In 1998, there was a groundbreaking study telling parents that their children were at risk of getting autism from vaccines. Parents everywhere collectively gasped. After all, they had been told for years vaccines were the best way to prevent any number of unwanted diseases. Now they find out the very treatment they thought was making their children better could potentially result in devastating consequences, at least in the case of low-functioning Autism.
The only problem was that same study published in the Lancet was later retracted. Its author, Andrew Wakefield, was shown to have falsified data. His “science” proved to be fraudulent, and riddled with conflicts of interest. His research was so void of ethics that the British General Medical Council removed him from the medical registry and he’s no longer allowed to practice medicine in the United Kingdom.
The damage, however, was done. As with so many other societal perceptions based on debunked science, vaccines causing autism is still a very real concern for many parents. In a survey published in Health Affairs in 2011, 30%-36% of parents were concerned that their children were given too many vaccines in the first 2 years of life, and that those vaccines might cause learning disabilities (like autism). 10% say they will delay, or refuse vaccinations believing it’s safer than following the recommended CDC schedule.
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