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December 2007

The March of Science

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(12):1214-1215. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.12.1214

A fool throws a rock off a cliff and a thousand wise men cannot raise it.

Cypriot proverb

In 1998, the British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, MB, BS, FRCS, FRCPath, and his colleagues published an article in the Lancet on an association between enterocolitis and autism and suggested that it was related to measles-mumps-rubella vaccine.1 Panic ensued. Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination rates fell, and Britain experienced a rise in cases of measles. The study by Wakefield and colleagues had many flaws, as subsequent researchers pointed out, and several other well-conducted analyses have since failed to find any link at all.2 In addition, there were serious allegations about the ethics and methods of the study.3 In 2004, 10 of the 13 authors of the 1998 Lancet article retracted the interpretation of the data.4