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Scientists Retract Vaccine-Autism Link

March 3, 2004

LONDON (AP) _ Most of the scientists involved in widely discredited 1998 study suggesting a link between childhood vaccinations and autism have renounced the conclusion.

Ten of the study’s 13 authors have signed a formal retraction, the text of which was released Wednesday by The Lancet ahead of its publication later this week in the British medical journal.

The retraction follows the recent revelation that the main author was being paid separately by lawyers for parents who claimed their children were harmed by the immunizations. Some of the children involved in the lawsuit were also involved in the study.

The study undermined public confidence in the triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella by suggesting it might be linked to autism.

MMR vaccination rates fell dramatically in Britain and several other European nations and have yet to recover, although subsequent studies dismissed a connection between autism and the vaccine.

``We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between (the) vaccine and autism, as the data were insufficient. However, the possibility of such a link was raised,″ the scientists said in the retraction.

``Consequent events have had major implications for public health. In view of this, we consider now is the appropriate time that we should together formally retract the interpretation placed on these findings in the paper,″ the group wrote.

The study, involving 12 children, was conducted about eight years after they had been vaccinated and was based in large part on parents remembering whether the autism symptoms occurred around the same time as the shots.

The main author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who at the time was working at the Royal Free Hospital in London, is among those who have not signed the retraction. He could not be reached for comment.

However, he has continued to insist the study was valid, despite the findings of authoritative groups such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Institute of Medicine.

The scientists signing the retraction work for institutions that include the Royal Free Hospital, the Institute of Child Health in Liverpool, England, and Cambridge University.

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