Is Andrew Wakefield a Criminal?

If you’ve read my posts about vaccination in the past you’ll know that the infamous “MMR causes Autism” is NOT one of my reasons for not vaccinating.  Vaccination may or may not, in conjunction with various other circumstances, contribute to Autism.  Either way there are plenty of other reasons to think twice about vaccination.  However, I was so saddened by this recent article at Advanced Pediatrics blog[1. disclosure: I designed Advanced Pediatrics blog, FB, and twitter accounts].  It is inflammatory, incorrect, and misses the larger issues of vaccine adverse effects.

Here’s why this makes me so sad.  Dr. Lavin, who wrote the post, is Aellyn’s pediatrician.  It took me quite a while to find a pediatrician that would even see a child who will not be vaccinated.  I really like Dr. Lavin as a doctor.  He has never hassled us about vaccines (nor has his staff) and he is not alarmist.  For example, he has never taken Aellyn’s temperature – for some reasons thermometers have become de rigeur in doctor offices which conflates body temperature’s role in illness.  I also just LOVE that Dr. Lavin does not take pharmaceutical company handouts.  I feel very confident in his medical advice when he isn’t writing it out with a Eli Lilly pen surrounded by Merck posters or Enfamil freebies.  It is hard to find a doctor that eschews the goodies drug companies are all too eager to hand out.

I’m also not surprised that he recommends routine vaccination.  I did not need a pediatrician that was anti-vax just one that would respect my views, which he does.  So, I didn’t become incensed when he posted about Swine Flu and the vaccine.  It doesn’t bother me that he conflates “vaccine” with “immunization.”  I also really like some of his posts like this one on eating your fruits and vegetables and this one on the effects of music on brain development.  All this combines to make me truly shocked at the inaccuracies and vitriol of his recent post.  So with all due apologies to a doctor I respect very much – this post could not go unanswered.

The title of his post is,

A Criminal Hoax is Coming to an End- Autism and Dr. Wakefield

Excuse me while I shiver at that incendiary title.  Fox News called they want their drama-inducing segment title back! The article goes on to say,

[Dr. Wakefield] was exposed as a charlatan, sought by British authorities, fled the United Kingdom, and just recently stripped of his license to practice medicine in Britain.  He fled to Arizona where he has opened a clinic recently.

He didn’t “flee” the UK.  He had an autism clinic in Texas since 2004.  He is NOT a criminal and has NOT been convicted of a crime.  His license to practice medicine was revoked – hardly the same as putting him on America’s Most Wanted.

The next section of the article is called The Hoax, stating,

In 1998 Dr. Wakefield published a paper in which he claimed that the measles virus in measles vaccine caused a chronic, semi-permanent infection in the guts of young children, opening their bloodstreams to toxins that caused autism.

He did not “claim” that anything caused autism.  Actually, he said,

We did not prove an association between measles mumps and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described…If there is a causal link between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and this syndrome, a rising incidence might be anticipated after the introduction of this vaccine in the UK in 1988. Published evidence is inadequate to show whether there is a change in incidence22 or a link with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.23 A genetic predisposition to autistic-spectrum disorders is suggested by over-representation in boys and a greater concordance rate in monozygotic than in dizygotic twins..Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to the vaccine.

Feel free to read his whole article here.  It is a five page clinical report of twelve children with “chronic enterocolitis and regressive developmental disorder.”  The fact is he merely reported his clinical findings (as opposed to experimental results) and hypothesized a possible cause.  The job of a scientist is to make hypothesis for further study.  It sounds earily similar to other calls for research on the link between gastrointestinal disorders and Autsim Spectrum (source: SafeMinds):

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) – Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders in Individuals With ASDs: A Consensus Report states “The evidence for abnormal gastrointestinal permeability in individuals with ASDs is limited. Prospective studies should be performed to determine the role of abnormal permeability in neuropsychiatric manifestations of ASDs.” (Statement 5).

