I’ve already reported that the anti-vaccine propaganda organization, the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN–I can never type that acronym without giggling), is going under. Well now its brainless leader, Meryl Dorey, is begging for change to save her precious AVN [hehe]. This woman has no shame and neither do the folks at Age of Autism. And in case anyone thinks I’m straw-manning Dorey, she begins her begging request by referring to her opponents as the “anti-choice movement.” Nobody is arguing against choice. It’s your lack of science to back your ideological claims that we object to.
Also on Age of Autism today was a message directly from Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy, the king and queen of crazyville themselves. They begin:
Dr. Andrew Wakefield is being discredited to prevent an historic study from being published that for the first time looks at vaccinated versus unvaccinated primates and compares health outcomes, with potentially devastating consequences for vaccine makers and public health officials.
Nonsense. Wakefield has been discredited long ago and it’s only now catching up to him. Further, we’ve already compared the health outcomes of vaccinated and unvaccinated populations in epidemiological studies. We’ve even got studies that compare autism rates specifically between these two types of populations. Just one example of this was published in the Lancet, the very journal that published (and has now retracted) Wakefield’s original study. (See: “Autism and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: no epidemiological evidence for a causal association” The Lancet, Volume 353, Issue 9169, Pages 2026-2029 – B.Taylor, E.Miller, C.Farrington, M.Petropoulos, I.Favot-Mayaud, J.Li, P.Waight).
It is our most sincere belief that Dr. Wakefield and parents of children with autism around the world are being subjected to a remarkable media campaign engineered by vaccine manufacturers reporting on the retraction of a paper published in The Lancet in 1998 by Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues
Yes, no one doubts your sincerity. We doubt your facts. The Lancet would be the first to call bullshit on your accusations as they’re the ones who finally decided to retract a study they’ve known for some time to be utter garbage. And the timing almost certainly was connected to the GMC’s verdict, not any alleged studies Wakefield happens to be working on. But if this study is so amazing, as you claim, then for the good of the research, Wakefield can always take his name off of it so it gets a fairer hearing. After all, it’s for kids and not his personal glory, right?
The retraction from The Lancet was a response to a ruling from England’s General Medical Council, a kangaroo court where public health officials in the pocket of vaccine makers served as judge and jury. Dr. Wakefield strenuously denies all the findings of the GMC and plans a vigorous appeal.
LOL. Yeah, it’s all of a sudden a kangaroo court because they ruled against your messiah. Can we say sour grapes? As always, it all just boils down to the conspirators ate our evidence. It must be so great to be able to spout off baseless conspiracy accusations without feeling the need to back up anything you say with evidence. How responsible of you. And Barbara Loe Fisher has the audacity to sue Paul Offit, Amy Wallace, and Conde Nast for Offit’s statement that “she lies”? This is far worse and they’re attacking officials in England where the libel laws are far harsher on the defendent side. It makes me hope someone sued Jim and Jenny in England.
Despite rampant misreporting, Dr. Wakefield’s original paper regarding 12 children with severe bowel disease and autism never rendered any judgment whatsoever on whether or not vaccines cause autism, and The Lancet’s retraction gets us no closer to understanding this complex issue.
Ah here we go. This is the new party line. Fortunately, Orac has already crushed it in response to Kim Stagliano’s statements on CNN:
Let’s go back and see what Wakefield wrote, shall we? First, there was this interpretation:
We identified associated gastrointestinal disease and developmental regression in a group of previously normal children, which was generally associated in time with possible environmental triggers.
And what was this “trigger”? Clearly, Wakefield wanted to implicate the MMR vaccine. It is true that he did write:
We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described. Virological studies are underway that may help to resolve this issue.
However, after you’ve been in the science biz a while, you come to recognize statements that are almost certainly there not because the author wants them to be there but because the reviewers of the manuscript forced the author to include them in the revised manuscript if they wanted their paper published. The above passage strikes this surgical scientist as being just one of those statements demanded by reviewers. One reason is that it sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the discussion; it caught my attention when I read it because it didn’t jibe with the rest. Moreover, Table 2 in the paper explicitly tries to link MMR vaccination to subsequent autistic regression and bowel symptoms. What the paper is trying to show is very clear, that one disclaimer notwithstanding, and those who know how to read scientific and medical journal articles can recognize that. Reinforcing that impression is what Wakefield writes later in the manuscript:
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.
