A lot has been made of the putative link between vaccines and autism since the 1998 publication of ‘Illeal-lymphoid-nodular, non-specific colitis and pervasive developmental disorder in children‘ by Andrew Wakefield. In chapter 10 of Vaccinated, we will be discussing how this article started an epidemic of fear amongst the parents of young children that had a drastic effect on public health.
The author quotes Philip Roth’s The Human Stain as a testimony to the power of suggestion. “To hear the allegation is to believe it. No motive for the perpetrator is necessary, no logic or rationale is required. Only a label is required. The label is the motive. The label is the evidence. The label is the logic.”
In our discussion of this paper we will review the circumstances surrounding its publication, the data presented by the paper, what they mean and don’t mean and what efforts have been made to research the possibility of such a causal link.
A good review of the work done to examine the evidence for any such connections can be found here. We will review the data presented in this article and since that article is a secondary source, we will uncover some of the primary data that this review discusses as see how it compares to the original paper.
In putting this together, I am reminded of an interesting TED talk about how science is done and the necessity for critical examination of data. The talk, by Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree is well worth the listen: