Respectful Insolence

Blogging is usually such an instant gratification sort of thing. I see a story or hear about something. I write about it. I almost have to. Most stories in the blogosphere have a really short half-life anyway. Wait more than a day or two, and no one cares anymore. Hell, wait more than a few hours in the case of hyperkinetic bloggers like P.Z. will be all over it. However, sometimes it’s a good idea to restrain myself, not to leap on something right away even when I can.

This is one of those times.

Last week, I was tipped off by the merry band of anti-vaccine loons over at Age of Autism to a press release issued by one of the heroes of the antivaccine movement, the incompetent scientist who, as investigative journalist Brian Deer showed, was not only in the pocket of trial lawyers at the time he did his “research” allegedly implicating the MMR vaccine as a cause of “autistic enterocolitis” but probably falsified much of the original data used in his infamous 1998 Lancet paper. Yes, I’m referring to the (in)famous Andrew Wakefield, whose amazingly incompetent research claiming a link between the attenuated measles virus in the MMR vaccine and “autistic enterocolitis” launched a scare that is still going on to this day and that has lead measles from being practically eradicated to now being endemic again in the U.K. It’s also the scare that launched a thousand quacks. Indeed, the most recent bit of news about Wakefield’s scientific fraud came out during the General Medical Council investigation that was launched against him to investigate the allegations of research misconduct resulting from his activities a decade ago and reported by Brian Deer.

Wakefield was not pleased.

Indeed, he was so displeased that he launched an attack on Brian Deer and lodge a specious complaint against him and his newspaper with the U.K. Press Complaints Commission. Last week, against all odds it appeared that Wakefield might have prevailed, at least if you believed his delusional press release:

(Austin, Texas) – The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) of London, an independent body that oversees journalism fairness in the UK, has issued an interim order calling for the Sunday Times to remove stories written by Brian Deer about Dr. Andrew Wakefield from its web site. Dr. Wakefield had filed an extensive complaint with the PCC regarding errors of fact in Deer’s reportage on the MMR vaccine and its possible relationship to autism. The General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK is presently hearing evidence involving Dr. Wakefield and two of his colleagues following a complaint to the GMC by Deer himself. The PCC decision today appears to indicate there are questions about the accuracy of the Deer stories.

The PCC complaint by Dr. Wakefield provides clear evidence that Deer’s allegations of “data fixing” by him are false. The complaint also accused Deer of an undisclosed conflict of interest since Deer also failed to disclose in his articles that he was the person who made the original complaint to the GMC, misleading the newspaper’s readers over the accuracy of his reporting.

“Given the ongoing nature of the dispute,” Stephen Abell of the PCC wrote, “the articles should be removed from the newspaper’s website until this matter has been concluded. This would not be an admission of any liability on the part of the newspaper.”

I must admit that when I first read this, I found it to be a real head-scratcher. It made no real sense, and, indeed, I wondered if the U.K.’s notoriously plaintiff-friendly libel laws, the ones that ensnared Simon Singh, had had anything to do with this. On the other hand, even the wording of Wakefield’s press release revealed a lot. Notice how the PCC statement explicitly stated that removal of Deer’s story would not be an admission of any liability. From my perspective, this sounded as though the PCC was just being overly cautious more than anything else and that The Times was probably being too accommodating. I chalked it up to a culture difference more than anything else. In the U.S., the newspaper would probably tell any sort of PCC to stick it where the sun don’t shine if it requested the removal of an article before any sort of ruling.

Curious, I e-mailed Brian Deer, who informed me:

All that happened was we pointed out that the PCC was incapable of reaching an adjudication until after Wakefield’s GMC finished, since it covered much of the same ground. We thought this would be just a month away. So the PCC agreed, but said take the February report offline until then, which we did.

As I suspected, the whole agreement was nothing more than a gentlemen’s agreement. Damn that British collegiality!

Of course, if there’s one thing about British collegiality, it’s that the British really don’t like it when someone violates it, and that’s exactly what Wakefield did with his little hissy fit of a press release. As a result, the articles by Brian Deer describing Andrew Wakefield’s scientific fraud are right back up on the Times website where they were before. Go ahead. Click on the link. The story is right there. Indeed, Mike Stanton points out just how badly Wakefield has screwed up, and Brian Deer himself has given permission to repost an e-mail he sent to Dr. Wakefield’s attorney:

Date: Mon, 06 Jul 2009 18:12:00 +0100
To: “Joanna Bower”
From: Brian Deer
Cc: info@thoughtfulhouse.org

Ms Joanne Bower,
RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP

Dear Ms Bower,

Your client, Dr Andrew Wakefield, has published, and caused to be published, on his website, thoughtfulhouse.org, and on other sites, false claims that the Press Complaints Commission has issued an “interim order” concerning my investigation into his conduct. Dr Wakefield claims that The Sunday Times has been ordered by the PCC to remove my stories about him from its website.

