explanation for some of his behavior that could not be explained by ADHD.

    January 6, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  5. Ellie

    Oh boy. Wakefield seems to have cracked and invented an elaborate fantasy world to live in. The saddest thing is that many of his followers have followed him into it and their children and the children of others will suffer as a result.

    "Sir, I'm not here to let you pitch your book, I'm here to get answers to my questions" – classic. Thanks Anderson, you are providing an important public service.

    January 6, 2011 at 4:16 am |
  6. Marialena M

    Everyone talks about the vaccines without even thinking about the deadly and debilitating conditions they are meant to treat! The problem is that no parent in N. America has seen polio, diphtheria or tetanus in action, otherwise they would all be running to get their kids vaccinated.

    January 5, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  7. Tom In California

    Fraud of any kind is disheartening.
    This is just as evil as the Madoff ripoff.

    More importantly many many individuals young and old will suffer or die from this. Japan is on the verge of widespread loss of immunity from many many childhood and adult illnesses that modern medicine knows how to prevent. They do not trust the global system and their population is at risk because of the process AND costs.

    January 5, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  8. Skye

    Hi Anderson, I caught the last half of your discussion of Autism and have to say you usually present a balanced viewpoint with opposing panelists but you presented only one side with the two present. There are many other cases in which vaccines present possible problems to children besides Autism. Vaccines contain Mercury which is known to cause serious health problems. Autism is not the only concern of mine when innoculating my children, there is a lot of other "crap" that is put into vaccines and @ this point I am not interested in playing Russian Ruellet with my childrens health!
    A concerned parent who looks @ all sides of the story.

    January 5, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  9. Rene F. Najera

    Thank you, Mr. Cooper, for holding Andrew "Andy" Wakefield to task. He says the funding went to the medical school, not him, so there was no conflict of interest. Yet, if my retirement fund includes shares of pharmaceuticals, somehow, in the anti-vaccine groups' minds, I'm in league with Big Pharma. Total dodging of the issue. Namely, his study was flawed at best and fraudulent at worst.

    January 5, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  10. concernedparent

    Shame on you, Anderson, for giving this man any more airtime. Have you considered the damage he has done and continues to do every time he tries to defend his so-called "study"? He should be locked away with a muzzle!

    January 5, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  11. Bette Harting

    Perhaps this actual study was flawed but, in my mind, there is no question there is a connection between infant immunizations and autism. The link has just not been discovered. I have never heard any mention of a possible autoimmune response to the immunizations but, after doing tons of research on autoimmune diseases, I can't help wonder if that could be the link. If the immunization caused antibodies to go overboard to fight off the invasion of the immunization, it only makes sense to me that it could cause an autoimmune reaction. Many, if not all, symptoms of autism are also found in various autoimmune diseases. I wonder if anyone has looked into this possibility. If not, I wish someone would conduct a study to see if it is a possibility.

    January 5, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  12. eastcoast

    For all the Gen X'ers who had vaxes in the late 60's early 70's...we had MMR spaced out as single antigen shots, and there's no reason not to bring back single antigen shots for MMR. There is a very large community of people who don't believe vaxes cause autism and who are pro-vax. And these same people seriously question the reason why a child should get 5 vaxes in one day. We went from 10 vaccines when we were kids, to over 36 for our children now. I don't remember one person when I grew up who had autism – not one. There is no way to screen for vulnerable children who may have adverse reactions to live vaxes given in multiple doses at a time, and there needs to be.

    January 5, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  13. Angry autism parent

    Why are you interviewing this man? Why give him air time? It is precisely because the press gave this guy too much unquestioned coverage that his fraud was able to cause so much damage.

    January 5, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  14. Annie Kate

    I know people with autistic children who are convinced their child probably contracted autism because of vaccines they were given. I know others who have not had their children vaccinated because of this fraudulent study. I wonder how many children contracted the diseases the vaccines protect against because of the fear this study engendered in a parent, seeking to do the best for their child's health. Was this study peer-reviewed or duplicated by independent researchers prior to publication – it seems that there needs to be that step of verification before anything of this nature is released for public consumption. I'm glad the man lost his medical license; he ought to be fined to help cover the cost of informing the public that the research was false.

    January 5, 2011 at 8:07 pm |