MMR – autism scare: so, farewell then, Dr Andrew Wakefield
It is with a gladness of heart and much rejoicing that I note that Dr Andrew Wakefield, the gastric surgeon and one of the principal authors of perhaps the stupidest and most unnecessary health scare of recent Western history, has been struck off the General Medical Council for being “dishonest”, “misleading” and “irresponsible” in his research into the MMR vaccine and its purported links to autism.
Let’s look at what he did. First, it has long been the case that he pushed his belief in the links between MMR and autism long after the evidence came back saying that there was none. Back in 1998 when his original Lancet article was published, it was not unreasonable to ask for more research; the measles virus was found in the guts of eight autistic children (out of a total group of 12) whose parents believed that the MMR “triple jab” had sparked the condition.
However, even at that stage, Wakefield went further, calling for the triple jab to be scrapped for single vaccines until “the issue had been resolved”. This was despite good clinical reasons for giving the three together.
By 2002 there was pretty solid evidence that the MMR jab did not cause autism. But Wakefield continued to campaign for single jabs. It has since emerged that he earned £400,000 in fees as an expert witness for campaign groups preparing a lawsuit on behalf of parents of autistic children. He also owns the patent on a single vaccine, which he developed a few months before he called for the scrapping of the triple jab in favour of a single injection.
He has also been found guilty, following a fantastic piece of investigative journalism by Brian Deer of The Sunday Times, of unethical research behaviour, needlessly carrying out painful and invasive tests on autistic children, and bribing children at a birthday party £5 each to give blood samples. In the wake of the conflict-of-interest and unethical research findings, the Lancet retracted its original article. The GMC has struck him off for those findings, not for his stance on MMR.
It’s too bad science frauds like Wakefield can’t be thrown into prison.
The way the press has handled the MMR-autism “controversy” has disgusted me.