Much of the anti-vaccine debate surrounds the link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism. A 1998 study in the Lancet by Dr. Andrew Wakefield concluded that the MMR could be linked to autism, inciting panic among parents and the medical community. The study has since been declared an “elaborate fraud,” the paper was retracted, and Wakefield lost his medical license. Indeed, an exhaustive study of more than 500,000 vaccinated children published in the New England Journal of Medicine found no such evidence of a connection, and additional studies continue to show similar results.
However, even the slight possibility of a link failed to calm parents, and the issue drew even more attention in the late 2000s when celebrity parents of autistic children, such as Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson Peete, became particularly outspoken about the alleged link between autism and vaccines (McCarthy has since indicated she is “pro-vaccine”).