I understand that the PCC has written to your client to point out that these claims are untrue. In fact, all of my stories concerning him are available at the Times Online website.

thoughtfulhouse.org is unquestionably controlled by Dr Wakefield, and his publication there has caused similar untruths to be published on websites either directly controlled for his interests, such as cryshame.org, which, as you may know was set up by Mrs Isabella Thomas, the parent of two of the children anonymised in the now-infamous Lancet MMR paper, or indirectly controlled for his interests, such as ageofautism.com, operated to promote and profit from concern over children’s vaccines.

It is, of course, nothing new for Dr Wakefield to mislead the public, and especially the parents of autistic children. He has faced the longest ever proceedings before a General Medical Council fitness to practise panel, following the GMC’s reinvestigation of my journalism. In due course, I’d expect he will face a hearing of the PCC, covering much of the same ground on a significantly different evidential base.

However, you may feel it advisable to explain to your client that either he accepts the untruth of his latest claims and takes them down, or he maintains them in publication, in which case his conduct would not merely be wrong, but would be dishonest.

With best wishes,

Brian Deer

http://briandeer.com

Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark.

Of course, the irony of this whole situation is that Andrew Wakefield brought this all upon himself. No, I’m not just referring to the fact that he took money from trial lawyers to fund his research and did incompetent science, although both of those are true. No, what I’m referring to what Mike Stanton describes, namely how Wakefield at first suied Brian Deer for libel but, even under the U.K.’s ridiculously plaintiff-friendly laws, gave up before even going to trial and even agreed to pay Deer’s legal costs. As Mike points out, if Wakefield hadn’t done that, it’s unlikely that Deer would have gotten access to the medical records that led to his revealing Wakefield’s falsification of data and the latest report in The Times detailing Wakefield’s misdeeds. Heck, Wakefield even went beyond that. Remember, back in 2004, Wakefield himself called for a GMC investigation, saying that he not only welcomed an investigation but that “I insist on it.” In other words, Wakefield told the GMC to “bring it on.”

How’d that work out for you, Andy?

I love the schadenfreude that comes from observing that Wakefield has gotten in essence exactly what he said he wanted.

So what will happen now that Wakefield shot himself in the foot so badly that nothing more than a smoking stump is left? I predict that the GMC will rule against him on all, or nearly all, charges. I further predict that it won’t matter one whit to Wakefield. These days, it serves his interests far more to lose and remain in Texas. That way, he can continue to paint himself as the poor, persecuted martyr forced into exile from his own country by the uncaring authorities. There, he can continue to play the Galileo Gambit. Of course, to claim the mantle of Galileo, as the saying goes, it is not enough to be “persecuted” by the establishment. You must also be right, and Wakefield is most definitely not right. So there he remains in Texas running Thoughtful House, doing who knows what, given that he does not have a medical license and therefore should not be able to treat patients. I realize that’s no guarantee (after all, David Geier somehow manages to engage in activities that very much resemble patient care, and he doesn’t even have an M.D.), but I have a hard time imagining just what Wakefield can be doing to fill his time, other than cranking out self-destructive press releases like this one.

Unfortunately, Wakefield’s continued fall, which is richly deserved, will only make him more of a hero in the eyes of the anti-vaccine movement. I had originally thought that the revelations that Wakefield had falsified data would cause some of the anti-vaccine movement to desert him. Maybe it did. I can’t tell. What I can tell is that, like all true cranks, the anti-vaccine movement simply can’t leave one of their own. No matter how much evidence there is against him, they have to circle the wagons.

They can’t help themselves. It’s the nature of the crank, and Andrew Wakefield is king of the anti-vaccine cranks.

Comments

  1. #1 Paul Browne
    July 7, 2009

    Orac, you’ve just made my day!

    Brilliant news!

  2. #2 DLC
    July 7, 2009

    Ow! So, Wakefield wanted to play funny games and got caught at it. He deserves it. If ever a man was hoist on his own petard, Wakefield is that man. I eagerly await the explosion.

  3. #3 PJ
    July 7, 2009

    Great article. Riddled with typos though…..

  4. #4 Evi
    July 7, 2009

    #1 just echoed the exact thought running through my mildly confused, always muddled mind. At 5:45 AM(it took a while to pry my eyes open and read on), I do think it’s forgivable.

