The fight against anti-vaxxers continues despite Andrew Wakefield’s ongoing deceit

In early August last year the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network held one of many Australian screenings of the fraudulent, debunked anti-vaccine film Vaxxed at Hawthorn town hall in Melbourne Victoria. The director of this nonsense is disgraced former gastroenterologist and persistent enemy of public vaccination, Andrew Wakefield.

At this event the AVN hosted a rogue Melbourne GP who, using bogus claims, was helping parents circumvent No Jab No Play legislation. With video of the GP published online, the outcome was immediate revelation of his identity. Three weeks later Dr. John Piesse faced suspension by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). At that time it was reported he “vowed” to continue placing innocent children and the community at risk until he was indeed suspended. Not long after he agreed to stop practising while AHPRA investigated his conduct.

By mid September he had his licence suspended. The ABC reported;

A Melbourne doctor who has been under investigation for his anti-vaccination stance has had his licence to practise suspended.

Dr John Piesse’s practice in Mitcham was raided by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and police officers last week following allegations he had helped families avoid compulsory childhood vaccinations.

He had agreed to stop practising temporarily while AHPRA investigated the matter.

But the Medical Board of Australia’s Immediate Action Committee met on Thursday and decided to suspend his registration while the investigation into his practice continued.

An excellent and comprehensive summary of Dr. John Piesse may be found at Diluted Thinking.

Because of the danger posed by Piesse and an unknown number of other GP’s who may be engaging in similar conduct, new No Jab No Play laws were recently announced by Victoria’s Minister for Health, The Hon Jill Hennessy MP. [PDF]

The damage done by the anti-vaccination lobby across the developed and developing world continues. Their lies cost lives and quality of life. In addition they promote angst for innocent parents and attack hard working advocates – who may be grieving parents themselves – with relish.

It is now 20 years since Wakefield published his fraudulent paper in The Lancet contending a link between the MMR vaccine, bowel disease and autism. It was ultimately described by The Lancet’s editor-in-chief as “utterly false”. A 2004 investigation by Brian Deer of Britain’s Sunday Times uncovered enormous financial conflicts of interest. Wakefield was exposed as a liar and fraud and struck off the UK medical register. Astonishingly three dozen charges were found proved. Almost all of his fellow authors withdrew their names and support from the fraudulent paper.

With thunderous arrogance Wakefield “rejects” all of the findings against him.

Years of research failed to reproduce or uncover phenomena similar to his claims. Wakefield continues to push his fraud from the USA, profiting now from the global Conspiracy Theory movement, destroying public health and what is left of his callous character as he goes.

One understands Vaxxed is simply his most recent project. If and when more follow, as has been suggested, they too will be debunked.

Recently BBC 4 produced an excellent review of the anti-vaccine movement titled, In the Wake of Wakefield (BBC).

Twenty years ago, in February 1998, one of the most serious public health scandals of the 20th century was born, when researcher, Andrew Wakefield and his co-authors published a paper in the medical journal The Lancet.

  • You can access the audio below, © BBC 4;

Andrew Wakefield had only one aim: to make money

Recently there’s been some unusual defence of Andrew Wakefield.

He never wrote a paper claiming vaccines cause autism, offered fans of Meryl Dorey at Woodford. The rationale? To drive home that vaccines do cause autism. You see, the shorthand misconception of Wakefield supporters is that he was found guilty of fraud in publishing a “vaccines cause autism” paper.

It isn’t quite that simple, and through what can only be described as a combination of ignorance and stupidity these blinkered fans now seek to capitalise on their own confusion.

A five member General Medical Council panel found Wakefield guilty of over 30 charges including 12 of causing children to endure “clinically unjustified” invasive testing procedures, buying blood at children’s birthday parties and managing four counts of dishonesty. Then, his “continued lack of insight” into his conduct, and consequences thereof, meant that only “total erasure” from the medical register was warranted.

In short he was an unprofessional crook, guilty of self serving and callous conduct with no insight into the damage he did or the ongoing harm he was causing.

