By Joan Murray

MIAMI (CBS4) – A new report finds that the first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved.

The conclusions of the 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues was renounced by 10 of its 13 authors and later retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was published. Still, the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.

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A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.

The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems. Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children’s parents.

Deer’s article was paid for by the Sunday Times of London and Britain’s Channel 4 television network. It was published online Thursday in the medical journal, BMJ.

In an accompanying editorial, BMJ editor Fiona Godlee and colleagues called Wakefield’s study “an elaborate fraud.” They said Wakefield’s work in other journals should be examined to see if it should be retracted.

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Last May, Wakefield was stripped of his right to practice medicine in Britain. Many other published studies have shown no connection between the MMR vaccination and autism.

But measles has surged since Wakefield’s paper was published and there are sporadic outbreaks in Europe and the U.S. In 2008, measles was deemed endemic in England and Wales.

One South Florida doctor describes today’s findings as a big sigh of relief to parents.

“I think for families its a reaffirmation in the fact that the vaccines are safe and there’s no relationship between autism and the MMR vaccine,” said Dr. Jose Rosa, pediatrician at Miami Children’s Hospital.

Regardless of the report, many parents say they trust their gut, and their doctors, when making the decision to vaccinate.

“I’m for immunizations, I feel if we didn’t have immunizations we’d have a lot of illness,” says mother Kara Castellucci. “I’d rather be safe than sorry so I made the choice with my son.”

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