Saturday, February 6, 2010

In The News: Wakefield's Autism Study Retracted by The Lancet

MMR Vaccine Study: A Lesson for Us All

The original research by Andrew Wakefield that essentially got the ball rolling on looking at the possible links between MMR vaccinations and autism has officially been retracted from publication in The Lancet (England's premier medical journal). This has been a large controversy over in England for awhile now and I am not surprised that the research has been retracted. There were many ethical and methodological questions surrounding this original research and it probably should have been better vetted by The Lancet in the first place. There was also some unwarranted hype caused by the media when the original research was published. Unfortunately, the retraction only serves to try and discredit the idea that many have had that there is some link between vaccinations and autism. Many people, through observation and anecdotal information, have noticed that there is often a curious timing between autism and vaccinations. The other part to this interesting correlation is that there are so many people with autism who also have bowel dysfunction or disease (see the new research about this here). Some researchers have been focusing in on the relationship between viruses and bowel disease and how it may effect the brain.

It would be nice to see everyone working together on the questions surrounding autism, vaccines and bowel disease. I often feel that doctors are very knowledgeable in their specialties, but very few of them are experts in holistic health and trying to evaluate how different body systems work together. Dr. Bryan Jepson speaks to this problem in his book, "Changing the Course of Autism." In addition to this phenomenon, pharmaceutical companies are usually the ones behind the research promoting the safety of their vaccines. Although there are government agencies with oversight, they often have some conflict of interest in being completely objective because of the influence of interest groups or because they might find something that does not support the Department of Health's stated goal in getting everyone vaccinated! Even more disturbing is the history of government people from the oversight agencies eventually going to work for the pharmaceutical companies or vice-versa! What a mess!

There are a few places out there trying to do some objective research, but they sometimes have difficulty in getting their research published. Dr. Wakefield's research that has been revoked from publication will not help the situation. Dr. Wakefield is a founding member of the Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin, TX. They have a webpage that defends Dr. Wakefield and his research: here. My hope is that future research at the Thoughtful House is not overshadowed by the current controversy.

We all need to remain informed about the issue. I recommend that you read the original research studies and pay attention to the motivation behind each study as well as those involved. Many parents are understandably upset and concerned about vaccines and autism, but it is important to remain level-headed and objective as you explore the debate and evidence.

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