Dorey’s fans insist Brian Deer stitched up Wakefield because Wakefield’s paper includes:

We did not prove an association between measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described

So. The reasoning in the mind of a Dorey fan is:

  1. Wakefield did not claim a link to autism, therefore the charge of fraud is wrong.
  2. If the charge of fraud is wrong, then claiming that vaccines cause autism is not fraudulent.
  3. Due to 2 above, then the claim “vaccines cause autism” is factual.
  4. Andrew Wakefield is thus doubly correct in that he never committed fraud, but when he was accused of promoting a fraudulent link to autism, due to 2 above he was “set up”.
  5. Vaccines thus cause autism.

Yet Wakefield did commit fraud in an attempt to manufacture his “autistic entercolitis” (AE), in tampering with histopathology results and in attempting to set up his grand financial empire

Not only would success in creating AE drive class action suits in the USA and the UK, the non-existent syndrome would make Wakefield a pot of gold. Proper diagnoses would be needed. At the expense of pharmaceutical companies, complex immunodiagnostics would be ordered by lawyers acting for the families of those stricken with AE.

Let’s follow the money….

Wakefield was paid £435 643 by Richard Barr’s law firm to create a syndrome to drive class action of anti-vaccination litigants. This was no fluke. In the 1990’s vaccine injury was shaping to be the big one for injury compensation lawyers. In 1996 Richard Barr was already working on his autistic test case – “child 2”. On September 9th the child was subject to what the GMC later found was a “clinically unwarranted” ileocolonoscopy. Although he did not have Crohn’s disease it was assumed he might.

Enter Wakefield’s March 1995 Diagnostic patent that claimed:

Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may be diagnosed by detecting measles virus in bowel tissue, bowel products or body fluids

In a theme we will see later was Wakefield’s true driving force, an accompanying document proposed setting up a diagnostic company. Wakefield’s scheme suggested that molecular viral diagnostic tests run for clients in the USA and the UK would yield big bucks. In fact it would yield £72.5m per year. The document was an unbridled embellishment of Wakefield’s patented scam and included:

In view of the unique services offered by the Company and its technology, particularly for the molecular diagnostic, the assays can command premium prices […]

The ability of the Company to commercialise its candidate products,” the draft plan continued, “depends upon the extent to which reimbursement for the cost of such products will be available from government health administration authorities, private health providers and, in the context of the molecular diagnostic, the Legal Aid Board.

Despite being paid £150 plus expenses per hour since January 1996 and the reality “child 2” had been enrolled with Barr’s firm for seven months, Wakefield was after Legal Aid.

Here’s where Meryl Dorey’s new breed of Wakefield defenders fail to make first base. Two weeks before selecting his 1st subject for the 12 child study Wakefield co-authored with Richard Barr a letter that included:

Children with enteritis and disintegrative disorder, form part of a new syndrome. The evidence is undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology

Nine months before publishing his paper Wakefield had filed for monovalent vaccine patents. A nice addition to his other patent that placed the measles component of MMR as a diagnostic pointer to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Opening of Wakefield’s vaccine patent submission. See item 15 for reference to his Crohn’s Disease patent

[Image © Brian Deer]

In the lead up to releasing the paper’s results Wakefield made various copies on tape of how he should announce specifics of his “findings”. In one of these proposed announcements Wakefield states:

There is sufficient anxiety in my own mind for the long term safety of the polyvalent vaccine—that is, the MMR vaccination in combination—that I think it should be suspended in favour of the single vaccines

Having agreed to follow through with a press announcement that would reinforce the safety of MMR and stress his small sample of unverified results did – as the paper’s text stated – “not prove an association between [MMR] and the syndrome described”, Wakefield turned renegade. He argued that parents should consider splitting MMR vaccination into measles, mumps and rubella shots, leaving measles under a cloud. This of course, was a bonus for his hoped for impending single shot patent profits.

In a confidential submission (1999) to the Legal Aid board in his quest to set up Unigenetics, he argued the link b/w MMR and autism had been shown. He scored £800 000 of tax payer funds to conduct PCR tests of dubious pursuit. Within this venture – to be set up in the Republic of Ireland – he would take 37% of the earnings, the scheming parent known as “Number 10” would take 22.2%. A venture capitalist would get 18%. Royal Free’s professor of gastroenterology, Roy Pounder would get 11.7% and Professor John O’Leary another champion of “MMR causes autism” would get 11.1%.

In addition to these petty “legal costs and salary” monies Wakefield would get another £90 000 per year – more than half of which was for travel.

