Andrew Wakefield – dishonest attempt at self-justification

Andrew Wakefield

The movie Vaxxed is an anti-vaccine polemic that claims, despite all of the high quality contradictory evidence, that there is a link between the MMR vaccine, for mumps, measles and rubella, and autism. Furthermore, it claims that the US government is engaging in a conspiracy to hide said link. Reviews of the film have appropriately emphasized the checkered past of its director, Andrew Wakefield, a discredited ex-scientist with a history of misrepresentations. Many of the reviews point out that Wakefield is not a credible source for information on vaccines.

In a recent video posted on the Vaxxed website, Andrew Wakefield took those claims head on, mounting a passionate defense of his reputation. If anything, however, this video further shows that Wakefield is not a good source of information.

The video’s claims range from unsupported (and implausible) to blatantly false. Unfortunately for Wakefield, Brian Deer meticulously documented each step in the events, making it relatively easy to identify the problems in these claims. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Wakefield’s adherents are unlikely to check his claims, and others may also accept his word without fact-checking. It’s therefore worth going through the claims.

To hear Wakefield, he was the victim of a conspiracy mounted because he dared raise safety concerns about vaccines. But as with his book, Callous Disregard (pdf), Wakefield’s claims are ill founded. In short, there are good reasons he lost his license and his reputation as a serious scientist.

A brief review of the history of this story – in 1998, Wakefield and co-authors published a paper suggesting that the measles component of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine caused changes in some children’s guts, and that those changes were associated with autism.

In 2007, after extensive investigation by Brian Deer published at The Sunday Times, Britain’s General Medical Council (GMC) opened an investigation of their own to answer the question: Did Wakefield engage in serious professional misconduct?  In May 2010, the GMC found that yes, he did, and removed Wakefield from the British medical register (pdf).

Wakefield’s claims in the Allegations video can be put into three categories:

  1. there were no serious ethical violations or fraud in relation to the article he published in the Lancet;
  2. he’d done nothing wrong otherwise, measles outbreaks are not his fault, the GMC decision was generally wrong, and Walker-Smith’s acquittal shows that; and
  3. Brian Deer’s articles are a fraud motivated by a conspiracy.

None of these claims hold water.

Continue reading “Andrew Wakefield – dishonest attempt at self-justification”

Autism and vaccinations not correlated in 1.3 million kid study

autism and vaccinations

If you were paying attention to this website over the past couple of weeks, you’d know that the actor Robert De Niro has come out as a vaccine denialist – he thinks that autism and vaccinations are somehow linked, despite the robust and broad scientific evidence that they are not correlated.

The return of this zombie manufactroversy, and De Niro’s involvement, arises from the inclusion of the anti-vaccination fraudumentary, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Controversy, at the Tribeca Film Festival. And if you’re unfamiliar with the fraudumentary, it is from the cunning swindler, MrAndy Wakefield who attempted to “prove” that autism and vaccinations are linked, by inventing a so-called CDC whistle blower incident and other out right lies. If you are interested, you can read about this movie here, here, and here.

I cannot say this enough – if you know nothing more than just the basics about autism and vaccinations, then your education about it should start with Mr. Wakefield who perpetrated one of the greatest scientific frauds in the history of mankind (and that’s not an exaggeration).

Mr. Wakefield published a paper, subsequently withdrawn by the highly respected medical journal, Lancet, that blamed the MMR vaccine (vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella) for causing autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Brian Deer, a respected journalist at the medical journal, BMJ, wrote extensively about Wakefield’s despicable deceit which you can read herehere, and here. Basically, Deer uncovered the massive fraud by Wakefield, which included things like working for attorneys who were suing MMR manufacturers, and trying to patent his own version of measles vaccine. Of course, this hasn’t stopped Wakefield from unsuccessfully suing Deer and BMJ several times.

As a result of Wakefield’s , some of the most dangerous outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases can be laid at the feet of Wakefield, as parents started to refuse to vaccinate their children against these diseases. And of course, billions of dollars, money that could have been spent on actually treating and assisting children with ASD, was spent to investigate this claim, with over 100 peer-reviewed papers completely dismissing and debunking any link between any vaccine and any type of autism.

Let me make this abundantly clear– the vaccines cause autism myth has never been supported by real science even when we looked hard for evidence. Continue reading “Autism and vaccinations not correlated in 1.3 million kid study”

Poll – who is the genuine Skeptical Raptor

Online Poll

There are so many rumors about the genuine Skeptical Raptor – I think I could find a full-time job amusing myself. I mean, who is the person behind the carnivorous dinosaur?

I’ve been accused of being Orac. I mean, I could be. I really try to hit the high level of snark. But I’m really just an amateur compared to the masterful Orac. I am not worthy.

I’ve been accuse of being David Gorski. Except I just couldn’t live in Michigan. And he’s a surgeon. Surgery is icky. I had to do human anatomy, and I know that zombies will be chasing me down.

I’ve been told I’m a Canadian. Canada should probably be insulted.

I’ve been accused of being a minion of Dorit Rubinstein Reiss. Maybe I’m one of those cute yellow ones.

Apparently, the real Skeptical Raptor is a minion.
Apparently, the real Skeptical Raptor is a minion.

 

The Age of Lying about Autism rails on about who the genuine Skeptical Raptor is. Yawn.

And of course, the genuine Skeptical Raptor is an astroturfer.

And who can forget the anti-Semitic anti-vaccination fool who claims that Allison Hagood writes attack pieces against her on the here.

Genuine Skeptical Raptor

I’m sure if I actually did a Google search, I’d find out that I’m really President Obama pushing vaccines that contain nanobots which will convert everyone to “the Islam” so that I can implement Sharia Law, and put all the gun owners in FEMA camps. I might have a few details confused.

