It's that season again: Another outbreak of a benign childhood disease that only a couple of generations ago the vast majority of the US population contracted and recovered from, serendipitously occurring precisely at the time when legislators across the country are putting forward bills to strip parents of the right to choose whether or not to vaccinate their own children.
In this climate of interest-driven hysteria, it is important to be able to distinguish between reliable information on the issue, and misinformation. Here is one quick way to tell the difference:
Take a look at these three recent articles on the "crisis" of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Do you notice something they all have in common?
Leaving aside the frenzied headlines, what all three share is something common to the vast majority of mainstream articles about the vaccine controversy. You'd be forgiven for thinking that it is the obligatory recitation of some version of the "Wakefield catechism." Here is one, from KTVQ:
"The mistaken belief in a connection can be traced back to 1998, when a doctor in the U.K. published a now discredited study claiming the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was linked to autism. His research was found to be based on fraudulent data, the study was retracted, and the doctor lost his medical license."
Nearly everything in this statement is false.
Dr. Wakefield's study (he was actually one of 13 doctors on the paper) did not make the claim that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism, but stated: "We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described. Virological studies are underway that may help to resolve this issue."