Vaccine-Autism Coffin Has No More Room for Nails

By Chris Mooney | January 6, 2011 2:57 pm

Here’s CNN doing some really impressive science and medical journalism–although notably, it’s Anderson Cooper, not Sanjay Gupta.

The occasion is still more debunking of the study that started it all–Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet paper accusing the MMR vaccine of causing autism through a novel (and implausible) pathway. Now, the British Medical Journal is calling the work an outright “fraud” based upon a series of reports it is beginning to publish by investigative journalist Brian Deer.

All the details can be found at those links, and you can evaluate them yourself–but at this point, I think it’s fair to say that no open minded person who surveys the evidence can conclude anything but that vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and the real threat to public health are the activists, and tiny handful of scientists, who tried to convince us otherwise. (Not that they would, like, change their minds or anything.)

And just in time for Seth Mnookin’s and Paul Offit’s new books–my review of which will be out very soon!

Update: I was unfair to Sanjay Gupta, he did a tough interview with Wakefield too–not nearly as tough as Anderson Cooper, but still fairly tough.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, vaccination

Comments (10)

  1. Tai Fung

    I found Seth’s comments about the “round vs. flat Earth” false equivalency were really heartening. I think, as Skeptics, we often talk like that to each other, but I don’t see a lot of it brought to the forefront like that on a show. But it’s one that could stand to be made more often. It’s not Coke vs. Pepsi. It’s not even Coke vs. Shasta Cola. It’s Coke vs. “Hey, WTF, there’s nothing in that other glass.”

  2. This is interesting – compare and contrast the excellent stuff from Anderson Cooper with the godawful he-said-she-said stuff from “The CNN Wire Staff”. One network, two stories, an entire spectrum of quality http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/06/autism.vaccines/

  3. Karen

    While Anderson Cooper is diligent, I would not consider that interview impressive. It is tiring to listen to Anderson throw out “experts around the world” and Wakefield to refer to “studies in five countries” and neither ever gets to any definitive points of discussion. As well, the tone is accusatory and not about discovering what the response is to the reports of fraud. Anderson was not at all interested in Wakefield’s responses, but in getting his prepared points of what has been reported out. Is that interview really science or medical journalism? I hope not.

    Here is what I would consider good science and medical journalism, and it goes ignored by the journalism profession because it shows their high error rates:
    http://www.healthnewsreview.org/

  4. At this point, I think an accusatory tone is quite justified with someone like Andrew Wakefield.

  5. Richard

    Amazing! I agree with Mooney.

  6. Terry

    I just love when the fraud says “You’ve just accused me of committing a falsehood” at the end of the interview. Um… doesn’t he know what the definition of fraud is?

    I agree that the interview accomplished nothing in the way of communication, but the purpose was not communication, it was to make Anderson Cooper look tough. Its purpose, however, doesn’t really matter. What matters is what it could accomplish and that is making more people aware of how much of a dangerous fraud this belief is. Cooper is using his fame to attack the claims of another person. Its the first thing that I’ve seen Cooper do that I genuinely side with him on entirely.

  7. Pieter B

    If Gupta had done half the preparation that Cooper did, he would have been much more effective. He obviously hadn’t done much homework at all, because he let a number of easily debunked statements by Wakefield fly by. I’d have been happy with just a “When your book has been peer-reviewed by the BMJ or another journal of equal stature, I’ll read it, but not before,” but I didn’t even get that.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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