Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Belated Rollback of Vaccine-Autism Psuedoscience

Dr. Andrew Wakefield has been outed as an outright fraud and charlatan, and now the same can be said of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who penned a 2005 article claiming a link between autism and vaccines containing thimerosal.

Salon, which in conjunction with Rolling Stone, published Kennedy's piece, has now fully retracted the piece.
In 2005, Salon published online an exclusive story by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that offered an explosive premise: that the mercury-based thimerosal compound present in vaccines until 2001 was dangerous, and that he was "convinced that the link between thimerosal and the epidemic of childhood neurological disorders is real."

The piece was co-published with Rolling Stone magazine -- they fact-checked it and published it in print; we posted it online. In the days after running "Deadly Immunity," we amended the story with five corrections (which can still be found logged here) that went far in undermining Kennedy's exposé. At the time, we felt that correcting the piece -- and keeping it on the site, in the spirit of transparency -- was the best way to operate. But subsequent critics, including most recently, Seth Mnookin in his book "The Panic Virus," further eroded any faith we had in the story's value. We've grown to believe the best reader service is to delete the piece entirely.

"I regret we didn't move on this more quickly, as evidence continued to emerge debunking the vaccines and autism link," says former Salon editor in chief Joan Walsh, now editor at large.
It was on the basis of Wakefield's fraud ridden "study" published in the Lancet, and Kennedy's op-ed that spurred parents to avoid giving their children vaccines that could prevent a wide range of easily preventable diseases. Since so many parents have foregone vaccines for their kids, outbreaks of preventable diseases like whooping cough, measles, mumps, have exploded all over the US and around the world.

Salon's writers admit that they screwed up by giving the anti-vaccine crowd ammunition long after evidence emerged showing Kennedy's statements to be bunk. The outlet also acknowledges that the rest of the media didn't do much better as they continue to go to outdated sources of information and continue to hype folks like Jenny McCarthy who tout the vaccine-autism link despite the scientific evidence showing no link and Wakefield's outright fraud.

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