“Carmel Healthcare Ltd” (also registered in the Irish Republic) was to be named after Wakefield’s wife, Carmel.

Wakefield sought to use outmoded and discredited immunodiagnostic methods. Transfer factor, a technique that would purportedly be used for treatment, had been written out of practice. The technique lacked evidence, cost effectiveness and presented an infection risk.

American immunologist Hugh Fudenberg, of the Neuro Immuno Therapeutics foundation was also involved. Brian Deer writes that apart from being under sanction from his local medical board for prescription and use of controlled drugs, he also claimed to be able to cure autism with the above transfer factor. See Why investors might have paused.

Finally problems with the Dublin measles test would later become apparent. Supposed to detect virus from past MMR immunisations the technique gave inconsistent, unreliable results. Because of this method vaccine lawsuits in America and Britain suffered irreversible setbacks.

Brian Deer writes that he was handed a “private and confidential” prospectus 35 pages long, which included:

It is estimated that the initial market for the diagnostic will be litigation driven testing of patients with autistic enterocolitis from both the UK and the USA…”. £700 000 from investors was needed. Mind blowing profits were assured. “It is estimated that by year 3, income from this testing could be about £3 300 000 rising to about £28 000 000 as diagnostic testing in support of therapeutic regimes come on stream.

There was really nothing to diagnose. Count those profits. All from a made up syndrome driving litigation. “Litigation driven testing”. But then how many innocent families would also have been ripped off, lied to and how many others would have used his vaccines?

Of course today we know he forged conclusions from Dr. Amar Dhillon’s intestinal tissue sample grading sheets, to invent Autistic Enterocolitis. Now he is inexplicably trying to plead ignorance, blame Dhillon and thus sue the BMJ with the help of the USA’s version of Australia’s Dr. Brian Martin – “whistleblower” David Lewis.

Walker-Smith’s abuse of very ill children, at the insistence of Wakefield who continually ordered unnecessary tests, cannot be overstated. All of Walker-Smith’s tests – blood, colonoscopies, ileocolonoscopies returned negative results. Dhillon recorded normal findings. Consultant histopathologist Susan Davies also recorded normal intestinal findings. Also struck off the medical register, Walker-Smith was labelled “irresponsible and unethical”.

Paola Domizio, a consultant histopathologist and professor of pathology education at Queen Mary’s College has since claimed to be “astonished” at the normality of the histology findings. So Wakefield now blames Dhillon as the culprit of fraud. Just as he earlier used Walker-Smith’s presentation to “prove” he did not falsify data. Yet even there we can demonstrate Wakefield to have submitted identical material to the Legal Aid Board on 6 June 1996 – 6 1/2 months before Walker-Smith’s presentation.

It was Wakefield. It was always Wakefield. It will always be Wakefield.

Wakefield’s dishonesty and fraud sought to make him filthy rich. From well before the study began he had the “syndrome” laid out. Months before publication he was setting up his patents. Feel free to go through and add up those income totals. Then visit sham blog Child Health Safety and try to make sense of the autism ramblings peppered there.

So Child Health Safety and Dorey’s new Wakefield converts need to be aware. On at least four different occasions Wakefield claimed MMR did cause autism. He particularly did so when prospecting for capital to run his assumed to be obscenely profitable immunodiagnostic businesses, that specialised in a condition – autistic entercolitis – he had fraudulently invented.

Wakefield’s fraud may well have been done on mundane tissue samples. But he played a cunning side game.

That side game was to ensure people believed that MMR actually did cause autism.


Edited: 17/07/2018

Wakefield innocent, Deer lied, Earth flat

The good citizens from The Twilight Zones of teh interwebs keep us reliably informed, in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, that Wakefield is “innocent”.

Andrew Wakefield is infamous for the fraudulent invention of ileal hyperplasia and non-specific colitis induced by the measles component of MMR. Leaving the bowel damaged and “leaky”, this allowed the escape of opioid peptides into the bloodstream and eventually the brain whereby they caused autism. So infamous, that two words, “Wakefield innocent” are only rivalled in this story by “Deer lied”, yet another commandment from The Twilight Zone.

