Dr. Wakefield and the MMR vaccine

From Raine Saunders at Agriculture Society:

Photographed on Jan. 28, 2010, Andrew Wakefield speaks to the media after a hearing at the General Medical Council in London. The GMC ruled that Wakefield acted unethically in purporting to prove a link between MMR vaccinations and autism. Photo: LUKE MACGREGOR/REUTERS

“It has been stated over and over again in pro-vaccine communities that Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues claimed there to be a direct “connection” to the MMR and autism. But the truth is, never was there an outward statement by any of these doctors that MMR was the cause of autism.

After research in 1998, the conclusion in the paper stated by Dr. Wakefield was that further study was warranted. He went on to recommend that until those studies were completed and results evaluated that single vaccinations be administered instead of the multiple doses being given.

In the original study, 12 children with autism were examined for incidence of bowel disease. Vaccines were not part of the original equation. The study’s conclusion stated, “We did not prove an association between measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described [autism].” In the majority of instances, symptoms were noticeable after administration of the vaccines for each of those diseases.

Dr. Wakefield listened to the parents who came to him for help. He listened and reported their statements. Apparently, mentioning conversations had by parents of these children and their subsequent request for further investigation is now considered a criminal act.  The fact now is, whenever anyone publicly calls into question the safety and efficacy of vaccines, no matter how far removed, it can be punishable by law.

Because of false accusations made by a British journalist named Brian Deer, we are now facing this scenario for which everyone is being made to believe that questioning vaccine safety is not only a thinking error, but grounds for much more.  Parents now believe what they hear in a variety of media sources, but what’s coming out in the media is not based on a medical report, but rather, the machinations of a single person. So now false allegations made by Mr. Deer against Dr. Wakefield are in print all over the world because the media has no limitations nor rules it must follow in the name of ethics or morals, much like many large corporations and government entities. Apparently, we are to accept the fact that the final word on vaccine-autism has been had….”

Get the whole story at Agriculture Society.

And just for contrast and perspective, here’s how the story was played in the mainstream media, in this case the Toronto Star:

“It wasn’t just a good idea gone wrong. It wasn’t simply a tainted study. Instead, it was “a deliberate fraud.”

That was the verdict delivered this week by the British Medical Journal — now better known as BMJ — on the long, sorrowful saga of Andrew Wakefield, a tale of woe and deceit that has already yielded unnecessary death and a worrying resurgence of disease and that may yet produce more of the same.

Already discredited as a physician and medical researcher, the British-trained surgeon — make that former surgeon — has now been exposed as a bamboozler of rare proportions.

In fact, lethal proportions.

“There has been a huge impact from the Wakefield fiasco,” says Dr. Paul Hébert, editor-in-chief of The Canadian Medical Association Journal. “This spawned a whole anti-vaccine movement. Great Britain has seen measles outbreaks. It probably resulted in a lot of deaths.”

The principal author of a notorious 1998 report in the British medical publication The Lancet, Wakefield has already been censured publicly for conflict of interest and other ethical problems related to that study, which drew a causal connection — now recognized as spurious — between the triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, on the one hand, and the appearance of autism and bowel disease in children, on the other.

Last year, British authorities scrapped Wakefield’s licence to practise medicine, and The Lancet fully retracted the article, but not before MMR vaccination rates in the U.K. had plummeted from 92 per cent coverage in 1998 to 73 per cent a decade later, with a corresponding resurgence in measles….”

Read it all in The Toronto Star.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Dr. Wakefield and the MMR vaccine

  1. thebovine

    I understand that some wholistic doctors view measles as not necessarily such a bad thing for a child to go through — that in fact the measles provide a means by which the incarnating individuality of the child can “remodel” his or her body to overcome the limitations of inheritance and make that body a better instrument for the expression of his or her destiny.

    Of course, if you think the human being is a purely biological entity with no spiritual dimension, arguments like that don’t make a lot of sense now, do they?

  2. Aaron

    I’ve been researching this whole case of Dr. Wakefield very thoroughly on both sides of the vaccine movement. I’ve read this 1998 report that Wakefield is now being ostracized over and examined many of the criticisms against Wakefield; including claims by the reporter who started all of this. I find that the evidence isn’t as clear cut as the reporter and many vaccine promoters are insisting. Although; it appears that they are making a strong case against Wakefield by cherry-picking details.

