Andrew Wakefield

After a hearing lasting two and a half years, the General Medical Council has decided that Andrew Wakefield acted unethically in his study which proposed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

It’s now twelve years since his paper was published. During all of that time there has never been more of a tiny number of scientists who agreed with his findings. Unfortunately the few who do have been widely reported in the press and this has lead to a climate where a large proportion of the general public still believe that his findings are valid. Before Wakefield’s study was published, 91% of children in  the UK were receiving the vaccine. By 2003 that had fallen to 80%. in 2006 the UK had its first death from measles for fourteen years.

Wakefield should, of course, be ashamed of the effect he has had on the immunisation figures, but a lot of the blame must also be shouldered by the press who reported his findings as fact and who still refuse to admit that no link exists despite the number of studies which comprehensively disprove Wakefield’s theories.

Reporting on yesterday’s events, the Daily Mail still talk about “the controversial study” and devote a lot of column inches to interviewing people who still (with, it has to be emphasised, no scientific basis whatsoever) believe that Wakefield was right.

Yes, children contract autism. That’s a sad fact. And there is a tendency for it to first be noticed at about the same time as the MMR vaccine is administered. But in study after study it has been shown that there is no causal link between the two events. Children who don’t have the MMR vaccine are just as likely to become autistic as those who do.

But this is a classic example of a mob reaction that can’t be turned off. The idea of the link is now out there and no amount of proof seems to counter that. You only have to read the comments on the Mail story to see that. The verdict from the GMC investigation is seen as Big Pharma trying to shut up the one man who is telling the truth. Or it’s our Marxist Government trying to stifle dissent. Here are some examples:

Parents aren’t daft and know full well the MMR damaged their children. He is a very brave man and a hero to many.
– Pippa, Notts, UK

A smear campaign was launched to discredit his findings.

In years to come I am sure that Dr Wakefield will be proved to have been correct in his beliefs about the MMR vaccine.
– Retired paediatric nurse, Surrey

Oh dear. Someone questioned the efficacy of expensive treatment courtesy of big pharma? Heaven forbid that someone would question the status quo of treating disease with expensive drugs for life, these alternatives might be more effective and actually cure, cheaply.
– tom bowden, perth australia

This is what happens under communist marxist Labour,,anyone who dares to disagree,rightly or wrongly is punished, now this doctor is struck off, this is to remind others not to dare
confront these parasites, 3 months to go, then back to Democracy.
– jack, ashford.england

I particularly want to draw attention to this one:

If there is every any shred of doubt about the safety of a medicine, no responsible parent should even consider giving
it to their children.
– Susie Squeegee, Leicester, England

I agree with this. If there is a shred of doubt then, of course, no-one should be expected to give it to their child. But there isn’t any doubt about MMR. Any doubt was manufactured by a hysterical press misreporting a flawed study. I really wish there was some way that the journalists and editors responsible for publishing these stories could be held accountable for their actions. They have probably caused more (and more lasting) damage than the original study.

As you’d expect, Ben Goldacre has more detail on the affair. His book also covers this area in some depth and is highly recommended.

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