Lancet on MMR vaccine: we take it back

The Washington Post reports:

The Lancet medical journal formally retracted a paper Tuesday that caused a 12-year international battle over links between autism and the childhood vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

The paper, written by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, suggests that the combined shot might be linked to autism and bowel disease.

His assertion, now widely discredited, caused one of the biggest medical rows in a generation and led to a steep drop in vaccinations in the United States, Britain and other parts of Europe, prompting a rise in measles cases.

“It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield . . . are incorrect,” the British journal said in a statement.

A disciplinary panel of Britain’s General Medical Council, or GMC, ruled last week that Wakefield had presented his research in an “irresponsible and dishonest” way and shown a “callous disregard” for the suffering of the children he studied.

It also ruled that he had brought the medical profession “into disrepute.”

Adam Finn, professor of pediatrics at Bristol University, welcomed the Lancet’s move but said it had been too long coming.

“Let’s hope this will do something to re-establish the good reputation of this excellent vaccine,” he said in a statement to reporters.

A rise in the number of parents refusing to have their children vaccinated, because of fears of autism, has increased measles cases in the United States and parts of Europe in recent years.

Data released last February for England and Wales showed a 70 percent surge of measles cases from 2007 to 2008, mostly because of unvaccinated children.

As Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella might say: