Andrew Wakefield, who published a study in 1998, linking autism to vaccines, has been banned from practicing medicine by the General Medical Council, which overseas and licenses doctors in the U.K. The council found Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct.
The study published by Wakefield and several other authors was originally published in the leading medical journal Lancet. The Lancet recently retracted the study and ten of the other original participating authors have renounced its conclusions. Among the problems for Wakefield, he did not have approval for the research that made up the study and he took blood samples from children at a birthday party. Numerous studies since 1998 have failed to show a correlation between vaccines and autism.
The official medical community has generally had harsh words for Wakefield because subsequent studies have shown that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is safe and effective and because children have become ill and died from the diseases such as measles that are stopped by the vaccine.
”That is Andrew Wakefield’s legacy,” said Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvania. ”The hospitalizations and deaths of children from measles who could have easily avoided the disease.”
In the United States thousands of claims have been filed seeking compensation for children who are alleged to have been hurt by vaccines. However, two rulings by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in March of 2009 found no link between vaccines and autism.
Health care policy professionals are concerned that Wakefield’s claims, despite being discredited, have undermined confidence in vaccines and lowered the rate of vaccination of children, putting more children at risk of death or complications from illnesses.