Andrew Wakefield: Dead man walking

Matt...Matt! You don't know the history of vaccines. I do. Matt...Matt...Matt.

On Monday there’s an excellent chance that Andrew Wakefield, the man most responsible for the modern incarnation of the anti-vaccine movement, will no longer have a medical license. I wish I could say it’s been a fun ride but it hasn’t. Wakefield abused his medical position by accepting money from lawyers trying to build a case against the MMR vaccine, performed serious medical procedures on twelve children at a birthday party instead of in a medical facility as part of a “study” (or a non-study–Wakefield can never seem to make up his mind about this) designed to implicate MMR in autism, and then used the very public hysteria he created without proper cause to try to patent his own rival vaccine.

The man has done great harm to public safety and now it’s time for him to go:

The inquiry has finally drawn to its conclusion, and Andrew Wakefield — known as “the MMR doctor” — is likely to be struck off the medical register for what the five-member tribunal has already labelled “dishonest”, “unethical” and “callous” research.

In withdrawing his licence to practise, the council will be laying to rest a huge scare that spread rapidly among parents, causing a massive slump in the number of children who were vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella in Britain. Two children subsequently died of measles and many others became seriously ill.

Though constant showman that he is, Andy isn’t going without using up the last of his fifteen minutes of infamy. He’s going to be interviewed by Matt Lauer on Monday morning’s Today Show. His loyal followers over at Age of Autism are already trying to rally supporters to be outside the studio at 30 Rock as the interview is taking place at 8am.

My friend Tim Farley of whatstheharm.net let me know about their plans and suggested NYC-based skeptics mount a science-based response outside 30 Rock. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can make it there at that time but maybe others can.

Then again, it might not even be necessary. I don’t think AoA has the power to raise an army for a Monday morning protest that quickly and even if they can, I think there’s a good chance they’ll only end up hanging themselves (as well as Wakefield) by looking even more nuts.

While I expect a fairly softball interview from Lauer, that didn’t help Tom Cruise. The media seems to have grown tired of the anti-vaccine movement and now that Wakefield’s moments away from complete disgrace, Lauer’s going to want to use this opportunity to look like he’s a hard-hitting journalist. He’s not going to want to appear like he’s in any way supporting the guy who’s on his way to the firing squad. And if we’re lucky, this will be Wakefield’s “You don’t know the history of psyciatry; I do” moment. All Lauer needs is to get off two or three good questions and I expect this will not end well for the Wakefield.

The future of the anti-vaccine movement is in your hands, Matt. Don’t let us down.

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6 Responses to Andrew Wakefield: Dead man walking

  1. beneficii says:

    A little off-topic, but look at what religion has been used for here:

    http://aebrain.blogspot.com/2010/05/meanwhile-in-malawi.html

    It seems that the spread of Christianity in Africa has been turning it into even a greater hellhole than before.

  2. For all the snide emotionalism of your comment on Dr. Wakefield, you have both obscured and ignored several important issues in your article.
    First, no vaccine, including the dangerous (yes, dangerous) MMR vaccine has been tested for either safety or efficacy, despite the fact that US law requires both. Second, adjuvants are never tested for safety, despite the fact that they are immune system irritants and, like squalene and aluminum, are known nervous system and immune system toxins.
    Third, the increases in the incidence and prevalence of autism are directly proportional to numbers of vaccinated children and MMR is an unnecessary shot of no medical worth and considerable medical harm. It, like every other vaccine, has never been subjected to a placebo controlled, double blind study to show if there is any beneficial effect on those who take it, making it an untested and therefore, at least in the US, illegal drug, if enforcement were not selective and shamefully economically, not scientifically, applied.
    When a corrupt and dangerous regulatory agency like the FDA threatens that it will turn walnuts into an untested, and therefore illegal, drug if the company that markets them does not remove the independent scientific study from its website that shows that walnuts could be good for your health (as it did with the Michigan Cherry Grower’s Association when they posted 6 articles showing that cherries can help with various types of arthritis) but permits dangerous experimental drugs which have never been safety tested to be injected into millions of children, there is neither logic nor science at work here.
    I do not know your background, but I know that your nasty tone and irrational defense of vaccines identifies you as an emotional, not a rational, skeptic. Surely you can do better as a skeptic, (“Etymology: Latin or Greek; Latin scepticus, from Greek skeptikos, from skeptikos thoughtful, from skeptesthai to look, consider – Merriam-Webster Dictionary”) since your skeptical credo requires you not just to attack conventional beliefs (which you are failing to do by blindly accepting vaccines as beneficial – a justified cause for real skepticism – but to explore the scientific basis of the belief. You are, in fact, doing neither. Instead, your knee-jerk defense of an unproven and dangerous medical practice shows your lack of true evaluative, skeptical through.
    Try again.
    Yours in health and freedom,
    Dr. Rima
    Rima E. Laibow, MD
    Medical Director
    Natural Solutions Foundation