    Very good post, and thank you for providing links to the many sources. :)

  5. #5 Dunc
    July 7, 2009

    I had originally thought that the revelations that Wakefield had falsified data would cause some of the anti-vaccine movement to desert him.

    Yeah, I kinda thought that about the footage of him laughing about violating consent when taking blood from kids at a children’s party, but whaddaya know? They lapped it up.

  6. #6 anon
    July 7, 2009

    I had originally thought that the revelations that Wakefield had falsified data would cause some of the anti-vaccine movement to desert him. Maybe it did. I can’t tell.

    You can’t tell, because they, like myself, are trying to remove the inherent emotional drivel that surrounds this topic and wait until the decision on August 9.

    While I’d certainly love to believe Brian Deer’s allegations of scientific fraud (they are, after all, allegations) as it would make my decision making easier, in order for me to do this, I require some sort of empirical evidence from a disinterested party.

    Sadly, the facts in this case have become more convoluted than the thought processes of the very antivaccinationists you despise. Those that are rational are simply watching the controversy unfold, and watching both sides fall over themselves debating the issues (and like it or not, in their minds, there *are* issues). After having seen footage of Brian Deer, I find him less credible.

    I am not a supporter of Age of Autism, nor do support the hypothesis that MMR causes “autism”. The only available evidence (which isn’t much) does not support this hypothesis, but I don’t believe it’s been adequately investigated. I think the accusations against Wakefield are inconsistent, and I find it to be extremely sad that the original Lancet 12 have been ostracized along with Wakefield and evidently no one cares about helping them.

  7. #7 James Sweet
    July 7, 2009
    I had originally thought that the revelations that Wakefield had falsified data would cause some of the anti-vaccine movement to desert him. Maybe it did. I can’t tell.

    You can’t tell, because they, like myself, are trying to remove the inherent emotional drivel that surrounds this topic and wait until the decision on August 9.

    Um… I admire your wait-and-see approach, but that is not what the anti-vaccine movement is doing. The last time I heard an anti-vaxer talk about Wakefield, she started by going on and on about how good looking he was, and how he “seemed” so honest, and dismissed any and all of the knocks on his Lancet paper as persecution intended to silence him. In response to me pointing out he was being investigated by the GMC, she spun it as, “They are trying to take away his license, but they still haven’t been able to!”

    Like I say, anon, if you want to claim some rational highground with your wait-and-see approach, that is fine I guess. But I don’t think the same applies to the anti-vax movement.

  8. #8 Vindaloo
    July 7, 2009

    anon – let me help you out. The “allegations” of fraud are supported by, among other things, empirical evidence in the form of PCR experiments that clearly demonstrate either galactic-level incompetence or fraud. This issue has been detailed and the involved journal papers digested on this site and others. Either you’re new to this story or you choose your data with exquisite, and feelings-based, precision.

  9. #9 Skepticat
    July 7, 2009

    Sweet. One wonders just how much more of a buffoon can Wakefield be?

  10. #10 Aj
    July 7, 2009

    You know, given that just five minutes on the PCC website and you knew that this would be the response*, you have to wonder just how naïve Wakefield’s supporters are to keep buying his crap.

    But then, I assume he’s already calculated how naïve they are – and found the answer is most clearly expressed in dollars.

    *Seriously – they even have a nice little pdf with a decision tree to tell you if they can help.

  11. #11 Andrew Dodds
    July 7, 2009

    PJ –

    Any typos you may see are just a part of Orac’s sophisticated algorithmic attempt to pass the Turing test. It’ll never work unless it remembers not to post so many articles so often.

  12. #12 MikeMa
    July 7, 2009

    I predict that Wakefield’s next move will be an appearance on Oprah! Yeah, that’ll do it.
    /snark

    Very good news that the decision on his medical career will happen soon. That should be worth a billboard in Texas.

  13. #13 LC
    July 7, 2009

    Is Wakefield currently employed in Texas? He is the laughing stock of medical science and either grossly incompetant or an outright fraudster, so who on Earth would hire him?

    Still if the ramifications weren’t so serious it would have comedy value. Wakefield charges onto the stage, empties a clip into his foot, announces he meant to do that, and hobbles off whimpering. After a period of stunned silence by the audience, he rushes back on stage, announces he has reloaded his gun, empties another clip into his bandaged foot, says he meant to do it (again), and hobbles off again.

    It’s like watching the Mr Bean of the medical world.

