Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vaccines, Autism, and the Stupid Media

From the Economist:

Why the sudden spike in Measles when we have a vaccine?

"The rise, says the HPA, is due to a fall in vaccination rates. In 1998 91% of two-year-olds were immunised, but by 2004 that had fallen to 80%, far below the 90% rate needed to keep the disease under control....Happily, the dip in vaccination seems to have been temporary. Immunisation rates today are 85% and rising"

Why the drop in Vaccination rate?
Thank you Dr. Wakefield....

"In the UK, the MMR vaccine was the subject of controversy after publication of a 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield et al. reporting a study of twelve children who had autism spectrum disorders and bowel symptoms, in many cases with onset observed soon after administration of MMR vaccine.[23] During a 1998 press conference, Wakefield suggested that giving children the vaccines in three separate doses would be safer than a single injection. This suggestion was not supported by the paper, and several subsequent peer-reviewed studies have failed to show any association between the vaccine and autism.[24] Administering the vaccines in three separate doses does not reduce the chance of adverse effects, and it increases the opportunity for infection by the two diseases not immunized against first.[24][25] Health experts have criticized media reporting of the MMR-autism controversy for triggering a decline in vaccination rates.[26]
In 2004, after an investigation by The Sunday Times,[27] the interpretation section of the study, which identified a general association in time between the vaccine and autism, was formally retracted by ten of Wakefield's twelve coauthors.[28] The Centers for Disease Control,[29] the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences,[30] the UK National Health Service[31] and the Cochrane Library review[9] have all concluded that there is no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
In 2007 Wakefield became the subject of a General Medical Council disciplinary hearing over allegations that his research had received funding related to litigation against MMR-vaccine manufacturers, and had concealed this fact from the editors of The Lancet.[32] It was later revealed that Wakefield received £435,643 [about $780,000] plus expenses for consulting work related to the lawsuit. This funding came from the UK legal aid fund, a fund intended to provide legal services to the poor.[27]"

It's sad what the scientifically illiterate media has done to this issue. I'm also disappointed in the political leaders like Tony Blair who would not reveal if his child was vaccinated or not. You don't mess with diseases like Measles when there is no scientific or epidemiological backup on the subject. Some random doctor speculating does not count...

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