Yet innocent of exactly what aspect of the raft of calculated, cruel and callous transgressions committed? Or what part of his planning and financial inducements leading up to his academic fraud? The invasive abuse of his small sample and manipulation of data gleaned? The fabricated patient selection criteria, clinical histories, and neuropsychiatric diagnoses? Or how his filing for a patent for a “safer [monovalent] measles vaccine” in June 1997 predicated his surprise (in fact well kept secret) announcement to the press in February 1998 that MMR was a likely cause of autistic disorders?

In general it doesn’t really matter. So distorted has the issue become in almost 14 years that specifics don’t count. In effect “Wakefield innocent” is a vaccine myth with multiple faces. A licence to not vaccinate. It means that all vaccines do horrible damage to children. That they do so due to ghastly toxins with long dastardly names, heavy metals that poison the brain, alien cells and viruses that ravage young bodies, promote disease, drain vitality, bring death and much more.

“Deer lied” is the inescapable binary to this scenario. It signifies his mythical role as a Big Pharma hit man paid a whopping journalists salary with expenses to destroy Wakefield. To keep the truth hidden by governments, pharmaceutical companies and medical establishments. That vaccines are not only unnecessary but experimental, or knowingly useless poison pushed for profit. The conspiracy is all powerful and so encompassing it accommodates any bizarre fantasy. Evidence has no impact.

Today “Wakefield innocent” can also mean all vaccines cause autism and brain damage. That they do not prevent disease. That they are not needed. That today’s children are the sickest of any generation in memory. That vitamins, a few herbs, some homeopathic hanky panky and a connection with the cosmos is all that’s needed to defeat vaccine preventable disease.

The real point is, those defending Wakefield have just as much a predetermined agenda as he did. Facts will not get in their way. The BMJ is “disgraced”, in a “panic” or existing in terror of the day Wakefield is “vindicated”. As Meryl Dorey puts it, “digging a deeper and deeper hole”.

Three weeks after the BMJ published Brian Deer’s How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed, eminent enemy of conventional medicine Mike Adams gushed, Documents emerge proving Dr Andrew Wakefield innocent; BMJ and Brian Deer caught misrepresenting the facts. Really? A Trifecta Mike? Do tell:

Newly-revealed documents show that on December 20th, 1996, a meeting of The Inflammatory Bowel Disease Study Group based at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School featured a presentation by Professor Walker-Smith on seven of the children who would later become part of the group of patients Dr Wakefield wrote about in his 1998 The Lancet paper (which was later retracted by The Lancet) […]

These documents reveal that the British Medical Journal has been caught in its own fraud for willfully ignoring this evidence, which was presented to it long before its recent publication of Brian Deer’s article calling Dr Wakefield a fraud […]

[Brian Deer] lied about his identity and entered the home of one of the parents of the autism children. Specifically, he claimed he was working for The Sunday Times even though he was never a Sunday Times employee.

It’s pretty much a direct copy and paste of Wakefield’s own document. That and email correspondence with Fiona Godlee is here in PDF under the amusing Gaia Health heading DR. ANDREW WAKEFIELD WAS RIGHT. BRIAN DEER IS THE LIAR. THERE WAS NO FRAUD. NO HOAX. HERE’S PROOF. Age of Autism, Vaccine Safety First, Child Health Safety…etc, all crowed vindication.

The nonsense about Brian Deer is hearsay from a “letter to The Sunday Times”, seeming to serve no purpose beyond trying to label him a liar. Wakefield himself also alludes to the BMJ not “checking facts”. Yet the actual “proof” strikes me as tenuous. Wakefield confidently writes:

I present evidence that completely negates the allegations that I committed scientific fraud. Brian Deer and Dr. Godlee of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) knew or should have known about the facts set out below before publishing their false allegations. [….]

His [Professor John Walker-Smith’s] notes of the presentation continued: “I wish today, to present some preliminary details concerning seven children, all boys, who appear to have entero-colitis and disintegrative disorder, probably autism, following MMR.

Speaking of not checking facts. Deer had already quite arguably dispatched with Wakefield’s chronological innocence in writing How the case was fixed…:

Curiously, however, Wakefield had already identified such a syndrome before the project which would reputedly discover it. “Children with enteritis/disintegrative disorder [an expression he used for bowel inflammation and regressive autism] form part of a new syndrome,” he and Barr explained in a confidential grant application to the UK government’s Legal Aid Board before any of the children were investigated.