  14. #14 AnthonyK
    July 7, 2009

    Thanks for your comments, anon. But as for the allegations of scientific fraud, well, fraudsters and other criminals are in a real sense still guilty even before they are found so. Did Wakefield have an undeclared interest in these cases or not? Did he falsify his data? Did he use that false data to scare people away from vaccinations, knowing that he would benefit personally?
    Well, oh-so-brave “anon”, some behaviour is utterly reprehensible even before one is found, and this seems to be the case with Wakefield. And as to your personal insight that Brian Deer “looks” less than credible, well, even if your visionary condemnation were 100% accurate, all Brian Deer has done is libel a researcher.
    I suspect “anon” that you are no more than an apologist for the anti-vaxxers, pretending to be even handed. If only you had supplied some footage of yourself then we would be able to make up our minds from your appearance and demeanour just how honest you really are!

  15. #15 Tsu Dho Nimh, BS, MT(ASCP)
    July 7, 2009

    @6 anon – While I’d certainly love to believe Brian Deer’s allegations of scientific fraud (they are, after all, allegations) as it would make my decision making easier, in order for me to do this, I require some sort of empirical evidence from a disinterested party.

    How about the testimony in a legal proceeding at the omnibus trials? A scientist who reviewed Wakefield’s original lab data said that when a sample tested as 0 and 2400 (I have no clue what they were measuring) he reported out the 2400 and ignored the zero.

    When the negative controls showed up positive, or the positives showed up negative … he reported the results anyway.

    That is either mind-boggling incompetence, a person so blinded by zeal they are wishing away negative results, or someone committing deliberate fraud.

    BTW: The real scientific response to lab readings like that is to say, “Oh snap!” and figure out where it went FUBAR. Then you re-run the tests.

    His own lab assistant testified that the results as reported were not the results he got when he ran the tests in the lab!

  16. #16 Techskeptic
    July 7, 2009

    anon,

    “wait and see”….for how long? Really now, there have been multiple studies, hundreds of thousands of children have been examined, actions have been taken to change the vaccines, like removing thimerisol. How much data do you need before we stop waiting and seeing and actually start laughing at these people and start getting to work on new theories and better ways to examine the problems. Wait and see is no longer a relevant method of hypothesis testing. Its high time to move on.

    Also, boyu that thoughtful house board members and list of advisors is a whole who’s who of vaccine nonsense. Bob sears is there. David Kirby. A dixie chick. A whole gaggle of mothers, who, as we all know, have a biologically induced understanding of autism and its causes.

  17. #17 Joseph
    July 7, 2009

    anon is what’s called a concern troll. But let me just address this:

    Those that are rational are simply watching the controversy unfold, and watching both sides fall over themselves debating the issues (and like it or not, in their minds, there *are* issues).

    Some of us have been watching the controversy unfold for 4 or 5 years, nearly every day. No honest or rational person with knowledge of the issues could claim there’s equivalence in the positions, either in the strength of their arguments, or in the intellectual honesty of the parties.

  18. #18 MikeMa
    July 7, 2009

    Joseph @17
    Excellent points. In addition, I’d add the number of studies refuting Wafefield stack up heavily against him and his supporters.

    Any one of the things he is alleged to have done could be career ending. With so much alleged fraud, he’ll need to start a religion. Oh….wait….

  19. #19 Kat
    July 7, 2009

    Wakefield’s press release also reiterates the canard that Deer instigated the complaint to the GMC. This lie has been repeated so frequently by the Wakefield camp that they may even believe it, but it is not true, as reported in one of your previous blogs:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/02/brian_deer_responds_to_keith_olbermann.php

  20. #20 Michael Simpson
    July 7, 2009

    All this civil litigation and libel claims are interesting to a point. But when is Her Majesty’s Legal Department going to arrest Wakefield and charge him with depraved indifference. Though he is not alone in the harm done to children by reducing the vaccine rate worldwide, he was the intellectual leader. Lots of researchers make errors, some benign, some harmful, but when those errors are done in good faith and without fraud, they can be excused. But Wakefield defrauded the Lancet, the medical profession, his co-researchers, and the public. In doing so, he caused deaths. In a fair criminal system, he deserves punishment.

  21. #21 D. C. Sessions
    July 7, 2009

    I don’t see any comment above on the subtext of Mr. Deer’s letter. Warning: IANAL.

    Item: he wrote to Dr.Wakefield’s attorney of record.

    Item: he specifically pointed out that Dr. Wakefield continued to publish untrue statements about Mr. Deer after he knew, or should have known, that they were proven false.

    Item: he calls the attorney’s attention to the fact that those statements are still being made.

    That’s not the “Hey, Andrew! Time to fix the page. Love, Brian” message formula. That’s a matter of establishing something for the record, and what’s going on record is:

    * Willful falsehood.
    * Continuing after due notice

    delivered to an Officer of the Court whose legal duty includes making Dr. Wakefield aware that this constitutes actionable libel. No plea of ignorance.

