Recently, the Samoa measles epidemic has been in the news, with at least 60 individuals who have died as the result of the virus (as of 4 December 2019). The vast majority of these deaths could have been prevented with the extremely safe measles vaccine.
Of course, those of us on the science side are appalled what is going on there. Children (and some adults) have died from a disease that should have been exiled to history books as a result of vaccines.
Once this Samoa measles epidemic hit the news, the vaccine deniers came out of their putrid swamps to use the epidemic as some sort of condemnation of vaccines. Their twisted logic would be the envy of pretzel manufacturers worldwide.
I don’t have it in me to write about everything wrong with this “documentary” – to be honest, I heard not one single bit of science-based fact presented with respect to the MMR vaccines and autism spectrum disorder. The fraudumentary mostly presented lies, misinformation, anecdotes, and, notably, no real science. Worse yet, it tried to make Wakefield into a hero – maybe even a deity of some sort.
So, let’s be clear – this movie is about Wakefield. Not children. Not identifying real causes for autism. Not anything important.
Vaccines and autism are not linked or associated according to real science, published in real scientific journals written by real scientists and physicians. But this false claim that vaccines and autism are related is repeated by anti-vaxxers nearly every day.
Probably as a result of reports that more and more children are being diagnosed with autism, people seem to be creating a false correlation (let alone causation) between vaccines and autism. So let’s take a look at the science.
Retracted anti-vaccine papers are a staple of my articles published here. Usually, they try to create some fake link between vaccines and autism, but these papers try to say anything that casts vaccines in a bad light.
As we know, real science has established that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Anti-vaccine papers generally try to show this link without epidemiological or clinical studies – they just try to make some specious biologically implausible claims trying to link something about vaccines to autism.
Much of the anti-vaccine research is so bad, so poorly designed, that it’s relegated to low quality, predatory journals which have laughably poor peer-review systems. Even then, we can find the occasional retracted anti-vaccine papers, because they are often so bad that even these predatory publishers are embarrassed.
Fringe conspiracy-theorist terrorists, called ‘anti-vaxxers’ are multiplying so fast that some counties, cities, and states have vaccination rates below community or ‘herd’ immunity levels across the U.S. With more parents buying into the conspiracy that vaccines contain toxins, cause autism, and are unsafe, children, the elderly, and immunocompromised are suffering. These people need to be called out for what they are; anti-vaxxers are terrorists that kill and harm our children.
Even if you oppose anti-vaxxers, you might think it’s too extreme to use the “terrorist” label in this case. I do not. Though there is no single agreed-upon definition of terrorism, most agree that it consists of using fear as a tool to achieve political or social change while disregarding harm done to others in the process. I think anti-vaxxers meet every part of that definition.
After giving it much thought, I think I’m going to have to change my description of these nutjobs from anti-vaccine religious extremists to anti-vaccine terrorists. Maybe it’s harsh. But it’s deserving.
I’m a couple of months late with this article because of life and reasons, but a bit over 20 years ago, in February 1998, Andrew Wakefieldpublished his infamous article in Lancet, which was eventually retracted in 2010. He stated that “onset of behavioural symptoms was associated, by the parents, with measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination in eight of the 12 children.” Because Wakefield claimed that most of the behavioral problems were autism, that became the rallying cry of the anti-vaccine religion for the past 20 years – the MMR vaccine, if not all vaccines, cause autism.
I actually remember getting that particular issue of Lancet 20 years ago, and I ran across that article. My first thought was, “why in hell would Lancet publish such a troublesome article with just 12 freaking (not the word I used) data points.” Then I wondered who that Wakefield character was – was he an expert on vaccines and childhood behavioral issues? Well, the internet in 1998 didn’t have search engines like we do today, so finding out anything about Andrew Wakefield was difficult at best. I just assumed that if the Lancet, one of the top medical journals in the world, published it, Wakefield must have some level of respect.
Even though the internet was as much a bastion of pseudoscience and conspiracists as it is now, you would never “do your research” on the internet. But our local newspaper had a blurb about the Wakefield study in a Sunday health section, and my wife read the article. She got panicked that our two young daughters, who were having upcoming MMR vaccines, would become autistic. That was my first experience in having to defend vaccines against nonsense (don’t tell my wife I called her worries were nonsense).
My daughters eventually got that vaccine (and received all subsequent vaccines up to and including the HPV vaccine), although even I monitored my children for a few weeks for any behavioral changes. Knowing what I know now, I should have just a fun dad, but I admit to worrying.
For the handful of you who don’t know him, Mr. Andrew Wakefieldfraudulently alleged a connection between the MMR vaccine, for measles, mumps and rubella) and autism – this has had the effect of suppressing vaccination rates in many countries. His claims were published in a now retracted paper published in the Lancet, a mostly respected medical journal who seemed to have forgotten how to do proper peer review back in the late 1990’s. This is a quick review of the Andrew Wakefield fraud.
Why are we so obsessed with pointing out that he has been discredited? Because he has become, through media manipulation and many anti-vaccine acolytes and sycophants, the face of the “vaccines cause autism” meme. Note to the casual reader – there is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism.
Is Andrew Wakefield discredited? Damn straight he is.
California State Senator Richard Pan is a physician who was instrumental in leading the charge for SB277, the law that eliminated personal belief exemptions to vaccinations by California school age children. Senator or Dr. Pan, your choice I presume, has been dedicated to the health of children in the state of California, sponsoring bills that attempt to improve the healthcare of children across the state.
Unfortunately, Senator Richard Pan has been the target of violent hateful racism and withering personal attacks across social media. He seems to either ignore it, or like many of us, just stand up to these attacks with reasoned, evidence-based arguments. Not that the vaccine deniers are capable of listening to reason or evidence.
I was having a peaceful evening. I fired up my Apple TV to watch the Trailers app to see upcoming movies that I might watch. Unfortunately, right at the top row, I see Andrew Wakefield’s face on the trailer for a new documentary about him, “The Pathological Optimist“.
Why would anyone want to see another documentary about this man? Well, it’s horror film season, and Wakefield is one scary man.
In 2016, we got his self-serving fraudumentary, “Vaxxed,” a film that invented a conspiracy about the so called CDC Whistleblower, a thoroughly debunked myth. However, “The Pathological Optimist” was not produced by Wakefield himself, it was developed and produced independently. However, the film ended up putting him in a favorable, and complicated, light.
Let’s take a look at the movie, but I want to remind everyone that Andrew Wakefield is not a favorable character in any play about vaccines. He committed a demonstrable fraud which has harmed children across the world. He might be “The Pathological Optimist,” but there is a lot of evidence that he is a pathological something.