Dr. Brian S. Hooker gets the Andrew Wakefield Treatment, Again

When we last talked about Dr. Brian S. Hooker and his research into autism and the MMR vaccine, I told you about how the journal article published in Translational Neurodegeneration had been removed. Today comes news that the article has been retracted.

When we last talked about Dr. Brian S. Hooker and his research into autism and the MMR vaccine, I told you about how the journal article published in Translational Neurodegeneration had been removed. Today comes news that the article has been retracted:

“The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article [1] as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings. We apologise to all affected parties for the inconvenience caused.”

When you look up the article, you see the word “RETRACTED” in big, bright red letters:

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You’d be mistaken if you thought this made me happy.

The reason I’m not happy about this is because Dr. Hooker’s research — which is, in my opinion, deeply flawed at an epidemiological and biostatistical level — should have never seen the light of day. Besides the errors in epidemiological reasoning and biostatistical calculations that I and others saw clear as day, Dr. Hooker has an enormous conflict of interest. According to Todd over at Harpocrates Speaks:

“In reality, Hooker has an active case before the Vaccine Court in which he is suing the government for what he claims is his son’s vaccine-induced autism. He stands to benefit from studies that find a connection between vaccines and autism. He also fails to disclose that he is a board member of the anti-vaccine organization Focus Autism, which funded the study.”

You know, for all those times that anti-vaccine people accuse scientists of conflicts of interest, they sure seem to forget about their own. For example, one rabid antivaxxer emailed my former employer and asked that I be summarily dismissed because I had a conflict of interest by doing influenza surveillance and asking people to get immunized against it. In his labyrinth, me telling people to get vaccinated made my job easier or something. But I digress…

The problem with Dr. Hooker’s “study” being published at all is that it got a ton of people all riled up, and those people are dangerous (in my most humble opinion). They are calling for the heads of public health officials from the CDC on down, and they are viciously attacking anyone who dares question this study. So I fully expect them to launch some sort of campaign against the journal now that they’ve retracted the study because most of them are so irrationally sold to the idea that vaccines cause autism that they will now see a conspiracy in this instead of seeing it for what it is: yet another flawed research study by an overzealous researcher (with poor research skills) and a lot to lose if vaccines don’t cause autism.

In essence, Dr. Brian S. Hooker, and Andrew Wakefield by publicizing this left and right, have done a lot of damage to public health — all my opinion, of course. What will they come up with next?

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