Andrew Wakefield, the discredited anti-vaccine fraud, enters Texas politics

Sorry for the clickbait headline (see Note 1), because the cunning fraud, Andrew Wakefield, isn’t exactly entering Texas politics. He’s getting involved with an election in a Republican primary for Texas House of Representatives District 134, by using his influence to support Susanna Dokupil against Republican incumbent Sarah Davis.

What did Ms. Davis do to offend the Wakefield sycophants? Well, it doesn’t take much, just support vaccines. Davis angered anti-vaccine groups, who prefer euphemisms like “vaccine choice” or “medical freedom,” when she pushed to mandate HPV vaccines for foster children. I haven’t ever voted for a Republican in my long life, but I’d probably vote for Davis in the open Republican primary if I lived in Texas House District 134. 

Andrew Wakefield and Texas

The defrocked physician Andrew Wakefield escaped his infamy in the UK and moved to Texas a few years ago. He lives in an exorbitant mansion outside of Austin, Texas. Now how does an individual who lost his license to practice medicine afford to live in a mansion? Because he’s created a cottage industry in Austin focusing on his thoroughly debunked claim that vaccines cause autism.

Overhead view of Wakefield’s Austin, TX mansion.

Since going into exile in Texas, he ran the Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin from 2005 to 2010, which pushed the vaccines and autism nonsense. He was forced to resign after he lost his medical license, which I guess was one problem too many for it.

After that, he created the Strategic Autism Initiative and ran it with the anti-vaccine radical Polly Tommey, another British national who also appears to be a part-time Texas resident. Wakefield also started the Autism Media Channel, which produces videos that push the vaccines-autism link. In addition, Wakefield has been involved with other Austin-based charities like Autism Trust USA founded by Tommey herself.

With the assistance of Tommey, Andrew Wakefield created the fraudmentary Vaxxed, which tried to push a fake conspiracy that the CDC was attempting to cover up evidence that vaccines caused autism. I don’t know how much he makes from all of the ventures he has created in Austin, but apparently, it allows an unemployed ex-physician to own a mansion. I need to get in on that gig, but unfortunately, I love scientific facts way too much.

I don’t know if it’s causal, but ever since Wakefield moved his sorry self to Texas (another reason to dislike Texas), the rate of philosophical exemptions to vaccines for school-aged children has skyrocketed. Since he arrived in Texas in the early 2000s, the personal belief exemption rate has increased by an appalling 1900%. The anti-vaccine movement has sprung up in wealthier areas of the state like Austin, Houston, and Dallas.

But I have to remind readers that anti-vaccine radicals are definitely a tiny minority. In reality, 97.3% of children in Houston have been vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella with the MMR vaccine. Of course, there are pockets of unvaccinated children, especially in private schools. These pockets become the center of disease outbreaks.

Now, the political Andrew Wakefield

Andrew Wakefield happens to be a huge fan of Donald Trump, meeting with him before the 2016 election to discuss vaccines. If that doesn’t make the Texas liberals who support the anti-vaccine movement run far away, we have no hope. Progressives, please don’t fall for the false claims of Wakefield.

But the story of the Wakefield Trump love affair gets worse. Wakefield attended one of Trump’s inaugural balls, which caused a lot of angst that he might have influence over Trump’s policies on vaccinations. So far, of all the damage that Trump has done to our fine country, vaccines haven’t been one of them. So far.

And Wakefield, along with Robert F Kennedy Jr (ostensibly a Democrat) strongly supported Trump’s so-called “Vaccine Safety Commission,” which seemed to have died on the vine. Again, so far.

Which leads us back to Texas House District 134. Sarah Davis, the incumbent, is kind of a moderate Republican compared to the usual extremist right-wing Republican in the state. Part of the reason for Davis coming across as a “moderate” is that Hillary Clinton won her district by about 15%. Given that Trump’s poll numbers in Texas are not healthy, you can suspect that any Republican in District 134 has little or no chance of winning.

In fact, Davis is considered the least conservative Republican in the Texas House, and the only Republican House member that is pro-choice with respect to abortions. Wait, why isn’t she a Democrat? The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, is actually campaigning against Davis, who really is the only chance that Republicans can retain the seat.

But it’s the anti-vaccine messages that are critical to Wakefield and his minions. Anti-vaccine campaigners in the Houston-based district are knocking on doors, raising funds, and using social media to push their conservative anti-vaccine candidate, Susanna Dokupil.

She’s a crackpot libertarian who thinks that all government rules are evil. Of course, vaccine requirements, irrespective of the science supporting it, are an anathema to libertarians. Rand Paul, a libertarian-light Republican Senator from Kentucky, and a physician, has a long record of not supporting vaccines.

Dokupil is going against some strong headwinds in the district, which as I mentioned before is fairly liberal one. But more than that, according to the Chron,

The district is home to the highest concentration of physicians in Texas: 11,873 medical residents and working and retired physicians live there, according to the Texas Medical Association. That’s nearly triple the next largest district of doctors in San Antonio home to about 4,000 physicians and residents.

Of course, these are actual licensed physicians who more than likely support evidence-based medicine over the ramblings of non-physician Andrew Wakefield. I hope.

Now there are people who fight back against the anti-vaccine ramblings of Andrew Wakefield. Jinny Suh, who is the founder of Immunize Texas, advocates for even tighter vaccine requirements. She was recently quoted as stating:

The anti-vax movement in Texas is really being driven by ultra-conservatives which really center around Dallas. I’m part of a lot of the moms’ networks and groups, and it is still incredibly difficult to just come out and say vaccines are safe. The biggest challenge we face is, if you go onto Facebook or Google and you do a search for vaccines – and we can imagine a lot of new moms do this … the anti-vax stuff out there outnumbers the pro-vax stuff by quite a bit.

It doesn’t matter how you started out thinking about the topic when a person is inundated with that much misinformation a person can’t help but start to think it’s true.

Just to remind everyone that Texas has a boatload of good people, not just Ted Cruz clones.

Summary

I’m tired of the ex-physician fraud named Andrew Wakefield, but it appears that we’re stuck with him. Well, at least Texas is stuck with him. He supports right-wing Republicans. He is anti-child by putting children in harm’s way of vaccine-preventable diseases.

I wish there was a way to deport him back to the UK – I don’t think I’m violating the liberal credo by demanding a privileged white guy be sent back to his home country for being a clear and present danger to American children. Vaccines save lives – Wakefield doesn’t understand this.

I guess this will be my one and only article discussing the Republican primary in Texas House District 134. And the only article I’d probably write that puts a Republican in a favorable light. But it was more about vaccines and Wakefield.

Notes

  1. Google limits the size of headlines in their searches to 50-60 characters.  The exact number is some huge secret because the actual number depends on how many larger characters, like “W,” that are used. If you go beyond that limit, Google truncates the headline in searches, so if you don’t write it correctly, it could read really weird in search results. Some writers ignore this limit by making sure the good stuff is in the first few words, but it makes for some odd language in titles. I have a program that tells me if my headline is too long – the one for this article perfectly fits. Until Google changes the rules again.
The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!