Two Quick Links

Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent
Fiona Godlee, Jane Smith, & Harvey Marcovitch @ BMJ.com

In a series of articles starting this week, and seven years after first looking into the MMR scare, journalist Brian Deer now shows the extent of Wakefield’s fraud and how it was perpetrated (doi:10.1136/bmj.c5347). Drawing on interviews, documents, and data made public at the GMC hearings, Deer shows how Wakefield altered numerous facts about the patients’ medical histories in order to support his claim to have identified a new syndrome; how his institution, the Royal Free Hospital and Medical School in London, supported him as he sought to exploit the ensuing MMR scare for financial gain; and how key players failed to investigate thoroughly in the public interest when Deer first raised his concerns.11

Who perpetrated this fraud? There is no doubt that it was Wakefield. Is it possible that he was wrong, but not dishonest: that he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project, or to report even one of the 12 children’s cases accurately? No. A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross. Moreover, although the scale of the GMC’s 217 day hearing precluded additional charges focused directly on the fraud, the panel found him guilty of dishonesty concerning the study’s admissions criteria, its funding by the Legal Aid Board, and his statements about it afterwards.14

Furthermore, Wakefield has been given ample opportunity either to replicate the paper’s findings, or to say he was mistaken. He has declined to do either. He refused to join 10 of his coauthors in retracting the paper’s interpretation in 2004,15 and has repeatedly denied doing anything wrong at all. Instead, although now disgraced and stripped of his clinical and academic credentials, he continues to push his views.16

Meanwhile the damage to public health continues, fuelled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals, and the medical profession.17 18 Although vaccination rates in the United Kingdom have recovered slightly from their 80% low in 2003-4,19 they are still below the 95% level recommended by the World Health Organization to ensure herd immunity. In 2008, for the first time in 14 years, measles was declared endemic in England and Wales.20 Hundreds of thousands of children in the UK are currently unprotected as a result of the scare, and the battle to restore parents’ trust in the vaccine is ongoing.

I wonder if the Hollywood idiots who have perpetuated this scare will ever apologize. Apparently, Wakefield himself is not inclined to do so.

*****

Uneducated to Serve
by RiShawn Biddle @ The American Spectator

Much of the discussion about America’s abysmal public schools has focused on how decades of declining literacy and academic performance weigh heavily on the nation’s global competiveness (and on the wallets of taxpayers burdened by decades of near-unchecked spending increases and unfunded teachers pensions).

But increasingly, the nation’s educational crisis also weighs heavily on national security and defense. Military leaders have learned all too well from their own analysis of dropouts and General Education Development (GED) recipients that poorly-educated kids make terrible soldiers — especially in an age in which math and science skills are as important in operating military electronics as they are in high-skilled white- and blue-collar jobs.

Occasionally, people come to my center looking for help on the ASVAB — and most of the time, their fundamental skill sets reflect the observations made in the above article. It’s definitely a worrying situation.