Vaccination is a hot topic among the autism community. It's almost guaranteed to cause heated discussions, if not outright fights if brought up.
I've been fairly clear on my opinion. I don't believe the scientific data supports a causal link and I worry that parents not vaccinating is a health crisis and potential catastrophe. If partial vaccinations lead to vaccine-resistant strains of viruses (as partial antibiotic use led to antibiotic-resistant bacteria) then we could be thrown back to the dark ages of infant and child mortality.
The British Medical Journal has done a study to see if Dr. Wakefield's claims of MMR vaccine causing autism were in any way justified. It's been long known that there were errors in the study but they wanted to see if there was any possibility of an underlying genuine issue. They published their conclusions last week: the study was a complete fraud intended to spark a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers.
Wakefield not only cherry-picked his study candidates but he also misrepresented or altered their medical histories. There were 12 children total, 5 who showed significant developmental problems before the vaccination and 3 who never had autism. The article doesn't explain what happened with the remaining 4.
Wakefield claims that he has been the victim of a pernicious media blacklisting and scientific conspiracy. He still defends his work and his conclusions.
Those who believe him and his claims probably won't be deterred by this study. If someone is convinced that something hurt their child, then it isn't surprising for them to hang on to that and try to warn others.
It's sad that we no longer can trust the scientific community as we used to. So many studies are tainted by corporate goals or selective data that they no longer carry the weight they used to. Bad science isn't easily distinguished from good science any more. Once a belief has made it into the general public, it's difficult to ever root it out again.
For vaccinations, I think we as a society have forgotten how horrible some of these diseases actually are. We aren't exposed to them and so we have the luxury of questioning the necessity. People die from measles, diphtheria, protussis (whooping cough). They suffer physical and mental damage from mumps, birth defects and miscarriages from rubella. I could keep going on but I think the point is clear. I just hope we don't have to learn it the hard way.