And that grant application happened to be submitted 6 1/2 months earlier than Walker-Smith’s presentation. It was:

Proposed protocol and costing proposals for testing a selected number of MR and MMR vaccinated children (and attached specification). Submitted to the Legal Aid Board 6 June 1996. [GMC fitness to practise panel hearing in the case of Wakefield, Walker-Smith and Murch. Day 11.]

We can even get more fussy and note the language used in describing bowel inflammation and autism. Entero-colitis (used by Walker-Smith) is inflammation of the colon and small intestine. Enteritis (used over 6 months earlier by Wakefield) is inflammation of the small intestine. Both use “disintegrative disorder”. Confidentially Wakefield was postulating a “new syndrome” well before Walker-Smith offered “preliminary details”.

Just recently on November 9th this year some new information arose when David Lewis published a letter in the BMJ. Lewis came to review histopathological grading sheets that Wakefield claims were filled out and solely interpreted by co-authors Dr. Amar Dhillon and Dr. Andrew Anthony. This was after Lewis attended, “a vaccine safety conference in Jamaica, where Andrew Wakefield discussed his research”, that was a five star extravaganza paid for by the “vaccine-safety” promoters. Wakefield was the headline act.

Lewis argued in the BMJ that he did:

… not believe that Dr. Wakefield intentionally misinterpreted the grading sheets as evidence of “non-specific colitis”.

So, who is David Lewis? Well for Aussies or anyone familiar with the Australian Vaccination Network and their main academic supporter, Dr. Brian Martin, supervisor of anti-vax conspirator and PhD candidate Judy Wilyman, this is a bit creepy. Lewis is from the US National Whistleblowers Center. Brian Martin is president of Whistleblowers Australia.

Brian Martin wrote the “document” the AVN have used to dismiss the HCCC public health and OLGR charitable status findings as an attack on free speech. He has written on successfully raising dissent against scientific, government and academic consensus. He has also written extensively on challenging the origin of AIDS, going as far in 1998 to link it to the polio vaccine. He denies having any position on vaccination.

Lewis bills himself similarly:

My responsibilities include investigating “institutional research misconduct” in which government, industry, and academic institutions use false allegations of research misconduct to suppress research.

Nature News reports that Lewis claims he was “falsely accused of misconduct after alleging links between human illness and the spreading of sewage sludge”. Either way he was ejected post haste from the EPA. The US National Whistleblowers Center is listed under “Suppression of dissent” Contacts on Brian Martin’s website. Both Dorey and Wakefield have indisputably been shown to cause damage to public health and act illegally. Ironically, Wakefield’s treatment of one whistleblower is available thanks to Brian Deer.

Before publishing Lewis’ article the BMJ had gastroenterologist Ingvar Bjarnason review the material. He claimed there was insufficient evidence to support a new disease, as Wakefield et al. had done. He also notes that “The data are subjective. It’s different to say it’s deliberate falsification”.

The last sentence caused some in The Twilight Zone to go into overdrive. Brian Deer’s Charges Against Wakefield Are False: Documents Analyzed by Outside Expert offers Gaia Health. Who regrettably also adds the somewhat partisan claim:

In the end, as with most things involving conventional medicine, it’s all about money. The lives of children have been sacrificed—and continue to be laid on the altar of Profits and Greed.

Age of Autism also seize upon the few words to suggest the BMJ is crumbling and attack BMJ editor-in-chief Dr Fiona Godlee for “declaring war” on University College London. Rather, Godlee wants a parliamentary investigation. She is quite rightly stressing that UCL, who it’s been alleged used Wakefield’s claims to get money, must finalise their own inquiry having had 8 months to begin. Medical News Today quote Godlee who wrote to UCL:

Continuing failure to get to the bottom of the vaccine scandal raises serious questions about the prevailing culture of our academic institutions and attitudes to the integrity of their output. Given the extent of involvement of senior personnel at the highest level, only an independent inquiry will be credible.

This is not a call to debate whether MMR causes autism. Science has asked that question and answered it. We need to know what happened in this inglorious chapter in medicine. Who did what, and why?