    Please note that the only remaining question is actionable harm. Since Mr. Deer is a well-known journalist whose stock in trade depends heavily on his credibility, this is not going to be a sticking point.

    Also note that the libel law in this instance is United States Law, not British, and there is absolutely no question of United States jurisdiction in the matter — nor of the power of United States courts to enforce judgment on Dr. Wakefield’s considerable holdings here.

    Remember, IANAL — but I believe that this could be filed in Federal court initially based on diversity of jurisdiction as well. Federal courts ain’t cheap, and Mr. Deer (and perhaps the Times) will have pretty much their pick of venues. Don’t count on Texas.

    Shot across the bow, and I rather suspect that Dr. Wakefield isn’t getting the message.

  22. #22 Orac
    July 7, 2009

    I think the accusations against Wakefield are inconsistent, and I find it to be extremely sad that the original Lancet 12 have been ostracized along with Wakefield and evidently no one cares about helping them.

    Really? Do tell. Could you be more specific? What’s “inconsistent” about the accusations against Wakefield.

    As for the evidence that Wakefield was in the pocket of trial lawyers at the time he was doing his “research” for the Lancet paper, there is copious evidence of that, which Deer presented in his earlier reports. I linked to it through linking to my original blog posts on the subject. Similarly, the Autism Omnibus testimony by Stephen Bustin, a world-renowned expert in PCR and the scientist who examined the lab used by Wakefield, demonstrated sloppy, shoddy laboratory procedures, failure to take head of false positives showing up in negative controls, and copious evidence that the “positives” for measles virus sequence that showed up were in fact false positives due to plasmid contamination. It was a report and testimony about as damning as can be.

    Did Wakefield also commit scientific fraud? The jury is out on that, but Deer’s case is quite damning, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had, given his history. One thing’s for sure. Wakefield really hurt himself with his press release and crowing. If he had just kept his mouth shut, Deer’s article would have remained in limbo at the very least until sometime after the GMC hearing ended. But, no, he had to go and issue a gloating press release and thereby piss off the PCC so much that it told The Times Deer’s article could be reposted.

    Finally, suffice it to say, I agree with the characterization of you as a “concern troll.”

  23. #23 Doazic
    July 7, 2009

    I’m still waiting on Keith Olberman to apologize to Brian Deer.

  24. #24 Scott
    July 7, 2009

    While I’d certainly love to believe Brian Deer’s allegations of scientific fraud (they are, after all, allegations) as it would make my decision making easier, in order for me to do this, I require some sort of empirical evidence from a disinterested party.

    Such as? If the copious documentation Deer has uncovered isn’t enough, what would be? Also, what exactly makes Deer NOT a “disinterested party”?

    Sadly, the facts in this case have become more convoluted than the thought processes of the very antivaccinationists you despise. Those that are rational are simply watching the controversy unfold, and watching both sides fall over themselves debating the issues (and like it or not, in their minds, there *are* issues). After having seen footage of Brian Deer, I find him less credible.

    So what ARE these issues? I’d love to hear them, but you don’t seem to feel it relevant to provide any backup for your claims. I’d also like to know whether you’re alleging that Deer has actively forged the documents on which his stories were based.

    I am not a supporter of Age of Autism, nor do support the hypothesis that MMR causes “autism”. The only available evidence (which isn’t much) does not support this hypothesis, but I don’t believe it’s been adequately investigated.

    So what WOULD you consider “adequately investigated” given the piles of studies on the question?

    I think the accusations against Wakefield are inconsistent, and I find it to be extremely sad that the original Lancet 12 have been ostracized along with Wakefield and evidently no one cares about helping them.

    Inconsistent HOW?

    There’s quite a distinct pattern of making strong claims without any actual support being provided here.

  25. #25 Fannin
    July 7, 2009

    I haven’t seen any mention of any of this on the Mothering Dot Com “Vaccination” forum — and based on previous experience I would have expected to see some crowing about the PCC’s smackdown of Brian Deer (and, yes, they would take Wakefield’s press release at face value).

    It makes me wonder whether they’ve caught on that Wakefield is not quite as good at representing their alternative epidemiology in public as Jenny McCarthy.

  26. #26 Liz
    July 7, 2009

    Actually, while this whole mess might not be getting the anti-vax camp to disband, it is hindering their ability to recruit. It allows those of us who are in a position to sway new mothers (non-medical positions ironically. and who trusts their personal maternity shopper more than their Dr? what’s wrong with people?) to say “well, except for the part where the guy who did those studies falsified his data.” And “well, I suppose if your Dr has an MMR vaccine that’s over a decade old, because they phased out thimerosal in 1999.”

