Money, Medicine, and Fraud: The Latest in the Wakefield Vaccine Hoax

Surely you’ve heard of the latest development in the continuing saga of Andrew Wakefield.

Although The Lancet officially withdrew Wakefield’s original 1998 paper last year, the British Medical Journal has now published evidence the good doctor didn’t just use faulty research but instead participated in outright fraud by deliberately manipulating his data.

Why?

That’s the question you might be asking yourself as you sit there with your asthma kid, thinking about midnight nebulizer treatments to open up tight airways and coughing spells so severe they bend your child in half. What could possibly possess a doctor – a doctor – to alter his “research” and use those results to target autism parents with a campaign of suspicion against the MMR vaccine? And as things turned out, all vaccines?

While we can only avoid controllable risk factors (there aren’t many) like smoking when it comes to preventing asthma development in our kids, there are a whole host of diseases we can prevent with vaccines.

Measles.
Mumps.
Rubella.
Whooping cough.
Influenza.
Bacterial pnuemonia.

And those are just the ones that popped into my head as I type this. Vaccinations are a powerful public health weapon. In the face of all the conditions we can’t yet prevent, like asthma, why would one man – one doctor – have a problem with the things we can control?

Money.

Specifically, a multimillion dollar business consisting of lawsuits and Wakefield’s own alternative vaccine.

Now, you can go read investigative reporter Brian Deer’s story (previous link) on the details into the financial side, and you should, but please also check out the excellent summary of that article and the BMJ response at Left Brain/Right Brain.

In fact, do me a favor and check out those links before you continue with this post.

Finished?

Okay.

Now check out all the people still defending him. The best way is through Liz Ditz’s coverage at I Speak of Dreams. Scroll about two-thirds of the way down for a list of posts and articles that continue to speak out on Wakefield’s behalf and/or suggest a vaccine/autism connection.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing this post.

I can’t convince anyone who doesn’t already agree with me. That’s obvious every time I open my keyboard to this subject, and the emails from Wakefield’s supporters start rolling in.

I’m also not sure my take on the Wakefield fraud is even needed, since better, more scientific minds than mine can pick apart the medical details in a way I can’t. Vaccination websites cover stories like this everyday and have more up-to-the-minute links than I do. Blogs like Left Brain/Right Brain have insight into the autism side of the story in a way I never will.

I think it’s a question of quantity. I feel compelled to write this not because I have new perspective to add, but in order to help push all that good information to the surface. Wading through the muck of junk science takes time, since the Internet is so very good for fast research and instant information but also, unfortunately, so very convenient for disseminating and perpetuating rumors like the vaccination ones.

To sum up, apologies to whoever wrote this following statement on Twitter first, and if you know who did then please inform so I can properly attribute it:

The only thing vaccinations cause is vaccinated children.

17 responses to “Money, Medicine, and Fraud: The Latest in the Wakefield Vaccine Hoax”

  1. Kelley says:

    Amy – kind of preaching to choir here, so to speak. I couldn’t believe the comments on an article I saw on this earlier…SO many people are so adamant in the belief that vaccines cause autism. Many arguments were that he was discredited by “big pharma” who don’t want to lose their vaccine money. Some minds will never be changed, regardless of what information comes out…

  2. Sarah says:

    Preaching to the choir with me too. I’ve seen first-hand the harm that vaccine-preventable illness can do to people. A cousin of my Mom lives in a home due to permanent brain damage from measles encephalitis. A childhood friend of mine nearly died of pertussis. And a kid at my elementary school had congenital rubella syndrome.

    I’ve also listened to Grandma’s stories of being told “put your chin to your chest!” by her parents (neck stiffness is one of the earlier signs of symtomatic polio) whenever a kid in the area became ill.

    I know enough that I can imagine what would happen in my area if vaccine-preventable illnesses became rampant again. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

    And the sad thing is that in my nightmare scenario, I bet you dollars to doughnuts that at least some of the antivaxers would be right there, shrieking hysterically that the vaccines were somehow causing the very epidemics they’re designed to prevent. *sigh*

  3. Sara C. says:

    and yet, with all the compelling evidence that it WAS fraudulent, there are anti-vaxers who have written articles that give all the reasons on how it CAN’T have been fraudulent. And others who post “before and after” videos on youtube.

    BUT…it’s all a big conspiracy theory…it’s all against “Big Pharma” and the CDC…etc. There’s no convincing people who want/need someone to blame. As I said to someone, and I don’t remember who…I’d LOVE someone other than myself to blame for my children’s difficulties…and yet, all I’ve got is crappy genetics that I passed on. (and Abby started showing signs of PDD at 18 months…BEFORE her MMR…normally developing baby…18 months…it all changed…so who do I blame it on?)

  4. Amy says:

    I think it’s less scary if you have something to blame, too. I mean, if you don’t know what causes a health or developmental issue, how can you prevent it the next go around? If AG, for example, has asthma because of genetics and a low birthweight but also b/c of just plain old bad luck, then that means anyone else in this family could develop it, too.
    That very possibility used to terrify me when her sister was little.

    The way Wakefield took parents’ fears, exploited them for money and endangered kids’ health in the process – I don’t even have words to express how I feel about him.

  5. Liz Ditz says:

    thanks for the shout-out. I’m continuing to update the blog post, as unwieldy as it is getting.

    Sara C. — do come over to The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism to meet a congenial group of autism parents and adults with autism. (Disclosure, I’m an editor.)

  6. Allison says:

    All I have to say is Amen. Thanks for continuing to be a voice of reason.

  7. Sarah says:

    Amy – that definitely plays a part, too, and I think it’s part of why those who are superstitious hold onto their superstitions so strongly. It gives them something to blame if something goes wrong.

    When I was kid and something that I thought was outrageously unfair (like a childhood friend being hospitalized for a severe kidney infection when I was about six), I’d ask my Dad, “Why?”

    His response wasn’t comforting, but I think it was right: “Sometimes, honey, bad stuff just happens. It sucks, and it’s no fun. But you can tear yourself up looking for ‘why?’ Instead we can concentrate on turning the bad into something good, or at least something better. That way we’re doing something about it. Why don’t we go visit [friend’s name] at the hospital, and you can give him some better food than the yucky hospital stuff, and maybe brighten his day a bit? How does that sound?”

    But that said, having an answer to ‘why?’ even if the answer is wrong, can be very comforting.

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