Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Midweek Cuckoo: Dr Andrew Wakefield

In 1998 a paper appeared in premier medical journal The Lancet, claiming to have shown a connection between the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. What followed was a noted drop in children receiving the vaccine (from 92.5% in 1995 to 78.9% in 2003), and the authors becoming instant heros of the anti-vaccination movement.

But not for long. By 2004, all but one of the 13 original authors had disowned the results, and the editor of The Lancet had apologized for publishing the paper. The last man standing was Dr Andrew Wakefield, and he is the reason the other 12 eventually withdrew their support of the paper. They had discovered that while Wakefield had lead them to believe that the patients who were selected for the study were done so at random, this was not entirely true. In fact, not only had they not been randomly selected as stated in the paper, some of the patients had even been supplied to Dr Wakefield by the lawyers of families who were specifically looking for medical support for pending law suits. Dr Wakefield also forgot to mention he was being paid a lot of money by said lawyers and families for results that were to their liking. Today, Dr Wakefield is facing charges of serious professional misconduct, initiated by the General Medical Council of Britain.

The good doctor still supports his findings, though. He has appeared all over the US in the intervening years, speaking at anti-vaccination conferences and continuing to tell people that MMR will give their children autism. According to the Millenium Project:
[Wakefield] recently spoke (to a standing ovation) at a conference run by America’s leading anti-vaccination organisation, the National Vaccine Information Center, about his ongoing research. I watched his speech live on the Internet but I had to turn it off when he said that one of the subjects in his current project was not autistic - yet. He included the child in the autistic group because the child had been vaccinated and was therefore probably going to be autistic soon. This is supposed to be science.
Even if Wakefield is just a money-grubbing slimeball who thinks the Hypocratic Oath is some guy swearing in greek, his 'findings' have become an article of faith to certain people who can only be called insane. The disowning of his work by every other person involved, the revelation that he was paid to get the exact results he got, the fact that children are by virtue of their natural growth vaccinated at around the same age as they develop noticeable-enough symptoms to be diagnosed with autism... none of this matters to them. They believe it, therefore it is true.

But how do the crazies justify the link? Well, they blame it on something called thimerosal, a preservative used in some vaccines which contains a compound of mercury. In altworld, compounds or alloys of mercury (like the fillings in your teeth) magically lose their chemical binding on contact with the human body, releasing massive amounts (sometimes more than was contained in the original alloy!) of mercury into your system. And we all know that mercury poisoning is bad for you. But here's the interesting bit: while some vaccines use thimerosal (which is safe, in case you didn't notice the sarcasm), MMR doesn't. It never has. And it cannot contain a preservative, because it is a live vaccine; preservatives would kill it and make it useless. But facts rarely stand in the way of people like this.

Here are some other lies that people tell about vaccines:
  • Measles, Polio and other vaccinatable diseases are actually harmless. Lie. Just ask any one of the several people who recently died in Namibia after the polio outbreak there, precisely because they were born before widespread vaccination began in that country 15 years ago. Oh, wait, you can't. Because they're dead.
  • Measles, Polio and other vaccinatable diseases are extinct. Lie. Just because these have been all but wiped out (by widespread vaccination you'll note) in the western world, that doesn't mean they aren't still prevalent in africa and asia. And they're just a plane-ride and a handshake away from you. See point above re Namibia.
  • DTP causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Lie. Studies have shown no connection, and there was no sudden rise in SIDS after the introduction of DTP. In fact, it has dropped slightly since.
  • The rubella vaccine is made with aborted foetuses. Lie. From the Millenium Project again: "One of the materials used in the manufacture of rubella vaccines is a cell line derived from a legal abortion carried out in 1962. This is a tissue culture, very many generations removed from its source, and could only be considered aborted foetal tissue in the minds of people with, well, no minds at all."
  • Vaccines cause Shaken Baby Syndrome. Lie. Shaking babies causes shaken baby syndrome.

Crazy. Just crazy. Here's more if you can stomach it.


Blogger totalwaste said...

thanks, but no thanks. i'm not even slightly curious to handle more of their drivel. these are the people who slipped in to the gene pool during the lifeguard's tea break

June 22, 2006 4:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And for those who think polio in Namibia isn't close to home, how about mumps in Iowa?
This is an official CDC HEALTH ADVISORY

Distributed via Health Alert Network
Friday, April 14, 2006, 20:34 EDT

Multi-state Mumps Outbreak

The state of Iowa has been experiencing a large outbreak of mumps that began in December 2005 (1). As of April 12, 2006, 605 suspect, probable and confirmed cases have been reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) (IDPH, unpublished data). The majority of cases are occurring among persons 18-25 years of age, many of whom are vaccinated. Additional cases of mumps, possibly linked to the Iowa outbreak, are also under investigation in eight neighboring states, including Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin (CDC unpublished data, April 14, 2006).

In addition, the Iowa Department of Public Health has identified two persons diagnosed with mumps who were potentially infectious during travel on nine different commercial flights involving two airlines between March 26, 2006 and April 2, 2006. The origin and arrival cities for these flights include Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, IA; Dallas, TX; Detroit, MI; Lafayette, AR; Minneapolis, MN; St. Louis, MO; Tucson, AZ; and Washington, D.C. (2).

The source of the current US outbreak is unknown. However the mumps strain has been identified as genotype G, the same genotype circulating in the United Kingdom (UK). The outbreak in the UK has been ongoing from 2004 to 2006 and has involved > 70,000 cases. Most UK cases have occurred among unvaccinated young adults (3). The G genotype is not an unusual or rare genotype and, like the rest of known genotypes of mumps, it has been circulating globally for decades or longer.

June 22, 2006 7:02 AM  
Blogger moonflake said...

TW: i think they were on the shallow end of the pool to begin with, anyway.

Anon: thanks for the iowa story :) I had something to say about it here. And for those not familiar with geography, south africa shares a border with namibia, so it's pretty close to home for us. Go ask your mom if she had you vaccinated against polio, fellow saffers. If she did, give her a big hug.

June 22, 2006 9:46 AM  
Blogger Bast said...

For my deep african trip I got all sorts of vaccines. And was told that for some (hepatitis any others) if I came back for a booster they'd last for decades. Think I might splurge that cashish on the boosters after all.

June 22, 2006 12:30 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home