Vaccination Research Paper

We have written to the vice provost of UCL, John Tooke, who now has responsibility for Wakefield’s former institution, to ask for an investigation into all of his work to decide whether any more papers should be retracted.

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Drawing on interviews, documents, and data made public at the GMC hearings, Deer shows how Wakefield altered numerous facts about the patients’ medical histories in order to support his claim to have identified a new syndrome; how his institution, the Royal Free Hospital and Medical School in London, supported him as he sought to exploit the ensuing MMR scare for financial gain; and how key players failed to investigate thoroughly in the public interest when Deer first raised his concerns.11Deer published his first investigation into Wakefield’s paper in 2004.12 This uncovered the possibility of research fraud, unethical treatment of children, and Wakefield’s conflict of interest through his involvement with a lawsuit against manufacturers of the MMR vaccine.

Building on these findings, the GMC launched its own proceedings that focused on whether the research was ethical.

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Instead, although now disgraced and stripped of his clinical and academic credentials, he continues to push his views.16Meanwhile the damage to public health continues, fuelled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals, and the medical profession.17 18 Although vaccination rates in the United Kingdom have recovered slightly from their 80% low in 2003-4,19 they are still below the 95% level recommended by the World Health Organization to ensure herd immunity.

In 2008, for the first time in 14 years, measles was declared endemic in England and Wales.20 Hundreds of thousands of children in the UK are currently unprotected as a result of the scare, and the battle to restore parents’ trust in the vaccine is ongoing.

Secondly, research ethics committees should not only scrutinise proposals but have systems to check that what is done is what was permitted (with an audit trail for any changes) and work to a governance procedure that can impose sanctions where an eventual publication proves this was not the case. In light of this new information their veracity must be questioned.

Finally, there are lessons for the Royal Free Hospital, the , and the wider scientific community. Past experience tells us that research misconduct is rarely isolated behaviour.25 Over the years, the have published a number of articles, including letters and abstracts, by Wakefield and colleagues.

Any effect of the scare on the incidence of mumps remains in question.

In epidemics in the UK, the US, and the Netherlands, peak prevalence was in 18-24 year olds, of whom 70-88% had been immunised with at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.21 22 Any consequence of a fall in uptake after 1998 may not become apparent until the cohorts of children affected reach adolescence.


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