The Lancet: Exploitation of the MMR Vaccination
Fact or Fiction?
Medical phenomena are subject to questioning, leading to controversy based upon the adverse effects of medical treatments such as vaccinations that may lead to further ailment. Due to a study done in 1998 by The Lancet that published a correlation between the MMR vaccination and autism, a large debate has ensued. Based upon the principles of fear, parents have chosen to “protect” their children by not having them vaccinated. In an effort to make a stance on an issue that is based upon false principles, it is necessary to understand the study done by The Lancet, the purpose of the vaccination and criticisms to the study. With that said, it is clear that the correlation between the MMR vaccination and autism is completely false.
The Lancet is a medical journal that features specialty journals in neurology, oncology, and infectious diseases. In 1998 this journal published an article detailing a study that examined the MMR vaccination and its relationship to autism. The article was titled; Illeal – Lymphoid – Nodular Hyperplasia, Non-Specific Colitis, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in Children (Wakefield ,“The Lancet”). The lead author of this study is Dr. Andrew Wakefield. The study examined twelve children aged three to ten. Eleven of these subjects were males and one female. Each of these children underwent gastroenterological, neurological developmental assessment, and review of developmental records. Each of these children were referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist due to an onset of the loss of acquired skills such as communication.
This was coupled with abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating and food intolerance. This study focused heavily on developmental assessment and the review of developmental findings (Wakefield, “The Lancet”). The findings denoted that either by parents or the child’s physician, the association of onset behavior symptoms was due to the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination in eight out of the twelve children (Wakefield, The Lancet). Five children had an early adverse side effect on to the immunization such as rashes and fevers. In these eight children the average interval from exposure to first behavioral symptoms was 6-3 days. Parents were less clear about the timing of onset of abdominal symptoms because children were not toilet trained at the time or because behavioral features made children unable to communicate symptoms (Wakefield).
Thus being, the MMR vaccination poses a viable correlation to autism (Wakefield, “The Lancet). According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development and communication skills” (U.S. National Library of Medicine). The direct cause of autism is unknown. Suspected possibilities are due in part to abnormal biological characteristic, diet, and according to The Lancet the MMR vaccination (U.S. National Library of Medicine). The purpose of the MMR vaccination is to aid individuals against measles, mumps and rubella. Introduced in 1971 it is referenced by Duke Health to be one of the safest and most effective vaccines (DukeHealth.org).
The problem that The Lancet has exploited to denote a correlation between the MMR vaccination and autism is a small amount of mercury known as thimerosal that the vaccination injects. Thimerosal is a preservative in many vaccinations (DukeHealth.org). To refute this notation, a study done in Denmark and Sweden looked at the exposure of thimerosal and autism. StehrGreen et al. (2003) compared thimerosal exposure from vaccines with the prevalence of autism in children from Sweden and Denmark, where autism – like disorders started to increase in incidence between 1985 and 1989, a trend that accelerated in the early 1990s. This analysis revealed that the increased number of autism diagnosis occurred at a time of decreasing use and eventual elimination of thimerosal from vaccines (The American Biological Teacher). Unfortunately, the damage to the public in terms of parents vaccinating their children was already done.
The purpose of vaccinations is to prevent infectious diseases. In a response to the fear instilled in the public through the media’s utilization of this study, parents chose to not vaccinate their children. Children who aren’t vaccinated are faced with many hardships upon entering the educational system. The medical implications in regards to the unvaccinated include the threat of deadly disease. According to an article published by The American Biological Teacher “ Vaccination: A Public Health Intervention that Changed History & is Changing with History,” measles has resurfaced due in part to an unvaccinated society (The American Biological Teacher). In 1998 and 2000 due in part to a drop from >90% in MMR vaccinations Ireland saw a measles outbreak. In 2008 the United States saw the largest out break of measles since the disease was declared eradicated in 2000 (The American Biological Teacher). Other then medical implications, there are social implications unvaccinated children are faced with.
The New York State Department of Health details these implications on their vaccine safety website. If sick or exposed to disease, your child may need to be isolated from others, including family. If there is an outbreak in your community, you may be asked to take your child out of school and other organized activities… Your child’s illness or inability to go about their daily activities also may impact your work and household income (NYS Department of Health). As one can see there is a great risk associated with those who are not vaccinated.
The harsh truth; The Lancet caused a public outcry based upon false principles. Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s study was redacted based upon ethical standards and minimal scientific evidence, proving no correlation between autism and the MMR Vaccination (Shirley, “The Lancet Retracts Study Tying Vaccine to Autism”). In an article featured in The Wall Street Journal “Lancet Retracts Study Tying Vaccine to Autism “ by Shirley Wang, the problem of Dr. Wakefield’s study is brought to light. A 2004 statistical review of existing studies (done by a non-profit health information provider) done by The Institute of Medicine traced this theory back to The Lancet study and proved there is no causal link between the MMR vaccination and autism (Shirley, “Lancet Retracts Study Tying Vaccine to Autism”). Unfortunately, the issue now is re-convincing society that this vaccine is actual beneficial to their children. An idea that Paul Offit, Chief of Infectious Disease at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia would agree with.
“This retraction by The Lancet came far too late… It is very easy to scare people; it’s hard to unscare them” (Offit, Shirley). Outside of the statistics, Shirley’s article details a study done in 2008 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The Center for Disease control and prevention central purpose is to protect quality of life and promote health. Coupled with the help of various universities, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention took a look at children with gastrointestinal problems who had autism in comparison to those who did not have autism. What they concluded was that there was no evidence that the vaccine was responsible for autism (Shirley, “The Lancet Retracts Study Tying Vaccine to Autism”).
The Autism debate has received a great deal of response based upon the outcry of the public through media outlets. In an effort protect their children; it is understandable to why parents may choose to steer clear from vaccinations. The pollution Dr. Andrew Wakefield has caused worldwide has manifested itself largely into a social issue. Based upon the ethical and scientific methodological falsities his study employs his reputation should be greatly harmed to the extent of destruction.
Thankfully, through the understandings of the original study, the purpose of the vaccination and the refutation of this study society is offered the lucid truth. The MMR Vaccination does not link to autism. More so, the study done by Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues featured in The Lancet has been retracted (Wakefield, “The Lancet”). All that is left to fix, is societal view of MMR vaccinations. With the facts laid out in black and white, when it comes to your children, what would you do?
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“Does the MMR Vaccine Cause Autism?” DukeHealth.org. Duke Health, 3 May 2007. Web. 09 Oct. 2012. .
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“The Harm of Skipping Vaccinations or Delaying.” The Harm of Skipping Vaccinations or Delaying. New York State Department of Health, Apr. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. .
Wakefield, Andrew, SH Murch, A. Anthony, J. Linnell, DM Casson, M. Malik, M. Berelowitz, AP Dhillon, MA Thomson, P. Harvey, A. Valetine, SE Davies, and JA Walker-Smith. “Retracted: Illeal – Lymphoid – Nodular Hyperplasia, Non-specific Colitis, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in Children.” The Lancet 351.9103 (1998): 637-41. Web. 2 Oct. 2012..
Wang, Shirley S. “Lancet Retracts Study Tying Vaccine to Autism.” The Wall Street Journal. 3 Feb. 2010. Web. 9. Oct. 2012.