    And it allows pediatricians like the one my sister-in-law goes to to chuckle as he explains to her that the person who told to be afraid of vaccines was ill-informed and she has more to worry about in that she married into a family of nerds with poor social skills. (seriously, if my aunts and uncles and older cousins had been born in this decade, at least some of them would be diagnosed on the high-functioning end of the spectrum)

    So while you can’t say “your wrong” to people already holding those beliefs about vaccines and have them suddenly discard their strongly held notions (people don’t work that way), having this in the arsenal when those conversations occur helps keep people from believing the vaccines cause autism lie in the first place.

  27. #27 ababa
    July 7, 2009

    Fannin said: I haven’t seen any mention of any of this on the Mothering Dot Com “Vaccination” forum

    Mothering is currently going crazy with fake news about “Forced mandatory Swine Flu vaccines”. About every other post is about that. They are so busy making their tinfoil hats to defend their hero Wakefield at the moment. The paranoia is out in force.

    I have noticed a bit of a dip in recruiting for anti-vaxing though. There are still some posts, but it is always the same people responding. And more people are standing up to them, rather than ignore them.

    I did see a particularly ridiculous claim though a couple days ago. Someone posted locally about a mother who’s child got “autism from the rubella vaccine”. The best part? It wasn’t the child that got the shot, it was the mother! And she gave autism to her child through her breastmilk!

    That’s why they are losing their mainstream appeal. The more outlandish they have to get because of mounting scientific proof, the harder it becomes to trick people into believing them.

  28. #28 Karl Withakay
    July 7, 2009

    “I am not a supporter of Age of Autism, nor do support the hypothesis that MMR causes “autism”. The only available evidence (which isn’t much) does not support this hypothesis, but I don’t believe it’s been adequately investigated.”

    Karl Withakay’s unformalized rules for detecting concern trolls:

    In my experience, more often than not, when someone says they don’t have an opinion on something, it usually (but not always) means they really do, but deny it so they can maintain the appearance of impartial objectivity, and they are really a concern troll.

    Did you ever notice how when someone prefaces a comment by stating what they are not, or what they don’t believe, or what they’re not sure of, it tends (more often than not) to be followed by a statement that shows they have an underlying true belief and their preface was dishonest BS, and they are really a concern troll?

  29. #29 Prometheus
    July 7, 2009

    Liz@26,

    Another “fact” to put in your armamentarium – the MMR vaccine never had thimerosal. Never.

    In fact, the MMR vaccine couldn’t have had thimerosal in it, because it is a live-virus vaccine and thimerosal – as a anti-microbial preservative – kills viruses.

    Putting thimerosal in the MMR vaccine would render it useless.

    BTW, Andy Wakefield’s “hypothesis” is that the MMR vaccine “causes” autism through a persistent infection with the vaccine-strain measles virus. He wasn’t one of the “thimerosal-causes-autism” crowd, although he never bothered to contradict them.

    Wakefield has had a “thing” for the measles vaccine-strain since at least 1993, when he published an article about finding “evidence of persistent measles virus infection” in patients with Crohn’s disease (not autism, surprisingly). When that didn’t pan out, he switched (by 1999) to autism.

    I wonder what he’ll do next – what will be the next chronic disease Andy Wakefield believes is caused by the measles vaccine-strain?

    Oh, and by the way – Wakefield never explained why the vaccine-strain measles virus was more able to cause autism than the wild-type. That’s food for thought.

    Good luck!

    Prometheus

  30. #30 RJ
    July 7, 2009

    “Oh, and by the way – Wakefield never explained why the vaccine-strain measles virus was more able to cause autism than the wild-type. That’s food for thought.”

    So true. I guess I would expect a response, something on the order of “well, because it comes out of a syringe”.

    Don’t be surprised…I’ve heard many comments from “concerned, educated” parents that they would rather have their child infected with the measles virus (which history, apparently, has shown to be perfectly safe…just ask grandma) than have a dangerous, untested vaccination.

    I’m not kidding! People have really said that.

  31. #31 Bronze Dog
    July 7, 2009

    I’m not kidding! People have really said that.

    The sad part is I believe you. The sadder part is that I believe you because I’ve heard plenty of people saying the same thing to me.

  32. #32 D. C. Sessions
    July 7, 2009

    So true. I guess I would expect a response, something on the order of “well, because it comes out of a syringe”.

    Nothing like predicting something that happens all the time.

    Part of the antivaccine catechism is that vaccination “bypasses the body’s normal defenses and injects <stuff> directly into the bloodstream.”

