The BMJ’s statement this week that the 1998 article by Andrew Wakefield and 12 others “linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent” demonstrates what a difference one journalist can make. Journalist Brian Deer played a key role in uncovering and dismantling the Wakefield story.
(Of course, others recently have said something similar about The Daily Show comedian Jon Stewart’s role in focusing on the health problems of 9/11 first responders.)
Unfortunately, journalism played a key role in promoting Wakefield’s claims. The “Respectful Insolence” blog referred to one journalist as CBS’ resident anti-vaccine propagandist. Around the world there were many other examples of journalists’ unquestioning acceptance of the vaccine scares.
The BMJ reminds us that “the damage to public health continues, fuelled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals, and the medical profession.”