Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the U.K. medical doctor who created a public health uproar when he claimed that a common childhood measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was an underlying cause of autism in children, has been banned from practicing medicine in his home country of Britain. The action stems from accusations of serious professional misconduct. His findings were later discredited and his results retracted from the journal that they were published in.

In the aftermath of the vaccine scandal, Wakefield relocated to the United States, where he established an autism center in Texas and has a substantial following, though the medical establishment views him with skepticism. The current ruling only applies to Wakefield’s practicing of medicine in Britain, and does not affect him in the U.S. or other countries. He has the right to file an appeal against the ruling.

In 1998, Wakefield conducted research that linked vaccinations with autism. Since that paper was published in the Lancet, millions of families worldwide began rejecting the vaccine, even in light of the doctor's lack of credible proof. Rates of immunization have never recovered, and in Britain and the U.S., there have been measles outbreaks every year since that time.

Wakefield has since assumed the role of the central spokesperson against the use of immunizations and has won the support of scores of parents who do not trust vaccines, including many high-profile celebrities. Wakefield's popularity is despite the fact that the medical establishment as a whole has not completely embraced his findings, and in certain instances, has called into question his methods.

Indeed, at the time that he conducted his controversial study, Wakefield was a doctor who did not have ethical approval to conduct some of the experiments in his study, which have been described as having a “callous disregard” for its subjects (i.e., children), and included paying children (5 pounds, or about $7.20) for blood samples at his son’s birthday party.

Adding to the controversy is the fact that he had the financial backing of parents who believed that their children had been adversely affected by vaccines. Eventually, ten of the authors on the paper renounced the findings and the paper was eventually removed from publication. In the most recent ruling, Britain’s top medical ruling overseer, the General Medical Council, declared that Wakefield had in fact abused the power of his position and has, in essence, given the medical establishment as a whole a bad name.

At this point, however, it may be safe to say that the damage has been done. Vaccine rates remain lower than usual since the publication of Wakefield’s initial paper, even though several studies and court rulings have verified the safety of vaccines. In this country, more than 5,500 claims have been filed seeking compensation for what the plaintiffs believe are the adverse consequences of their children’s vaccinations.

If you have questions or concerns about the safety of vaccinations, speak with your pediatrician or visit the websites for Vaccine Safety and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).