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The editorial team at the British Medical Journal, better known as BMJ, have presented an editorial titled ‘Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent’, writing that ‘Clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare’.

Their editorial (open access) points to the ‘diligent scepticism of one man [journalist Brian Deer], standing outside medicine and science, to show that the paper was in fact an elaborate fraud’ in introducing the first of a series of articles by Brian Deer (open access) detailing his case against Wakefield. (See their footnotes: this series appears to have been commissioned by the journal.)

Tellingly, the editorial team write

Is it possible that he [Wakefield] was wrong, but not dishonest: that he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project, or to report even one of the 12 children’s cases accurately? No. A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross.

I encourage readers to read the editorial and Deer’s series for themselves.

I have little doubt there will be many more ‘short takes’ in no time at all: shorter accounts of the articles can be found at Left Brain, Right Brain (includes the bullet-point summary from Deer’s article) and CNN.

Although these articles rightfully point the finger at Wakefield’s paper, and provide excellent background to the story (saga?), I worry that they let the media involved off too lightly.

H/T @OpenParachute and many others on twitter.

Update

You know how it goes. You write a short article bringing a ‘hot’ topic to readers attention, come back an hour later to look around to see what has been written on the subject and there are (literally) dozens (if not hundreds) of articles out there…

Most re-iterate the message of the BMJ, but John Stone, UK editor of Age of Autism (advocates for a vaccine-autism link), writes under the title ’Fiona Godlee: Editor with an Agenda?’ Two quick thoughts. There are three editors present as authors of the editorial, yet Stone’s polemic only points at Godlee. Leaving aside that his arguments at first blush strike me as reiterating basic (if common) fallacies, his closing shot refers to a ‘dogma of vaccine infallibility’, something I don’t believe even exists. Where vaccine concerns are genuine, they are acknowledged and met with action so how can he talk of a ‘dogma of vaccine infallibility’?

There are numerous studies testing a link between vaccination and autism and reporting finding none (and between mercury and autism, too). To my mind it is a pity that advocacy groups don’t move on. I for one am looking forward to further studies on the genetics of autism. They are at least positively getting on with finding out actual causes of autism, rather than all this negativity and polarised ’debate’.

6-Jan-2011, mid-afternoon:

John Whelan of Forbes is suggesting that the USA extradite Wakefield if fraud charges follow.

Left Brain / Right Brain has a further blog post looking at the defence by the USA National Autism Association. The NAA’s press release in response the BMJ’s articles is available on-line.

Orac is his usual long-format approach has added his take: “Piltdown” medicine: Andrew Wakefield’s scientific fraud was worse than previously thought

6-Jan-2011, 10:30pm:

A CNN report includes brief statements from Wakefield, defending himself and pointing fingers in reply.

10-Jan-2011, 11:45am:

Readers should read fellow sciblogger’s in-depth coverage of other work by Wakefield.


Other related articles on Code for life:

Brevia — Wakefield saga continues… struck off

Immunisation, then and now

Has Andrew Wakefield resigned from Thoughtful House? (Updated)

Another Wakefield paper pulled?

Conspiring against science