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The MMR vaccine controversy started with the 1998 publication of a fraudulent research paper in the medical journal The Lancet that lent support to the later discredited claim that colitis and autism spectrum disorders are linked to the combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Aspects of the media coverage were criticized for naïve reporting and lending undue credibility to the architect of the fraud, Andrew Wakefield.
Investigations by Sunday Times journalist Brian Deer reported that Andrew Wakefield, the author of the original research paper, had multiple undeclared conflicts of interest, had manipulated evidence, and had broken other ethical codes. The Lancet paper was partially retracted in 2004, and fully retracted in 2010, when The Lancet's editor-in-chief Richard Horton described it as "utterly false" and said that the journal had been "deceived". Wakefield was found guilty by the General Medical Council of serious professional misconduct in May 2010 and was struck off the Medical Register, meaning he could no longer practice as a doctor in the UK. In 2011, Deer provided further information on Wakefield's improper research practices to the British medical journal The BMJ, which in a signed editorial described the original paper as fraudulent. The scientific consensus is the MMR vaccine has no link to the development of autism, and that this vaccine's benefits greatly outweigh its risks.
Following the initial claims in 1998, multiple large epidemiological studies were undertaken. Reviews of the evidence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academy of Sciences, the UK National Health Service, and the Cochrane Library all found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. While the Cochrane review expressed a need for improved design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, it concluded that the evidence of the safety and effectiveness of MMR in the prevention of diseases that still carry a heavy burden of morbidity and mortality justified its global use, and that the lack of confidence in the vaccine had damaged public health. A special court convened in the United States to review claims under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program rejected compensation claims from parents of autistic children.
The claims in Wakefield's 1998 The Lancet article were widely reported; vaccination rates in the UK and Ireland dropped sharply, which was followed by significantly increased incidence of measles and mumps, resulting in deaths and severe and permanent injuries. Physicians, medical journals, and editors have described Wakefield's actions as fraudulent and tied them to epidemics and deaths, and a 2011 journal article described the vaccine–autism connection as "perhaps the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years".

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