The prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, is washing its hands completely of a study it published in 1998 that helped fuel global concerns of ties between the combined vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, and autism.
Such a retraction is a big deal in the world of peer-reviewed journals. One reason for experts in the same fields of research as the submitted papers to review these studies in the first place is to prevent exactly this kind of embarrassing backtracking.
A layperson would have a hard time understanding the significance of all this based on the headline on The Lancet retraction: "Retraction--Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia,
non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children."
Reuters breaks it down in English:
LONDON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - The Lancet medical journal formally retracted a paper on Tuesday that caused a 12-year international battle over links between the three-in-one
childhood vaccine MMR and autism.
The paper, published in 1998 and written by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, suggested the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot might be linked to autism and bowel disease.
His assertion caused one of the biggest medical rows in a generation and led to a big fall in the number of vaccinations, prompting a worrying rise in cases of measles.
"It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield ... are incorrect," the internationally renowned scientific journal said in a statement.
A disciplinary panel of Britain's General Medical Council ruled last week that Wakefield had shown a "callous disregard" for the suffering of children and had brought the medical profession "into disrepute".