When your child is diagnosed with a health condition or a disability, many parents look for someone or something to blame. In my case, it was myself. I knew it wasn’t logical, but my daughter did inherit her mutated cystic fibrosis genes from me and my husband. For other parents, the blame can easily land on an incidence, a doctor, or in some cases a vaccine. Thanks to an article written by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues in 1998, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was blamed for autism. Parents of children with autism then had something to blame, but also felt the guilt of having allowed doctors to give their child the vaccine in the first place. And parents of children yet to be born refused to give their child the vaccine.
Wakefield’s article was published in the medical journal Lancet, and it frightened parents worldwide, leading to a major decline in the use of the MMR vaccine. The fear of autism combined with a lack of knowledge regarding the cause of the condition was enough to convince parents that vaccines offered more negatives than positives. As a result, measles outbreaks increased across Europe and the United States will a full-blown endemic declared in England and Wales in 2008.
Now 10 of the 12 authors of the article have renounced it and Lancet has retracted it. British journalist Brian Deer compared the information used in the article with hospital records and found that Wakefield and the other authors had altered facts about the patients they used for the study. While the paper said the 12 children studied were normal before they received the MMR shot, five had actually already shown developmental problems. In addition, upon examining the data and comparing medical records with information given by the children’s parents, Deer discovered that each of the patients’ information was misrepresented
This news has shocked the special needs parenting community. Our children are our number one priority and taking care of their health is our most important job. To mislead parents who are trying to do right by their children and protect them from harm is not only heartless but also destructive. Some of the families who didn’t vaccinate their children have now had watch their child suffer from measles and in a few cases had to suffer the loss of their child to measles.
I hate giving my children vaccines. I worry each time they receive a shot as I think most parents do. However, the risks seem to outweigh the benefits in my opinion, especially for a child with cystic fibrosis to contend with. Hopefully, the revelation of Wakefield’s falsified data will be the turning point, which causes all doctors and researchers to move forward with children’s best interest at heart, not their wallet’s.