The Vaccine-Autism (Dis)connection

photo by Sura Nualpradid (

A recent briefing by the King County Public Health Department addressed the recent retraction of Andrew Wakefield’s pivotal, but extremely flawed – fraudulent – article in Lancet.  Recall that the initial 1998 publication implicated MMR vaccination in the development of autism and started a trend of significant hesitancy towards vaccination of children.  Unfortunately, this hesitancy has become prevalent among parents AND some medical professionals.

Jeffrey S. Duchin, MD, Chief of the Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Immunization Section sent out a memo after the Lancet RETRACTED the original article written by Wakefield. The briefing is directed at providers, but is available on the website:

Page one of this briefing is useful for both providers and patients who want to know more about why the medical community has come to find Wakefield’s research unethical and fraudulent and the impact Wakefield’s assertions have made over the past several years. Page two is useful for providers who want to educate patients who still feel dubious about vaccinating their children (which, by the way, is still quite likely, as much of the public is unaware of the momentous Lancet retraction).  

Is the medical community beating a dead horse? Probably not. As widely publicized and accepted as Wakefield’s Lancet article was, it will take an even more significant effort to undo the damage done.

“In 2008, there were more cases of measles reported in the US than in any other year since 1997, with >90% of cases occurring in unvaccinated individuals or in those whose vaccination status was unknown. The current pertussis epidemic in California is the largest since 1955.”

It was a public figure who fueled the controversial fire a few years ago. Is it likely that any celebrity would educate the public about the importance of vaccination as fervently? Perhaps social media and the blogosphere have the power to clean up the mess Wakefield left behind. (Imagine: A big “S” on this blogger’s white coat).


About Linda Pourmassina, MD

Internal Medicine physician.
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