The landmark British study that declared a link between vaccines and autism has been debunked, Claudia Wallis reports, but don't expect the controversy to go away any time soon. Though the study was apparently riddled with lapses and even deception, parents are likely to continue to believe—as they have despite other research that failed to support the origninal study's results. The vaccine theory "offers an appealingly simple explanation for a devastating and confusing ailment that seems to arrive like a thief in the night," writes Wallis in Time
To explain the rise in cases, believers dismiss more likely culprits such as better detection and broader definitions, to point to kids getting more shots. The theory also persists because parents usually notice the first signs around the age of 2, when shots are given, which most experts chalk up to coincidence. "For now, the standoff over the vaccine theory shows no signs of dissipating," writes Wallis. Meanwhile, she notes, polio cases are on the rise as parents shy away from needles.