    Apparently there’s some sort of magical process whereby measles virus is transformed in its passage through the respiratory system on its way to the circulatory, making it less dangerous — and then the transformation is reversed on its way out of the body.

  33. #33 Scott
    July 7, 2009

    RJ’s comment #30 reminds me of a joke I heard recently which is actually quite on-point.

    Two Taliban fighters are talking in Afghanistan. One of them comments, “Those American Marines are such incompetents, their marksmanship is pathetic!” The other one asks, “How do you know that?” And the first replies, “Well, I’ve talked to a bunch of our guys who were shot at by them – the Marines missed every time!”

    If you don’t see the connection, think about it for a bit. Hint: Selection effects.

  34. #34 RJ
    July 7, 2009

    “bypasses the body’s normal defenses and injects directly into the bloodstream.”

    Oh yes! LMAO! So true! I forgot that vaccines are injected directly into the bloodstream! IV vaccines. Oh, the drama.

    “there’s some sort of magical process whereby measles virus is transformed in its passage through the respiratory system on its way to the circulatory, making it less dangerous — ”

    How many times have you heard that it is natural? It’s natures way. Vaccines are evil and man-made, which…based on what we’ve all seen on commercials, Oprah, magazines, and the internet….we know is bad. Natural disease is good. Man made disease-preventing agent is bad. OK, Got it.

    And then when asked, well how come a quarter to a half a million kids die each year from this “natural” disease, you’ll hear it’s because of their diet. Apparently, THEY do not have access to the organic foods section at Whole Foods. Too bad these people didn’t know better, jump in their SUV, drive to Whole Foods and select the proper ingredients that will protect anyone/everyone from disease….except if the disease is vaccine derived, in which case, it doesn’t work (apparently). I’ve never had that one straightened out for me either.

  35. #35 MadScientist
    July 7, 2009

    The foot? What an amateur. He should get a pistol and aim his sights higher – the world will benefit from it.

  36. #36 RickK
    July 7, 2009

    “Is Wakefield currently employed in Texas? He is the laughing stock of medical science and either grossly incompetant or an outright fraudster, so who on Earth would hire him?”

    Remember, you’re talking about TEXAS. This is the same state that is contemplating appointing a homeschooling radical Christian creationist who hates public schools to the position of … wait for it… Chair of the Texas State Board of Education.

  37. #37 Bronze Dog
    July 7, 2009

    Texas: Because citizens like me can never experience too much shame.

  38. #38 Inquisitive Raven
    July 8, 2009

    I did see a particularly ridiculous claim though a couple days ago. Someone posted locally about a mother who’s child got “autism from the rubella vaccine”. The best part? It wasn’t the child that got the shot, it was the mother! And she gave autism to her child through her breastmilk!

    Umm, while rubella has been implicated in some cases of autism, it’s called “Congenital Rubella Syndrome” for a reason. Mom has to be exposed to the virus while pregnant. Once the kid is born, she’s in the clear. Oh right, this is MDC we’re talking about. For this reason, I expect that MMR is not recommended for women who are or are contemplating becoming pregnant.

    I also have to wonder about Wakefield, given the above. I mean seriously, if you’re going to implicate the MMR vaccine in autism, wouldn’t you expect the problematic part to be the rubella component?

  39. #39 Matthew Cline
    July 8, 2009

    Wakefield has had a “thing” for the measles vaccine-strain since at least 1993, when he published an article about finding “evidence of persistent measles virus infection” in patients with Crohn’s disease (not autism, surprisingly). When that didn’t pan out, he switched (by 1999) to autism.

    Interesting. I wonder what made him latch onto the idea of attenuated measles causing a chronic infection.

  40. #40 dt
    July 8, 2009

    Wakefield also never explained why he thought single measles vaccine (the one he recommended) would not cause autism but MMR would. The “unnatural toxin injected straight into the bloodstream” gambit fails on this one.

    He also never explained why he fingered MMR as the cause of autism in his case series of 12 kids. One of these kids who got “bowel disease” and autism developed it after getting natural measles.

    Considering that at that point in the 1990s almost every child in the UK was getting MMR, and a mere handful of the unvaccinated were getting measles each year, Wakefield could have jumped to the valid conclusion that natural measles was more likely than MMR to result in autism. But for some reason he didn’t. That reason we all know (Financial inducements from the lawyers, a need to decry MMR as he had his own single vaccine patent pending, etc)

    Yet more improbable paradoxes of cognition on his part.

  41. #41 FreeSpeaker
    July 8, 2009

    #36 & #37:

    Wakefield going to Texas is payback for all those years Texas claimed to have the biggest . Now they have the biggest ******, *******, and *******.

