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This is great news for public health – esteemed medical journal The Lancet has formally retracted a contentious 1998 paper that asserted a link between vaccines and autism:

The Lancet medical journal formally retracted a paper Tuesday that caused a 12-year international battle over links between autism and the childhood vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

The paper, written by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, suggests that the combined shot might be linked to autism and bowel disease.

His assertion, now widely discredited, caused one of the biggest medical rows in a generation and led to a steep drop in vaccinations in the United States, Britain and other parts of Europe, prompting a rise in measles cases.

“It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield . . . are incorrect,” the British journal said in a statement.

(…) A disciplinary panel of Britain’s General Medical Council, or GMC, ruled last week that Wakefield had presented his research in an “irresponsible and dishonest” way and shown a “callous disregard” for the suffering of the children he studied.

(…) Data released last February for England and Wales showed a 70 percent surge of measles cases from 2007 to 2008, mostly because of unvaccinated children.

This should be the final nail in the coffin for the vaccine-deniers who have literally caused thousands of deaths by scaring parents from vaccinating their children.

Related: Ars Technica has a really good discussion with more details if you are interested. The bottom line: vaccinate your kids.

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