• AAP also says in their Recommendations for Evaluation and Treatment of Common Gastrointestinal Problems in Children With ASDs that “Well-designed trials are needed to develop an evidence base for optimal diagnostic and treatment strategies to manage gastrointestinal disorders in children with ASDs.”

• The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) National CADDRE Study: Child Development and Autism states that, “A number of factors will be studied for their potential link with ASDs. These factors were picked after an in-depth look at existing studies…These factors include…Gastrointestinal features: The study will follow up on reports that children with autism have abnormal gastrointestinal function, and whether it might be related to the causes of autism.”

Dr. Lavin describes why he feels Dr. Wakefield is a “charlatan” and a hoaxter:

  • British authorities have established that his publication contained false data and claims.
  • The journal that published his article retracted its publication for reasons of unreliability
  • The British authorities have stripped Dr. Wakefield’s medical license for the gravity of his deception http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100524/ap_on_sc/eu_britain_autism_doctor

Actually the U.K’s General Medical Council (GMC) never reviewed his data or experimental methods, they ruled based on “unethical behavior” due to his method of drawing blood from the 12 patients (despite having parental consent and their full support). Furthermore, Dr. Wakefield’s 36 other studies that took place since the 1998 article in question have not been questioned at all.  Dr. Lavin continues,

  • Dr. Wakefield has been found by British authorities to be paid by lawyers of children with autism

There is no substantiation for this claim.  However, even if it were true he would only be a minor player in the “conflict of interest” problem in the vaccine community.  Dr. Paul Offit, who sat on the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices (ACIP) committee holds 2 vaccine patents. Dr. Sam Katz also sat on the ACIP committee even though he is the developer of the MMR vaccine, and Dr. Julie Gerberding, after serving eight years as head of the CDC, was recently named President of Merck vaccines, just to name a few.

  • Not a single reputable scientific investigation has been able to find any proof that Dr. Wakefield’s claims were true and many such investigations found them to be false.

Au contraire.  See: Detection and Sequencing of Measles Virus from Peripheral Mononuclear Cells from Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Autism and Dysregulated Innate Immune Responses in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Their Relationship to Gastrointestinal Symptoms and Dietary Intervention.

  • In particular, a Danish study of 500,000 children found that the 100,000 children who got no vaccinations developed autism anyway, at the same rate as the immunized kids.  Not giving immunizations spares no one from autism.

While I agree that this Danish study is compelling it in fact compared vaccinated kids who did not get the MMR with vaccinated kids who did get the MMR.  Back to the old problem of running experiments where the controls are taking another vaccine.  Furthermore, this study looked only at psychiatric records and not medical records so there was no correlation to Dr. Wakefield’s research on GI problems.  Personally, my biggest problem with this study, like so many others, is that it is epidiomological.  What we really need is biological research.  But Dr. Lavin also says “Not giving immunizations spares no one from autism.”  Really.  What about Hannah Polling?

The rest of Dr. Lavin’s article focuses on how “Dr. Wakefield’s hoax dropped immunization rates in communities across the US and Europe” and people died.  I hate when the vaccine debate is framed in terms of it springing wholesale from Wakefields lips (or worse yet, from Jenny McCarthy’s).  Vaccine reactions are not limited to MMR and did not begin in 1998! Poor Barbara Loe Fischer!

I don’t care if you want to get MMR for your child.  I don’t care if, as a doctor, you want to recommend it to your patients.  I do object to an article that tells half of the story with inflammatory language.  I object to having my miles of research relegated to being a “Jenny and Jim” fan or “being too young to understand the diseases.”  All I want is honesty and a little respect.


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3 thoughts on “Is Andrew Wakefield a Criminal?

  1. I don’t understand why the medical community does not recognize autism experts for what they are: autism experts. How can a physician say that vaccines don’t contribute to the development of autism when he is not an autism expert? When so much evidence is ignored, I can only think there must be a conflict of interest.
    .-= Lisa C´s last blog ..Our Lullabies =-.

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  2. Pingback: 6 Weeks, 26 Months, 5 years and a Decade plus 2!

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