As a mom-to-be, the issue of vaccination is one of great importance that arises often. As soon as I found I was pregnant, I was quickly advised to obtain both the flu and H1N1 vaccine. Then after my son is born, there are a host of vaccines which he will be recommended to obtain. It's just vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!! But over the past few years, vaccinations have come under fire. While the question of whether or not to vaccinate is a non-issue for most parents, the 1998 study from British doctor Andrew Wakefield linking vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella to autism caused millions of parents to shy away from these vaccinations. However, parents considering ditching the vaccine may want to give that decision a second look. Last week, Dr. Andrew Wakefield was banned from medical practice in Britain.
Although Dr. Wakefield's study had been discredited by many subsequent studies, he continued to advocate for his theory, even moving to the US to set-up an Autism research center in Austin, Texas (which he resigned from earlier this year). Dr. Wakefield has garnered a major following of supporters, including high profile celebrities, such as Jenny McCarthy, and has lead a significant decline in vaccinations. Such supporters believe in Dr. Wakefield's study so wholeheartedly that they maintain that any effort discredit to Dr. Wakefield's research is merely a smear campaign orchestrated by vaccination companies.
The autism/vaccination debate is a very sensitive issue where on one side stands Dr. Wakefield's study and the parents of autistic children who maintain that their children were normal before vaccinations. Yet, on the other side of the argument stands the many published studies denying such a link, all while measles cases have experienced a significant increase over the past few years.
''The false suggestion of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine has done untold damage to the UK vaccination program,'' said Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. ''Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that it is safe.''
Hence, last week, Dr. Wakefield was found "guilty of serious professional misconduct and stripped him of the right to practice medicine in the U.K."
This recent banning of Dr. Wakefield's right to practice in the UK is another blow his credibility and the credibility of his study, although he vows to fight the ruling.
In light of these recent developments, it will be interesting to see how the autism debate continues to play out.