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Medical Journal Retracts Article Linking Vaccines, Autism

The Lancet medical journal announced today that it has fully retracted a controversial, landmark study that linked autism to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The study published in 1998, by Andrew Wakefield and others, set off widespread concern that may have prevented some parents from vaccinating their children. Several other studies over the years have refuted such a link between the vaccine and autism.

Lancet's decision, published online today, followed a ruling on Jan. 28 by Britain's General Medical Council's Fitness to Practice Panel that Wakefield used improper research practices.

"It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation," the statement by Lancet's editors said. "In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were 'consecutively referred' and that investigations were 'approved' by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore, we fully retract this paper from the published record."

A competing medical journal, BMJ, published an editorial saying the decision by Lancet was "overdue but a good thing for science."

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