Andrew Wakefield's 1998 paper showing a link between vaccinations (specifically the MMR vaccination) and autism was an elaborate fraud, according to investigative reporter Brian Deer.
Of course, there has long been debate about this issue, with most of the scientific research heavily favouring the vaccines as being safe and in no way causing autism. Ten of the co-authors of the paper withdrew their names after it was shown that Wakefield failed to mention that he had received over GB£400,000 to support his case. The Lancet, which published the controversial paper, retracted it in February 2010, after calling it 'fatally flawed' as early as 2004. And of course, Wakefield was stripped of his medical licence in May 2010.
The anti-vaccine movement has already responded saying that Wakefield is the victim of a smear campaign. Wendy Fournier of the National Autism Association says that she cannot imagine why Wakefield would distort data, and that he is a man of integrity.
Personally, I'm all for vaccinations. There has been no credible study linking the MMR vaccine to autism. The fear that Wakefield's report and various anti-vaccine activist groups have stirred has caused a significant drop in vaccine rates, with the result that children are dying of things they shouldn't be, like pertussis (whooping cough). Infection rates are going up, and herd immunity is being compromised. I sincerely hope that all parents who are on the fence about vaccinating their children will look at the evidence and protect their children by vaccinating them.