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:
- there were no serious ethical violations or fraud in relation to the article he published in the Lancet;
- 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
- Brian Deer’s articles are a fraud motivated by a conspiracy.
None of these claims hold water.