Sowell, the libertarian/conservative economist who's deeply skeptical of most government regulation, writes:
[T]he “evidence” on which the original claim that vaccines caused autism was based was just twelve children. But the campaign to convince the public was a masterpiece of propaganda.
The storyline was that pharmaceutical companies who produced the vaccine were callously risking and sacrificing helpless children in pursuit of profit. This is the kind of dramatic stuff the media love. It never seemed to occur to the media that lawyers who were suing pharmaceutical companies had a vested interest in this storyline that the media fed on to the public.
Unfortunately, it takes time to run careful scientific studies, involving vast numbers of children in different countries. That allowed the propaganda against vaccines to go on for years. Eventually, however, the results of the studies so completely discredited the claim that the measles vaccine caused autism that the medical journal which had published the article publicly repudiated it. The doctor who wrote the article had his license revoked. By this time, however, there was a whole anti-vaccine movement, and crusading movements are seldom stopped by facts. . . .
Some say the decision to vaccinate or not should be the parents’ choice. That would be fine if their child would live isolated from other children. But that is impossible.