CBS stirs up vaccine controversy – with only one side of the story

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Andrew Wakefield, who has linked vaccines to autism, was given a new platform by CBS News now with new claims about the potential dangers from hepatitis B vaccine – based on research on 13 vaccinated monkeys.

The only other source cited was Wakefield’s collaborator and co-author.

Here is how CBS summarized any past controversy:

The study became the centerpiece for an ongoing and nasty fight between vaccine safety advocates who embrace Wakefield’s research and believe vaccines can be administered in a safer fashion, and public health and government officials who attack Wakefield and believe his ideas threaten international vaccination programs.

Notice the framing: vaccine safety advocates “embrace” his research while public health and government officials “attack” it.

Why would CBS not include any independent source to evaluate these claims from research in 13 monkeys? Why would they not mention the allegations from earlier this year that he falsified data in his 1998 study published in The Lancet, widely available online. Excerpt from one story:

10 of the paper’s 13 authors — not including Dr. Wakefield — retracted the paper’s conclusion that the MMR vaccine may cause autism.

Paul Offit, M.D., a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and a prominent critic of Dr. Wakefield, said the new allegations cannot really undermine the credibility of the MMR-autism theory because it had already been disproved.

A series of population-based studies have failed to find evidence that vaccines cause autism.

“I’m not sure what more people need to say than that this man and his theory are discredited,” Dr. Offit said.

He said there was no longer a scientific controversy about the role of vaccines in autism.

At the same time, he said, the Times report is unlikely to change the minds of those who believe in the link.

“There is not one shred of his hypothesis that has held up,” Dr. Offit said.

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Alan

October 8, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Dateline NBC also did a story on him just over a month ago.
He’s probably glad most journalists are such easy push overs in the US given his experience in the UK:
http://briandeer.com/mmr-lancet.htm.

Geoff G

October 8, 2009 at 3:41 pm

The fascinating thing about this interview was how he manages to explain that he had no conflict of interest. Although the page you mention – http://briandeer.com/mmr-lancet.htm – has audio of the lawyer saying he PAID FOR Wakefield’s research, the doctor himself says there was no conflict of interest because the money wasn’t spent on the study.
If, for the sake of argument we believe Wakefield and not the lawyer, does this mean that in his view researchers can take money from a vested interest (say, a drug company), shuffle it off somewhere else (say, a golfing vacation), not declare it to a biomedical journal, and to be involved in no conflict of interest?
This man’s stories are just incredible. It’s amazing that he gets away with it.