Lancet Retracts Article Linking Vaccine to Autism

The leading medical journal of the UK, The Lancet, has formally retracted the article by U.S. physician Andrew Wakefield that claimed the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism in some children.

A statement by the The Lancet says:

several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were “consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false…

The original article had prompted panic among many parents in both the UK and the US, and had fueled a movement by thousands to refuse vaccines for their children.

The retraction follows an investigation into the article by the General Medical Council (GMC) of the UK. According to the Guardian, the GMA reported that

Children had been subjected to invasive procedures that were not warranted, a disciplinary panel ruled. They had undergone lumbar punctures and other tests solely for research purposes and without valid ethical approval.

Although the article has now been scratched from the public record, the conclusions of neither the GMC nor The Lancet spoke directly to Wakefield’s claim that MMR and autism are linked. This claim has been the subject of intense criticism by members of the scientific and medical communities, as AHP reported on here.

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.