Surely by now you have caught wind of the firestorm of criticism and hostility targeted at the author of the scientific study that said MMR vaccinations cause autism. It has been reported in newspapers and discussed on blogs around the world. Interviews with Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the author of the scaldingly controversial study, which have been widely televised and are easily viewable on YouTube, will stir you up inside.
The debate will continue to be just that, a debate, and I am in no position to comment on the validity or speciousness of the study. But I can say that the current allegations that the findings of the study were knowingly falsified is very disturbing. A movement came into existence as a result of Wakefield's report. Jenny McCarthy, whose child was diagnosed with autism, became the face of anti-vaccination autism advocacy and gave numerous interviews about the harms of vaccinations. Many parents have relied on those findings and adamantly opposed the administration of vaccinations to their children. Some of these children have contracted illnesses that would normally have been prevented.
I have read neither the actual report nor Wakefield's book on the subject, which he has been plugging incessantly (an interview with Anderson Cooper shows a brazen attempt by Wakefiled to self-promote). For months there have been serious concern about Wakefield's research -- e.g., the size and randomness of the sample group (only 12 children were studied and reports suggest those 12 were not randomly selected), the issue of when the children's developmental problems were first identified, and the integrity of the study. These are the issues that led to the study being retracted about a year ago by the journal that published it. But now the suspicions are that Wakefiled deliberately falsified certain information and he is being accused of fraud.
The thought that the autism community has been clinging to information that was fabricated -- or, at the very least, seriously flawed -- is a big blow to a group which is desperate for and deserves clear answers.