  3. mjr256 says:

    “First, no vaccine, including the dangerous (yes, dangerous) MMR vaccine has been tested for either safety or efficacy, despite the fact that US law requires both.”

    This is factually not true. In fact, it takes less 30 seconds to confirm this is not true by simply going to Pubmed and looking it up: “MMR safety efficacy.” It took LESS THAN 30 SECONDS to find just 18 studies related to MMR alone. And when I do nothing but replace the word “MMR” with “vaccine” in my search, I get 2445 hits. Every single vaccine undergoes years of clinical testing before it even gets on the market to begin with. Then its continually checked again and again for both safety and efficacy. So if your idea of “natural solutions” involves making shit up, I suggest a career change.

    “Second, adjuvants are never tested for safety, despite the fact that they are immune system irritants and, like squalene and aluminum, are known nervous system and immune system toxins.”

    That’s strike two. I added the word “adjuvent” to my Pubmed search after the word “vaccine” and got 198 hits right away. It took 3 seconds to find just some of the studies you insist don’t exist.

    Here’s just one study addressing squalene:
    “Enhancement of an analytical method for the determination of squalene in anthrax vaccine adsorbed formulations.”
    Spanggord RJ, Sun M, Lim P, Ellis WY. – J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2006 Oct 11;42(4):494-9. Epub 2006 Jun 9.
    PMID: 16762524
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16762524?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=4

    And here’s one addressing aluminum:
    “The Common Vaccine Adjuvant Aluminum Hydroxide Up-Regulates Accessory Properties of Human Monocytes via an Interleukin-4-Dependent Mechanism
    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=97997

    And here’s some secondary material debunking this argument as well:
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=851
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=1296
    http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2009/09/swine_flu_vaccines_adjuvants_e.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2009/09/swine_flu_vaccines_adjuvants_e_1.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/whitecoatunderground/2009/10/playing_catch_up_on_flu_rumors.php
    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=1136
    http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE5AJ2LM20091120
    [audio src="http://www.quackcast.com/spodcasts/files/podcast_34.mp3" /]
    http://www.immunizationinfo.org/vaccine_components_detail.cfv?id=61
    http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/ff_waronscience_argument

    “Third, the increases in the incidence and prevalence of autism are directly proportional to numbers of vaccinated children and MMR is an unnecessary shot of no medical worth and considerable medical harm.”

    Now that’s strike three. You’re either the worst researcher in the world or a liar. Even if there were a correlation, that doesn’t mean there is a causation. And in this case there isn’t even a correlation. Not with MMR and not with ANY VACCINE.
    1. Epidemiological studies from numerous countries around the world show no difference in the rate of autism among vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.
    2. Boys are four times more likely to develop autism than girls despite there being no difference in vaccination.
    I could go on but this alone should be a sufficient to reasonably demonstrate lack of correlation.

