Dr. Nancy: Autism-vaccine fraud leaves mistrust to mop up

Jan. 6, 2011 at 5:36 PM ET

Dr. Nancy Snyderman writes: I am old enough to remember what polio looked like in the 1950s and 60s. I have held babies in my arms who have died of whooping cough. That you can prevent those illnesses with a very simple shot is among the greatest scientific breakthroughs in our lifetime. But one of the big problems is that vaccinations have been so successful, most parents in this country today have never seen nor heard of anybody who has had these illnesses.

You think it can’t happen to you.

In 1988, British doctor Dr. Andrew Wakefield published one report of 12 children where he linked the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccines to autism. Since then, there have been numerous big studies -- including one with 530,000 children and one with 1.8 million children -- and no link was found. This week a major British medical journal showed that Wakefield and his colleagues  faked the research on the child patients.

We now have a lot of mistrust to mop up.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman is the chief medical editor for NBC News. Click here to read her full commentary and her answers to questions from TODAY Moms and readers.