1998 The Lancet paper

1998 The Lancet paper

In 1879, a French biologist named Louis Pasteur produced the first laboratory-developed vaccine whilst studying chicken cholera.

He said “Chance only favours the prepared mind,” as he discovered the method of attenuation by accident.

He advised his assistant to inject chicken with a fresh culture of bacteria to study the progression of the disease before he left for a holiday but his assistant, after forgetting, only injected them after he returned.

The chicken did not die and Pasteur repeated this with live bacteria with the same result.

He realised the initial attenuated or weakened bacteria provided the chicken with immunity.

 Using attenuation for a cholera vaccine, Spanish physician Jaime Ferran became the first person to develop and use it to immunise humans against a bacterial disease.

Vaccine production advanced leading to vaccines for rabies, whooping cough and polio.

Large vaccination campaigns were also advocated during the 19th and 20th centuries leading to the World Health Organisation declaring the eradication of smallpox in 1979.

However, with the growing support for vaccination, opposition also grew.

Following the debut of the combination MMR vaccine in 1971 for measles, mumps and rubella,

A paper was released in The Lancet in 1998 by a British researcher Andrew Wakefield and several co-authors.

It described a study conducted on 12 children claiming evidence that those who had symptoms of autism and chronic enterocolitis had developed these symptoms immediately after.

MMR vaccination which applied to 8 of these children.

Wakefield went on to assert an association between the vaccination and autism.

Long term studies were then conducted and there were no reputable or relevant studies that confirmed these findings.

Instead many studies have shown no link between MMR and bowel disease or MMR and autism.

Furthermore, the ethics of Wakefield’s study were later questioned and it was revealed data was falsified about the children’s conditions.

The paper was later retracted but as it had been covered widely by the media,

MMR vaccination rates plummeted and its impact continues to this day.

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