    Here are some more of those studies you can’t seem to find:

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health_medicine/4345610.html?page=1

    Thimerosal Studies:
    1. Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintance Organization Database – Pediatrics, Thomas Verstraeten, MD (November 2003)
    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/112/5/1039?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=thimerosal&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT
    2. Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence from Danish Population-Based Data – Pediatrics, Kreesten M. Madsen, MD (September 2003)
    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/112/3/604
    3. Continuing Increases in Autism Reported to California’s Developmental Services System – Archives of General Psychiatry, Robert Schechter, MD (January 2008)
    http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/65/1/19

    I could go on but let’s look at some MMR studies:
    1. Lack of Association Between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study – PLoS One, Mady Hornig, Thomas Briese T, et al. (September 2008)
    “This study provides strong evidence against association of autism with persistent MV RNA in the GI tract or MMR exposure. Autism with GI disturbances is associated with elevated rates of regression in language or other skills and may represent an endophenotype distinct from other ASD.”
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0003140
    2. MMR Vaccination and Pervasive Developmental Disorders: A Case-Control Study – The Lancet, Liam Smeeth, MRCGP, Eric Fombonne, MD (September 11, 2004)
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15364187
    3. Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links With Immunizations – Pediatrics, Eric Fombonne, MD (July 2006)
    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/118/1/e139

    I could go on. You can find those studies and many other examples of relevant medical literature by going to Pubmed and just copying and pasting any of the following number sets into the search bar:
    12949291; 18180424; 19171612; 12880876; 17898097; 14519711; 12480426; 17508426; 18769550; 15364187; 16818529; 11581466; 15877763; 18252754; 12415036; 12860782; 19128068; 17168158; 19015994; 18172138; 18482737; 18180423; 8699562; 16885548

    “It, like every other vaccine, has never been subjected to a placebo controlled, double blind study to show if there is any beneficial effect on those who take it, making it an untested and therefore, at least in the US, illegal drug, if enforcement were not selective and shamefully economically, not scientifically, applied.”

    This is half true. No, researchers have not given tens of thousands of children placebos instead of real medicine because that would be extraordinarily unethical. That does not mean the vaccines are “untested.” While double blind, placebo controlled studies are the ideal gold standard of evidence, you’re saying it’s the only game in town, which is patently not true. This is the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy. There are many ways to test medical science that don’t involve depriving tens of thousands of children of medicine. Such as epidemiological studies, which again have been done in many countries and shown no distinction in the rate of autism among vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. If your claim was true that it was the vaccines that cause autism, then this would be impossible. Even if you were to downplay your position to saying vaccines are just the biggest factor among several other factors, then one would still expect a lower rate of autism among the unvaccinated. If that’s not the case, then it’s only reasonable to assume that either no such relationship exists or vaccines play such a small role in autism as to be completely irrelevant. The invisible and the non-existent look remarkably similar.

    It also goes both ways. If you’re saying the vaccines are “untested” then how can you assert with any authority that they cause or contribute to autism. You said they were untested, so how would you know? What can be asserted without evidence can just as easily be dismissed without evidence. And given the long history of these vaccines being proven to be both incredibly safe and effective, the burden of proof is on you to prove otherwise. Good luck considering you can’t even find any vaccine studies at all.

    “I do not know your background, but I know that your nasty tone and irrational defense of vaccines identifies you as an emotional, not a rational, skeptic. Surely you can do better as a skeptic, (“Etymology: Latin or Greek; Latin scepticus, from Greek skeptikos, from skeptikos thoughtful, from skeptesthai to look, consider – Merriam-Webster Dictionary”) since your skeptical credo requires you not just to attack conventional beliefs (which you are failing to do by blindly accepting vaccines as beneficial – a justified cause for real skepticism – but to explore the scientific basis of the belief. You are, in fact, doing neither. Instead, your knee-jerk defense of an unproven and dangerous medical practice shows your lack of true evaluative, skeptical through.”

    It’s amazing to me that you can go through the trouble of copying the etymology of the word “skeptic” and yet STILL fail to accurately represent what skepticism is. It does not mean blind rejection of “conventional beliefs” as you suggest. If it did, that would be just as bad as blind acceptance of a belief. Skepticism, in short, means making one’s level of belief proportional to the level of evidence for that belief. What you describe is a contrarian or a denier, someone who bases their own beliefs on how popular or unpopular those beliefs are. Reality, however, is not a popularity contest. And the truth is the truth whether a million people believe it or one person does. How popular a belief is says nothing about its validity.

