Stories about: Vaccine controversy

British Medical Journal further discredits doctor who claims autism linked to MMR vaccination

As you may have heard on the news this morning, the British Medical Journal further discredited the research of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, an English doctor whose work attempts to link autism to vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella. Wakefield’s data and research practices have been questioned in the past, (he was barred from practicing medicine in the U.K. by the country’s General Medical Council in May) but two new articles from the BMJ go as far as to claim that his research was not only incorrect, but purposely falsified, possibly for financial gain.

Yesterday’s article and accompanying editorial will be the first in a series stating that Wakefield either misrepresented or altered information in his study of 12 children, whose autism he claims was linked to vaccination. According to the article’s author Brian Deer, the series will  “expose the bogus data behind claims that launched a worldwide scare over the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, and reveals how the appearance of a link with autism was manufactured at a London medical school.”

Since 2004 Deer has been publishing stories discrediting Wakefield’s findings on the dangers of MMR vaccination, and now accuses the doctor of purposely submitting falsified data to prove his theories. A separate BMJ editorial written about Wakefield calls his work “an elaborate fraud.”

Leonard Rappaport MD, MS and chief of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Division of Developmental Medicine, has this to say about Wakefield’s work:

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Cocooning may protect newborns from whooping cough

Vaccinations have weakened, but not eradicated, many once fatal diseases
Vaccinations have weakened, but not eradicated, many once fatal diseases

Polio. Scarlet fever. Typhoid. Today, this list does little more than conjure up old memories of iron lungs, crutches and maybe one sad velveteen rabbit. But less than a century ago, these words were enough to make most parents go white with dread.

Thanks to advancements in medicine and vaccination, these diseases have been all but eradicated. But as powerful as modern medicine has become, there are still holes in its defenses, as proven by a recent Californian outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, that is well on its way to being the most widespread outbreak the state has seen in 50 years. So far over 900 cases of pertussis have been confirmed, with a death toll of at least five, prompting state health officials to declare it an epidemic.

The sheer volume of whooping cough cases has many parents worried and wondering how a commonly contained disease like pertussis could experience such a powerful revival.

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A once in a lifetime opportunity: Vaccination at birth

Baby Newborn and NurseNewborn babies can’t be immunized against most diseases because they’re unable to mount effective immune responses to most vaccines. Instead, pediatric vaccines are given at two, four and six months of age, when the immune system is more responsive. But that leaves newborns—with undeveloped immune systems—highly vulnerable to severe infections. Worldwide, more than two million newborns and infants under six months of age die from infectious diseases every year.

Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, in the Division of Infectious Diseases, wants to change that by developing vaccines that will work in babies. He’s been studying how to enhance the immune system at birth so that newborns can respond to vaccines effectively. On Friday, the researcher received a $2.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop vaccines for newborns.

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Debate over vaccination continues

scary grey needle questionAccording to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly all children who get the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (more than 80%) will have no side effects.  Still, despite scientific evidence, there are a growing number of parents who opt not to get their children vaccinated because they fear the vaccinations could be linked to autism.

Last night PBS aired Frontline: the Vaccine War, an in-depth journalistic look at vaccinations, and why some parents choose not to vaccinate their children.

As in most vaccination reports, the idea that there is a correlation between the mumps, measles and rubella vaccination and cases of autism was at the forefront of the discussion. The show has generated a good deal of debate about social responsibility versus parental choice, and is creating a stir on both sides of the vaccine issue.

The Frontline program is similar to a Thrive post from April 14, which looked at two separate outbreaks of measles in North America and the cost they posed to the public-at-large. Children’s Hospital Boston’s Ronald Samuels, MD, MPH discussed the vaccination controversy and his views on the subject.

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