The fact that the grading sheets from Dr. Dhillon show no abnormal pathology raises the question of Wakefield’s falsification of “non-specific colitis” and ileal-lymphoid nodular hyperplasia in autistic children. Wakefield omitted that Ileal-lymphoid nodular hyperplasia was viewed as benign and “normal” in children by gastroenterologists.

His supporters now seem to argue he did not intentionally misrepresent histopathological data. This is strange given the mammoth effort to show that inflammatory disease has been confirmed in the intestines of autistic children, and “in five different countries” according to Wakefield on Age of Autism in April this year. Yet Pediatrics published findings from an expert panel in January 2010 stating no GI disturbance specific to autism had been established.

Wakefield seems content to pick and choose, shaping his innocence in retrospect. The original paper states he “assessed” biopsy specimens. Wakefield claimed two years ago, “Dr Dhillon’s diagnosis formed the basis for what was reported in the Lancet, I played no part in the diagnostic process at all.” Which is also strange given that Dhillon did not report any children as having enterocolitis. Yet Wakefield’s paper argued a finding of “autistic enterocolitis” which formed the basis for the primary submission of lawyers in the failed multi-party MMR lawsuits in Britain.

For colitis to be present epithelial damage must have occurred. But Dhillon recorded nothing of the sort. Deer writes:

No cell counts or clinical diagnoses appear on the forms, and neither Crohn’s disease nor ulcerative colitis was even considered “possible” by Dhillon.

Nor did Dhillon use the term “non-specific colitis”, reported in 11 of the 12 children five of whom were acute. Dhillon’s grading sheets did have a tick box for “non-specific” and from here Wakefield took his cue to claim “non-specific colitis”. Paola Domizio, a consultant histopathologist and professor of pathology education at Queen Mary’s College, London who was “astonished” at the normality of the specimen findings suggests the “non-specific” option allowed Dhillon to note “changes of uncertain significance”.

Walker-Smith conducted blood tests and colonoscopies – both of which showed no pathology. Still in search of abnormality Walker-Smith ordered ileocolonoscopies on these very ill children. The biopsies returned normal findings. All these tests were omitted from the final paper. Only when Wakefield got hold of Dhillon’s grading sheets – which also showed nothing abnormal – did “autistic enterocolitis” emerge.

Consultant histopathologist Susan Davies had documented healthy biopsies which were reported as diseased in a draft paper. After raising concerns about reported “colitis” she deferred to Dhillon after a research “review”. It seems clear that the team was intent on showing this “new condition”. In the case of one 3 year old boy Susan Davies and Amar Dhillon “found mild caecal inflammation, with no abnormality or changes in other biopsies”. When the final paper was published the same boy had the mild inflammation changed to, “Acute caecal cryptitis and chronic non-specific colitis.”

Even had the dodgy data been sound the omission of the fact almost all the children had chronic constipation would have clinical implications. Deer writes:

This omission of constipation was no small matter. It went to the heart of how the paper would be read. Specialists told me that both mild inflammation and prominent lymphoid follicles may be expected to be associated with this sign.

“The increase of colonic lymphoid aggregates found in severely constipated patients may represent a protective mucosal mechanism toward the chronic fecal stasis,” suggests a team of Italian and Swiss researchers, for example, in a study of adults.

But such prosaic observations would not have helped the lawsuits—for which Wakefield was hired before any child was referred, and which in the UK paid him more than £400 000. Five other Royal Free doctors—Davies and Dhillon were not among them—shared more than £100 000 to back him.

If there is one word that does not apply to Andrew Wakefield it is “innocent”. Fiona Godlee estimates at least six more of his reports need independent investigation and the exact role of the other authors must be elucidated.

£400 000 to push along lawsuits against MMR, plus vaccine patents, plus income from treating this new “syndrome” is a lot of reasons for Wakefield to lose his objectivity. Supporters need to snap to and remember this is not about vague interpretation of histology samples.

Labelled dishonest, irresponsible, unethical and showing “callous disregard for the distress and pain of children”, Wakefield was eventually struck from the medical register. “Erased” is the term used. His syndrome was a foregone conclusion. He joked about buying blood from children who vomited and passed out.

His fraudulent paper was retracted by Lancet editor, Richard Horton. Expunged from the evidence base of our species’ medical knowledge library to be a tad dramatic. But not before ten of the thirteen authors had removed their names, stating there was insufficient evidence for an association between MMR and autism whilst also expressing regret over the “major implications for public health”.

