Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The NYT gets it right

One of the single most pernicious medical myths in the West at the moment is that vaccines cause autism. Despite clear scientific evidence to the contrary, the grass-roots anti-vaccination movement - and their deeply irresponsible celebrity spokespeople - keep promoting this nonsense, resulting a drop in vaccination-rates. The NYT (one of the better newspapers when it comes to science) yesterday published a great editorial that gets it exactly right:
The new study [just summarized] adds weight to a growing body of epidemiological studies and reviews that have debunked the notion that childhood vaccines cause autism. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the C.D.C. and the World Health Organization have found no evidence of a causal link between vaccines and autism.

Meanwhile, the original paper’s publisher — The Lancet — complained in 2004 that the lead author had concealed a conflict of interest. Ten of his co-authors retracted the paper’s implication that the vaccine might be linked to autism. Three of the authors are now defending themselves before a fitness-to-practice panel in London on charges related to their autism research.

Sadly, even after all of this, many parents of autistic children still blame the vaccine. The big losers in this debate are the children who are not being vaccinated because of parental fears and are at risk of contracting serious — sometimes fatal — diseases.