It could be difficult for some believers to let go, but a UW-Madison expert hopes a new report further discrediting research linking vaccines to autism will convince parents to stop avoiding the treatments for their children.
The report published this month in the British Medical Journal provides further evidence that a 1998 study linking vaccines and autism was based on fraudulent research. The findings show several of the cases the study was based on involved children who showed signs of developmental problems long before they were vaccinated.
Sigan Hartley, an assistant professor in the UW-Madison’s Department of Human Development, says it’s the latest effort to discredit the original study by Andrew Wakefield. The journal that originally published his research retracted it last year and 10 of the 13 original researchers have renounced the findings.
Despite evidence discrediting the study though, Hartley says many parents have held on to the belief that vaccines can be the cause of autism developing in young children. She believes that’s largely based on the fact that so little is still known about the true causes of the disorder, and many frustrated parents are just looking for an easy source of blame.
However, Hartley says that belief has consequences. Vaccination rates still suffer because of parental fear, which has also resulted in the resurgence of some diseases because children have not been properly vaccinated.
Hartley says the best way to get the attention off vaccines as the culprit is continued research like the BMJ report. She says it helps bring attention to the issue and can change the minds of those who still believe the study was accurate.