Another paper attempting to link thimerosal – he was learning on his feet – with neurological problems was withdrawn from the journal NeuroToxicology. He has never apologised, nor admitted his obvious guilt. He has become a beacon for disturbed and mistaken followers and quickly turned that fact into a huge income, feigning compassion as a seeker of truth. Wakefield can never be “innocent” for his crimes are so multitudinous.

So next time you hear of another anti-vaccine zealot bellowing “Wakefield innocent”, you’re entitled to ask, “Of what exactly?”

Andrew Wakefield and the MMR fraud: Science Betrayed

From the BBC’s Science Betrayed, March 16th 2011. Dr Adam Rutherford does a splendid job of investigating the scandal and ethical breaches that led to the greatest medical and public health related disaster in the post penicillin era.

Recently there’s been a push by anti-vaccination lobbyists and those horrid folk from Age of Autism to argue that the BMJ committed fraud. They have a particular angle on Brian Deer and the entire campaign smacks of revenge borne of a total lack of evidence. Mike Adams is another source of woe begotten opportunism peddling this nonsense. Meryl Dorey is piping their tune in Australia despite originally screaming Wakefield’s disclaimer in his defence: “No association proved with MMR” – something Wakefield sticks to when questioned.

“We never said there is a link to autism”, Meryl Dorey of The Australian Vaccination Network lied as Wakefield’s obliteration became complete. “Just to bowel disorders”. Of course, they quickly changed their tune to line up with the rest of the conspiracy cranks worldwide.

I feel like saying they make me sick. But that’s nonsense. In truth, they make sick children even sicker. What I find truly bizarre is that “anti-vaccination hero” Andrew Wakefield, filed patent for monovalent vaccines nine months before publishing his paper. Just as unethical is monovalent vaccine administrator Dr. Richard Halvorsen, author of The truth about vaccines. He is paid hundreds of dollars per shot. If anybody schemed to push vaccines it is these men.

In The Lancet article, Wakefield et al. wrote, “we did not prove an association between measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described”. Yet he wrote a letter with Richard Barr one of the lawyers paying Wakefield, and representing anti-vaccination litigants, before beginning the study. Written on June 6th, 1996 it described a vaccine induced autistic and intestinal disorder. This was over two weeks before selecting the first child to be “studied” as part of The Lancet sample. It included;

Children with enteritis and disintegrative disorder, form part of a new syndrome. The evidence is undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology.

Hired by lawyers with a predetermined agenda, inventing a vaccine induced syndrome at the behest of anti-vaccine activists, selecting a sample picked by the lawyers and lobbyists, filing for monovalent vaccine patents well before publishing his work, denying any link in print, suggesting this very same link in a press conference, making plans for a “treatment” centre for his pretend syndrome that he would run…

All to be abandoned by most co-author’s, struck off the medical register as callous and unethical and for his fraudulent “research” to be retracted. There can be no doubt. Andrew Wakefield is a fraud and those seeking to exhume the corpse of this despicable scam have embarked on yet another course of unique child, parent and indeed social abuse.

Although there’s a plethora of articles debunking this awful business, here’s some you may like to read.

Fake news and the spreading of measles

“Fake news” isn’t my favourite term for the disinformation spread by antivaccinationists. However it conveys a meaning that is usefully accurate when it comes to labelling deception spread with the aim of misrepresenting the facts about vaccines.

The narrator in the US video below asks the question, “Is fake news making people sick?”. He notes that the country has broken a 25 year old record for measles cases this year. At the time of making the video there were over 700 cases across 22 states since the beginning of 2019. In states where population density is high we can expect to see the impact of vaccine induced immunity and herd immunity (or the lack thereof) in their unmistakably predictable manner.

New York city has had over 400 cases since October 2018. Some – not all – members of the orthodox Hasidic Jewish community have been avoiding vaccines. The narrator tells us this is due to “rampant misinformation around vaccines”, even though the orthodox community “overwhelmingly” believes in vaccines. One woman seems to doubt vaccine safety and efficacy. She argues that “some people question why would I subject my three year old to toxins when it’s not going to protect him or her”.