    It appears that most often in this debate, the arguments against Wakefield swing away from the actual report itself and into statements Wakefield has made over the years in order to show that Wakefield suspects a MMR-autism link; reason being of course that the 1998 case-series report did not contain a hypothesis, conclusion, or make any assertions. It was only meant to introduce 12 anecdotal cases of MMR recipients who had regressive autism and show that these 12 children diagnosed with autism had bowel problems. It was a precursor to do scientific research and investigate potential environmental triggers, such as the MMR vaccine which all 12 children had received.

    People blame Wakefield for suggesting the suspension of the MMR vaccine and recommending the alternative single-dose measles, mumps, and rubella, vaccines as a reason for which the public stopped vaccinating, but in doing so, vaccine promoters rarely mention the fact that Wakefield was indeed suggesting an alternative vaccine which would have kept the public under protection of these diseases.

    Those who are promoting the concept of heard immunity, continually ridicule Wakefield for suspecting a “possible” autism-MMR link, and in doing so usually assert that Wakefield *believes* that there *exists* such a link. While Wakefield himself insists that he does not hold any such beliefs and that he only wishes for the opportunity to investigate the possibility of such a link. In the end, science will prove it one way or the other; so what could be the harm in investigating further in order to verify the safety of the MMR vaccine? Vaccine promoters insist that no investigations are necessary, because there is absolutely no possibility of such a link…. although, in some instances, they have been known to admit that there is always a possibility in science… then only to claim again that since the possibility is so low, it is not worth investigating.

  3. Aaron

    Also many people claim that by making the recommendation to suspend the MMR vaccine in place of the single-dose vaccines, Wakefield was implying that his 1998 case-series report, in itself, was a determining factor in this decision, and that by doing so, he is endorsing the idea that his 1998 case-series puts the question of the MMR vaccine into question.

    I think this is one of the most misleading assertions of MMR vaccine promoters around the web. In the case-series report, noting that these 12 children had received the MMR vaccine, somewhere around the time or prior to regressing, the report, by any scientific standard, does not put the safety of the MMR vaccine into question, and Wakefield had never implied any such thing.

    Wakefield’s recommendation was not based on the case-series report but on research Wakefield had done on past safety studies that had been done on the various strains of the MMR vaccine. Wakefield had published his research findings in a report.

    In all, I find that critics of Wakefield have produced many suggestive accounts of Wakefield’s work, all engineered, through cherry-picked details, to suggest their various pet theories to explain how Wakefield intended to undermine the public confidence in vaccination. But upon thorough investigation, I can’t support such a claim. He appears to be genuinely interested in simply doing further studies in order to reaffirm the safety of the MMR vaccine, and primarily, to research the link between autism and bowel disease.

  4. thebovine

    Thank you for your extensive contributions to this topic, Aaron!

  5. Beverley Viljakainen

    One would think that the proponents of the vaccine would be grateful for any input on the product in the interests of public health and would throw their resources–time, money, intellect–into determining whether a link exists or not, based on Dr. Wakefield’s work . That they seem only intent on disparaging Dr. Wakefield himself, and do not address the possible reasons for the onset of the studied children’s problems, once again speaks volumes!

  6. Catalina

    The truth is that a correlation between autism and vaccines has not been found. This is not simply based on a few studies done by pharmaceutical companies. This is based on government-funded studies done by many countries around the world. In “The Vaccine War” byPBS, the Denmark epidemiology study was mentioned. This study consisted of millions of participants and demonstrated that there was no difference in autism rates found in vaccinated versus unvaccinated groups. There was also no difference between groups that had been vaccinated with vaccines containing thimerosal and those that did not. On the other hand, Andrew Wakefield’s study was not so reliable. Among many other problems the study had only 12 participants, only one child had regressive autism, three did not have autism diagnosed at all, and five had preexisting developmental concerns even though the study suggested all children were previously normal. Moreover, Wakefield’s experimental results have not been reproduced.

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