A journal posted an abstract online suggesting a link between vaccines and autism. After a firestorm of criticism, it removed the abstract, saying it was going to be re-reviewed. Now, the journal has decided to formally reject it.
As we reported last month, Frontiers in Public Health removed the abstract after it sparked criticism on social media. After doing so, the journal released a public statement claiming that the paper was “provisionally accepted but not published,” noting that the journal had reverted it to peer review to ensure it was re-reviewed.
Now, Gearóid Ó Faoleán, ethics and integrity manager at Frontiers (the journal’s publisher), told Retraction Watch that after consultation with an external expert, the journal has rejected the paper, adding:
The rejection was merited due to severe limitations in the validity of the results.
…this article was provisionally accepted but not published. In response to concerns raised regarding the abstract – which was made provisionally available online – Frontiers reopened its review. Following further manuscript assessment by the Field Chief Editor of Frontiers in Public Health, in consultation with an external expert, the manuscript was subsequently rejected.
According to Faoleán, the reason for rejection has been communicated to the study’s authors in more detail. Faoleán declined to provide the rejection letter, noting that
the external posting of discussions from the review process is not allowed.
The study included findings from online questionnaires by 415 mothers of home-schooled children aged between six and 12. Almost 40% of the children in the study’s sample were not vaccinated. The authors reported that those that had been vaccinated were three times more likely to develop autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
According to Motherboard, the research in question was mostly funded by Generation Rescue, a non-profit led by actor Jenny McCarthy, who has claimed that vaccines can cause autism.
Earlier this week, the study’s first author, Andrew Mawson, a visiting professor at Jackson State University, told Motherboard:
Generation Rescue provided most of the funds for the study, but of course had no role in the study itself.
I can assure you that we fully acknowledge the importance of vaccinations in public health.
As we previously reported, in 2011, Mawson filed a lawsuit against the Mississippi State Department of Health, claiming his contract at the University of Mississippi Medical Center was not renewed after he advocated the need for more studies on vaccine safety. The suit was dismissed in 2012.
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