There is an increase in insular socialising habits in close orthodox communities. This ensures the successful spread of misinformation by The Vaccine Safety Handbook. Packed with the most well constructed vaccine myths, it targets these communities with well debunked anti-vaccine conspiracies, codswallop and even commentary from rabbis, specific to Jewish religious law.

WhatsApp groups have been set up to push anti-vaccine disinformation further, with some orthodox members reporting that their only source of news is via WhatsApp.

If this reminds you of the Somali community in Minnesota in 2017 and 2011, you’re not alone. 80% of reported measles cases in 2017 were of Somali children whose parents had been convinced of the risk between autism and MMR. It was the largest measles outbreak for 30 years.

What’s this got to do with orthodox Jews in New York? Well I mentioned the insular nature of close communities. In an article headed Minnesota’s measles outbreak is what happens when anti-vaxxers target immigrants, it is noted some of these Somali Americans had concerns about higher than average rates of autism amongst their children. This entire episode is indicative of the impact that calculated disinformation can have. Particularly when provided in an area of uncertainty and despite the effort and funding from health experts and government authorities.

In 2008 Somali parents stressed that there appeared to be more 3-4 year old Minnesota Somali children enrolled in the public preschool special education program for Autism Spectrum Disorder, compared to the overall percentage of Somali children enrolled in public schools [page 4].

Also a couple of years before this time MMR vaccine coverage had started to decrease in Minnesota-born Somali children from 2006 at which time rates had been above 90% [Figure 2].

Cultural differences meant that the most genuine efforts to assist the Somali-American community with this issue proved difficult. There is no word in Somali for “autism”. Indeed there is no grey area as one Somali parent put it. Mental health is seen as either “crazy” or “sane”, and this leads to the fear that a child may be called an unhelpful name within the community. A name used behind the parents’ back [page 4].

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) worked to re-examine enrollment data for pre-school aged children in the special education program. The results were published in a report which tended to focus on participation rates only. The report [pp 4-5];

…did not attempt to measure the true occurrence of ASD in all children, and it did not attempt to identify possible causes or risk factors for ASD. Instead, the focus was on developing a better understanding of reported differences in program participation rates among preschool-aged children enrolled in this MPS program.

The three main findings in the report confirmed parent’s observations and also raised questions as to better outreach services to Somali children vs genuinely higher levels of ASD, compared to non-Somali children accessing ASD services outside of the MPS. The proportion of Asian and Native American children participating in ASD programs was significantly lower. The cause for this remained elusive. Participation rate differences between Somali pre-school children and pre-school children from other ethnic backgrounds decreased “substantially” over the three years studied. The basis for this final point remained unclear.

Following the 2009 MDH report advocates for the Somali community called for further research. The CDC, NIH and Autism Speaks provided technical assistance and funding to the University of Minnesota. The aim was to focus on ASD in Minnesota and within Somali vs non-Somali communities. The MDH and the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration added in-kind staff and funding.

Still, we need to remember that it was 2008 when Somali parents first raised their concerns about ASD with the Minnesota Department of Health.

Enter disgraced fraud, data falsifier and ex-gastroenterologist, Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the U.K.’s General Medical Council 21 years ago and the many-faced Organic Consumers Association. Wakefield targetted and set about convincing Minnesota’s Somali Community that MMR could not be trusted as health authorities claimed. It caused autism he lied. The rumour spread through the community. During the 2017 measles outbreak Wakefield insisted he didn’t feel responsible at all.

In short Wakefield and fellow antivaccinationists spread his anti-vaccine lies with the result that MMR vaccination fell in the Somali community for a number of years. Immigration status can be a risk factor with respect to immunisation status and this fact played very well into the hands of antivaccinationists.

Nonetheless, no vaccines cause autism.

It’s important to remember, and realise, how much damage antivaccinationists can do to public health. Yes, “fake news” is making people sick. Cities with high density and insular communities that are convinced to skip vaccination will constantly face the possibility of outbreaks. The anti-vaccine lobby and their minions will continue to spread misinformation and where possible it must be refuted.

I read a comment recently dismissing the need for any vaccine and contending that only three people had died since 2000. Forgetting that this US citizen is ignoring the rest of the world, it is just such complacency that helps drive the luxurious nonsense that vaccines are more harmful than the diseases they prevent.

Because after all, in the developed world vaccines are a victim of their own success.