  42. #42 ababa
    July 8, 2009

    Matthew Cline said: Interesting. I wonder what made him latch onto the idea of attenuated measles causing a chronic infection.

    Because he held the patent on a “better” Measles vaccine. In order for that to become a windfall of profits he had to trash the currently existing MMR. It’s not really Measles he has a thing for, it’s just the Measles in the current MMR.

    Anti-vaxers really just don’t understand that he really isn’t even anti-vax. He likes vaccines. He likes them so much he owns the rights to one. Just like Dr. Offitt (before he sold his interest).

  43. #43 epador
    July 8, 2009

    I belive this is more properly classified as a 908.5.

  44. #44 Prometheus
    July 8, 2009

    The origin of Wakefield’s fascination with the attenuated vaccine strain of measles is probably known only to him. However, some of the factors (mis)leading him to this position can be seen in his publications.

    In his earlier writing about measles and Crohn’s disease, he was relying on immuno-gold and immuno-fluorescent staining to “identify” the chronic measles infections. These techniques are infamous for their problems with cross-reactions. He later branched out to FISH (fluorescent in situ hybridization) and in situ PCR, but still didn’t seem to have grasped the need for controls. As a result, he appears to have been deceived by false-positive results.

    My supposition is that Wakefield – believing he had found the dastardly virus in the intestines – never considered that he might be wrong. He never checked to see if it was possible his core belief that the vaccine strain of measles virus was capable of causing a chronic infection in the gut (which, it should be noted, its wild-type cousin has never been shown to do) was wrong.

    Blinded by his own dogma, Wakefield has tried to find data to support his hypothesis, rather than testing it. He has either dismissed or ignored all data refuting his hypothesis.

    Wakefield has also been rather vague about why the attenuated vaccine strain of measles would be less likely to cause these chronic infections if it were adminstered alone rather than in combination with two other attenuated viruses. He argues some sort of synergy without bothering to show that this is so. This sort of hand-waving usually indicates that the hand-waver has no real mechanism in mind and is simply hoping that nobody asks any pointed questions.

    His obsession with the measles virus has led him – as other commenters have pointed out – to ignore the rubella virus as a possible cause of autism due to the MMR jab. Mind you, there is no credible data supporting the hypothesis that the MMR – or any component of it – is causing autism, but he could have at least looked at the one virus in the bunch that has a history (at least, in its wild-type version) of causing autism.

    No, I think that Andrew Wakefield is a man in the thrall of a “beautiful hypothesis” that he cannot give up. As happens with many torrid, obsessive love affairs, he cannot give it up, even though it has led him to ruin and ridicule.

    Prometheus

  45. #45 Alex Deam
    July 8, 2009

    Oh, and by the way – Wakefield never explained why the vaccine-strain measles virus was more able to cause autism than the wild-type. That’s food for thought.

    Maybe he’s a homeopath?

    The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) of London, an independent body that oversees journalism fairness in the UK

    Andrew Wakefield, of all people, should know that the PCC is not independent at all. It is run by the editors of a number of UK newspapers.

  46. #46 Tsu Dho Nimh
    July 8, 2009

    As happens with many torrid, obsessive love affairs, he cannot give it up, even though it has led him to ruin and ridicule.

    And he can’t even go hiking the Appalachian Trail with it.

  47. #47 RJ
    July 9, 2009

    AoA is going ape shit over this today (7/9). It’s so funny how they have a “modified” version of what’s going on. I dunno, even when I read what they post, it seems pretty clear to me.

  48. #48 Joseph
    July 9, 2009

    What was an “interim order” according to Wakefield, today has become an “unannounced directive” that The Sunday Times is “defying.”

    This is the part that’s being debated:

    The Commission wished to take this opportunity – in advance of any formal ruling on the complaint – to make the following points:

    • Given the ongoing nature of the dispute, the articles should be removed from the newspaper’s website until this matter has been concluded. This would not be an admission of any liability on the part of the newspaper.

    Note that Wakefield’s first post argued that it was an admission of liability. If anyone made a mockery of the PCC’s wishes, it was Wakefield.

  49. #49 Chris
    July 9, 2009

    Okay, so now it seems that not only has Wakefield shot himself in both feet, he does not even realize it. He is like Monty Python’s Black Knight, but with self-inflected wounds.

    Bang, bang! It is just a flesh wound. They have wronged me. Bang, bang! No, no I did nothing wrong!

  50. #50 Jen
    July 11, 2009

    I am particularly angry with Dr. Wakefield this week, for reasons that I will not detail here.

    He has set back autism research by at least a decade because of his arrogance, and my own child is paying the price for that.

    Get bent, Dr. Wakefield.

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