Claims that childhood MMR vaccines cause autism are unfounded and irresponsible. As Ron Bailey notes, “study after study has debunked” the claim that MMR vaccines are linked to autism, and there are credible allegations that the study that prompted the initial scare was faked. As the BBC reports, British medical authorities have also concluded that the primary researcher promoting such claims, Andrew Wakefield, acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in conducting and promoting his research. More here from Discover‘s Bad Astronomy blog.
Despite the broad medical consensus on the importance of vaccination for many diseases, some prominent public figures, such as Oprah Winfrey and John McCain, continue to embrace or encourage the unfounded, unscientific charge that vaccinations cause autism. This could have very serious consequences as the rate of vaccination gradually declines. Childhood vaccinations are extremely important for public health. If vaccination rates drop below a certain point, herd immunity can be compromised, leading to widespread outbreaks of disease. Perhaps the latest report on Wakefield’s research will lead some to reconsider.
UPDATE: More from Orac at Respectful Insolence.