A controversial paper linking autism and a childhood vaccine has been formally withdrawn by the British medical journal Lancet as of Tuesday 2 February 2010, as reported by Reuters via Kate Kelland of the Washington Post:

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.

The scare led thousands of parents to refuse the vaccination out of fear of harming their child. As a result measles surged back to a level not seen in decades:

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 was a tough one for parents. As a public health professional and a parent I could really see both sides, before this artificial cause-effect relationship was shown to be in error. We want to protect our children, naturally. At the same time, there is an obligation to take small sacrifices to help society as a whole.

Following this logic, when the haemophilus influenza vaccine came out in 1985 I arranged for newspaper coverage of my then two year old daughter as she got one of the first shots in the nation. I figured as a member of the Board of Health, it was my obligation to take a stand and show leadership on the issue.

I’ve been following discussions in recent days where people are happy to advocate that other people do things on their behalf. But what are we willing to do ourselves?