In India, we are now talking of universal immunization after so many years’ concerted efforts of medical personnel . Once in a while when there are media reports about the adverse reactions to commonly administered vaccination, the nation gets a big shock ! It takes a long time to recover from such shocks—after all allegations and counter-allegations are exhausted. No doubt such instances, howsoever rare these might be, are an obstacle in universal immunization programme. This is all the more complex in a country like ours where already so many misconceptions about immunization are rampant in society.
Two days ago, I was reading an editoral about a science fraud involving MMR vaccine ( Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine). In 1998, a scientific paper was published in Lancet linking MMR vaccine with a “new syndrome” of autism and bowel disease. However, this paper has been retracted by Lancet in February 2010. After a 217-days hearing, it has been found that the author of that paper had selfish motives for creating this sort of public fear about MMR vaccine.
The doctor’s conflict of interest included a patent for a diagnostic test to “detect a new syndrome– autistic enterocolitis.” The doctor also stood to gain financially from the proposed development of the test kit and a ‘safer’ vaccine.
This research will remain a textbook case of how falsified medical research involving 12 hand-picked children can discredit the safety of a vaccine used for a few decades on millions of children. Scientists were quick to point out the flaws in the paper. No study has been able to replicate his work, and more than a dozen large-scale studies have found no link between the two. Yet it took more than a decade to fully expose the science fraud owing to the inexplicable failure of several institutions and individuals.
Effect of false research – The fallout of the 1998 study has been severe in some developed countries- public fear has been whipped up, and suspicion about a link between MMR vaccine and autism strengthened. Measles,once considered eradicated in the United States, emerged with a venegeance in 2008 when 131 cases were reported. The same year, England and Wales declared measles as an epidemic , the first time in 14 years.
Although signs of autism appear around the same time children receive the MMR vaccine, there is an urgent need to educate the public that no link has been found between the two. Awareness-building is all the more important.
How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money