Bloggers like Science-Based Medicine now call Wakefield a fraud, while Discover Magazine's Bad Astronomy blog writes that whether Wakefield faked his results or not he's still wrong. Asks Tara Smith of Aetiology, "Vaccines and autism--can we stick a fork in it now, please?"
The controversy has even spilled into the courts, with parents of one autistic kid winning a legal judgement against the government. (Correction. It was an administrative judgement, not a legal case.) The controversy has colored popular attitudes toward all childhood vaccines. Wen I wrote about this in September, however, I noted U.S. vaccine compliance is actually rising, with lack of money the main problem.
Here's Deer's most serious charge:
The global scare rested on claims by the parents of only eight children. But most of them were lawyers' clients - countering assertions that the study was based on routine referrals - and Andrew Wakefield had been funded through an undisclosed deal to help them sue drug companies.
Not likely. But my rule remains that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Wakefield never offered any. Instead, he created a mini-industry of lawyers and activists around one study, with as few a 12 participants, and caused millions of children to risk their lives on the result.