    I could go on but what’s the point? Ms. Laibow has made no attempt to present any positive evidence for any of her claims. Nor can she without exposing her dishonesty, since her position is that vaccines are untested. Anything that even loosely resembles research would immediately contradict that claim. But she hasn’t done even 30 seconds of actual research. And her entire case rests on a grand conspiracy that demonizes any reputable source that has evidence inconvenient to her position. I guess that’s what it takes to be the Medical Director of The Natural Solutions Foundation.

  4. TWoodcockII says:

    mjr256, for a person who writes very well your research lacks luster. It is easy for anyone to query PubMed.org yet it also leaves a lot of questions. You can’t possibly believe that you can understand the scope of scientific study be reading the title. You also fail to seek or produce the financial backers of the studies you so righteously uphold. If you cared to dig a little deeper your theory that Rima Laibow, MD hasn’t done any actual research would be debunked. You fail to recognize the key scientific facts that vaccines are not safety tested. Before you continue to pontificate…know what you are looking for and browse pubmed for more than 30 seconds.

    • mjr256 says:

      Aww, yeah I hate when people cite research that disagrees with my beliefs too. But then, if the research is solid and holds up to the scrutiny of experts, I get over it, accept new evidence, and change my beliefs according to the evidence. As I told Ms. Laibow, that was only the research gathered in under a minute. There’s plenty more where that came from.

      “It is easy for anyone to query PubMed.org yet it also leaves a lot of questions.”

      Well yeah, no one study explains everything. For instance, not one of the vaccine studies I’ve seen explains why the sky is blue. And if you look at research that demonstrates how the sky is blue, it doesn’t say anything about vaccines. And there’s plenty of things we still don’t know. So what? Just because we don’t know EVERYTHING, that doesn’t mean we know nothing.

      “You can’t possibly believe that you can understand the scope of scientific study be reading the title.”

      I never suggested you read only the titles; on the contrary, if you really care about this issue, I urge you to take the time to read the whole studies.

      “You also fail to seek or produce the financial backers of the studies you so righteously uphold. ”

      Irrelevant. You can’t address the science because you don’t understand it, so you just make baseless accusations to deny claims that go against your ideology. I don’t know if you know this Mr. McCarthy, but in America people are innocent until proven otherwise. We also live in a capitalist society, comrade, and that means people pay for things. The fact that somebody paid for the studies because they weren’t free is not incriminating in any way. So unless you can present evidence of a conspiracy that satisfies the standards of evidence followed in a court of law, you’re just dispicable gossip who will say anything to promote your ideology. And if you have a problem with any particular facts in the studies, by all means let’s hear them. Either put up or shut up.

      “If you cared to dig a little deeper your theory that Rima Laibow, MD hasn’t done any actual research would be debunked.”

      I didn’t say she didn’t do any actual research. I said given her statements, she either hasn’t done the research or she’s a deliberate liar. And I can’t find a single published study by her anywhere. Not about vaccines nor any medical treatment for that matter.

      “You fail to recognize the key scientific facts that vaccines are not safety tested.”

      On the contrary, I specifically demonstrated that claim to be false and pointed you directly to a mammoth sized database full of literally thousands of independent studies that demonstrate that false by an order of magnitude.

      “Before you continue to pontificate…know what you are looking for and browse pubmed for more than 30 seconds.”

      And again, I never claimed 30 seconds is all that is necessary ever. I only demonstrated that 30 seconds was all that was necessary to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that Ms. Laibow is full of shit. It also only took 30 seconds of reading your insipid comment to illustrate that you’re full of shit too. Keep drinkin’ the Kool-Aid, pal.

    • beneficii says:

      “You fail to recognize the key scientific facts that vaccines are not safety tested.”

      But they sorta are (q.v. the Pubmed research found by the author, and any other resource–hell, go to a university medical school and ask them). Now of course they could all be under the control of Supreme Overlord Xon, but we don’t know that and haven’t seen any evidence and don’t have any reason to believe that, so we don’t think about it.

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