So this time for a poll. I haven’t done one in a while, but we need a break. Choose your top three choices. And Vote Early Vote Often on who is the genuine Skeptical Raptor.

 

Antivaccine hate speech – Canadians ought to be insulted

antivaccine hate speech on Paul Offit

The antivaccine hate speech is a fundamental strategy of their vaccine denialism. I’ve spoken about it before, but the vitriolic attacks on Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a frequent contributor here and a renowned expert on vaccines and law, any time she speaks about vaccines has moved into the surreal.

Although I lack no statistics per se, I’d say that the anti-vaccine hate speech has focused on a few individuals – Professor Reiss, Dr. Paul Offit, Brian Deer, and in a group just slightly below, important skeptics like Dr. David Gorski and some chap named Orac.

Just as an aside, there used to be an amusing trend on Wikipedia whereby pseudoscience-pushing editors would accuse various editors of being the real Dr. Gorski. One of my sockpuppets was accused of being that, which made me laugh. I am not, nor have I ever been, David Gorski. Though I admit my ego is gratified to be thrown into the same conspiracy theories with an esteemed researcher and physician, even if it’s proposed by tinfoil hat wearing lunatics.

But the crazies have become, if this is possible, crazier. Stay tuned. Continue reading “Antivaccine hate speech – Canadians ought to be insulted”

Andrew Wakefield keeps trying–another appeal

On September 19, 2014 the Third Court of Appeals of Texas rejected Andrew Wakefield’s appeal against the decision of a Texas trial court that it had no jurisdiction to hear his libel suit against The British Medical Journal (the original article), Brian Deer, and Fiona Godlee. The details of that case and the suggestion that Andrew Wakefield was strategically using litigation to both rally supporters and deter critics have been previously addressed.

Andrew Wakefield had 45 days to appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court (Tex. R. App. P. 53.7). That time ended on November 3–an appeal was not filed by Mr. Wakefield within that time. Continue reading “Andrew Wakefield keeps trying–another appeal”

Litigating as “debate” tactic? Wakefield appeal was denied

Andrew Wakefield was wronged

In January 2012 Andrew Wakefield, a British citizen residing in Texas, sued Brian Deer, a British journalist, the British Medical Journal (BMJ), and Dr. Fiona Godlee, the British editor of BMJ, in a Texas trial Court for libel. Wakefield claimed that a series of articles titled “Secrets of the MMR Scare” written by Brian Deer, edited by Fiona Godlee and published in the BMJ were defamatory. The articles detailed serious scientific misconduct by Andrew Wakefield.

On August 3, 2012, Wakefield’s suit was dismissed based on a lack of jurisdiction. Wakefield then appealed the dismissal. On September 19, 2014 the Texas Court of Appeals for the Third District ruled that the Andrew Wakefield appeal was denied (pdf).

The decision itself is focused on issues of civil procedure that may be less of interest to non-lawyers, though these issues are crucially important to litigants and lawyers. But this story is a good demonstration of strategic use of litigation by Andrew Wakefield and an opportunity to discuss the advantages and potential problems of that approach. Continue reading “Litigating as “debate” tactic? Wakefield appeal was denied”

One unvaccinated child was patient zero of a measles epidemic

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Wakefield-fraudDespite what you think is happening when you read antivaccination blogs, most people in the developed world vaccinate their children. And in the relatively undeveloped world, they are demanding more vaccines so that their children will live longer. In the USA alone, far less than 1% of children, 19-35 months, are completely unvaccinated. The problem, at least in the USA, is that those unvaccinated children tend to be clustered in small geographical areas where individuals who share the typical characteristics of many vaccine deniers tend to live.

The complication is that the herd immunity can break down rather quickly when the vaccination uptake drops below 80-90% in these clusters. And all it takes is one person carrying a vaccine preventable disease from an area, where it is endemic, to then start an outbreak or epidemic very quickly in one of these low vaccine uptake clusters. For a disease like measles, which is very contagious, it jumps from an infected person to unvaccinated individuals quite rapidly, sometimes before public health authorities can contain it. Measles is easily prevented with the MMRV vaccine (which also protects children against mumpsrubella, and chickenpox).

In a recent article published in Pediatrics, researchers investigated a measles outbreak in Minnesota in 2011. The authors, lead by Pamala Gahr of the Minnesota Department of Health, determined that the outbreak began when an unvaccinated 2-year-old travelled to Kenya, where he contracted the measles virus. Upon returning to the United States, the child developed a fever, cough and vomiting, some of the early signs and symptoms of measles. Unfortunately, prior to a diagnosis of measles, the child passed the virus on to three children in a child day-care center and another household member. The measles then spread from individual to individual within a low vaccine uptake area, a Somali immigrant community in the Minneapolis area. Eventually, more than 3,000 people were exposed to the disease. Continue reading “One unvaccinated child was patient zero of a measles epidemic”

Andrew Wakefield sues BMJ for claiming MMR study was fraudulent

Andrew Wakefield sues BMJ for claiming MMR study was fraudulent | Society | guardian.co.uk.

Poor Andy.  He writes a fraudulent article in The Lancet, which the prestigious journal eventually has to withdraw and his co-authors disown the same article.  Brian Deer, a journalist for the Sunday Times of London, uncovers the fraud and publishes it in the British Medical Journal.  Andy tries to sue Deer in UK courts, but essentially loses and has to pay all court costs and legal fees.  Eventually, Andy is stripped of his medical license in the UK.

So, I guess the only choice of a fraud is to sue those who told the truth.  Yes, this would be an ironic, even funny story, except for the deaths of children who should have been vaccinated against preventable diseases but weren’t because the parents heard about Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent story.