I have blogged and posted interviews about the fight against anti-vaxxers, the science-deniers who have convinced far too many people that vaccines cause autism (listen to Dr. Phil Plait take on Jenny McCarthy). Much of this nonsense began when researcher Andrew Wakefield published a study in Lancet, the British medical journal, that showed a connection. That single piece, with no further evidence or any other research that confirmed it, was enough to cause vaccination rates to drop 30% in England and many other places in the world.
The problem was that it was completely bogus. As Dr. Art Caplan explained to me today on KTRS/St. Louis, Wakefield had pre-selected the 12 children he included in the study because they already had autism and he had an anti-vaccination agenda. Now, a dozen years later, Lancet has withdrawn the article as misleading and false.
Unfortunately, the damage has been hard to undo. Let me be clear: there is absolutely no proof that any vaccine has ever caused any child to become autistic. Whenever it comes down to large numbers of respected scientists vs. fringe Hollywood actresses and conspiracy theorists, you can always save time (and lives) by giving the scientists the benefit of the doubt.