Back in 1998 British doctor Andrew Wakefield published a study in "Lancet" claiming to have found a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism. In Britain and the U.S. vaccination of children dropped sharply, and the incidence of preventable diseases is exploding.
It was all a hoax. No one has been able to replicate Wakefield's findings, and the report has been retracted by "Lancet." Wakefield has been stripped of the right to practice medicine in Britain, and recent reports call him a fraud who altered data and took more than half a million dollars from a law firm planning to sue vaccine makers. He also allegedly was involved in schemes to profit by offering services and analysis to fearful parents.
Despite all the evidence, the damage he has caused may long lasting. Many parents are convinced vaccines are dangerous and show no interest in changing their minds. This is a serious threat to the nation's health.
The success of vaccines depends on high immunization rates - up to 95 percent in some cases - to protect people who are not immune. Not taking vaccines endangers not only a misguided parent's own chidren, but those too young to be vaccinated, whose whose immune systems are compromised, and even vaccinated youngsters because all vaccines fail to protect a certain percentage of people.
Today, all but two states (Mississippi and West Virginia) allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids for religious or philosophical reasons. That means 48 state legislatures need to get on the stick and make vaccination mandatory. Parent's right end where they become a proven threat to the public welfare.