We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.
Basically, the entire discussion comes across to me (and I’ve been in the science biz a while) as the result of reviewers reining in the more–shall we say?–speculative interpretations of Wakefield’s study. In any case, it’s very disingenuous of Wakefield and the anti-vaccine movement to claim that Wakefield never said that the MMR causes autism in the Lancet paper, given that the paper isn’t how the public learned about the study. It was the press, starting with the the press conference he gave upon the release of the study. In that press conference, Wakefield went far beyond what he wrote in the manuscript. Indeed, appearing in a 20-minute video released by the Royal Free Hospital, Wakefield laid down these gems:
No, the work certainly raises a question mark over MMR vaccine, but it is, there is no proven link as such and we are seeking to establish whether there is a genuine causal association between the MMR and this syndrome or not. It is our suspicion that there may well be but that is far from being a causal association that is proven beyond doubt.
OK, not so bad. Yet. Let’s see what else Wakefield said:
And I have to say that there is sufficient anxiety in my own mind of the safety, the long term safety of the polyvalent, that is the MMR vaccination in combination, that I think that it should be suspended in favour of the single vaccines, that is continued use of the individual measles, mumps and rubella components.
Uh-oh. Not so good.
INTERVIEWER: So you’re saying that a parent should still ensure that their child is inoculated but perhaps not with the MMR combined vaccine?DR ANDREW WAKEFIELD: Again, this was very contentious and you would not get consensus from all members of the group on this, but that is my feeling, that the, the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.
So Wakefield clearly believes this syndrome of autistic regression and bowel problems is due to the MMR, and he basically says so right here:
INTERVIEWER: Of course there’ll be many parents whose children have had this MMR vaccine who will now be concerned about what may happen to their children. What advice would you give to them?DR ANDREW WAKEFIELD: Well, the interesting thing is that the damage, the behavioural or developmental change tends to occur quite soon after administration, and this is where, why parents or GPs or paediatricians have been able to make the link, the association with MMR. So if that hasn’t happened then it is extremely unlikely to happen.
INTERVIEWER: But there are going to be parents now whose children are about to have the vaccination, and they’re gonna say: I’m not gonna risk it. What would you say to them?
DR ANDREW WAKEFIELD: Well, my message is for the Department of Health and the regulatory authorities, and that is that this needs urgent investigation; it needs funding and it needs the appropriate level of commitment in terms of basic scientific research and clinical research to answer the question. And until that time we cannot offer any definitive evident, any definitive message to parents about this.
INTERVIEWER: Sounds to be saying, you seem to be saying perhaps don’t?
DR ANDREW WAKEFIELD: My opinion, again, is that the monovalent, the single vaccines, measles, mumps and rubella, are likely in this context to be safer than the polyvalent vaccine.
BZZZZZZT! Wrong answer! In fact, as Dr. Mary Ramsay points out, this recommendation that the MMR vaccine be broken up into its separate components came out of nowhere. It wasn’t based on any evidence, either in Wakefield’s Lancet article or from anywhere else.
In any case, parents got the message Wakefield was laying down; only he didn’t lay it down in the paper itself. He was laying it down in his public appearances, aided and abetted by the sensation mongering credulous British press. Wakefield was telling them that the MMR could cause autism. Oh, sure, he qualified it with enough weasel words to appear cautious, but basically recommended that parents get single vaccines, rather than the trivalent vaccine (MMR), because the MMR was somehow not as safe, because he thinks it causes autistic regression. It’s all there, and it’s all clear. It’s also why whenever I hear an anti-vaccine loon like Kim Stagliano oh-so-piously and condescendingly proclaim that Andrew Wakefield never said that the MMR causes autism and said that it didn’t in the paper, I become quite annoyed at the half-truth and how they almost always leave out the press conferences Wakefield gave back in 1998 in which he wasn’t anywhere near so circumspect.
And antivaxers aren’t shy about pointing to the 1998 Lancet study as evidence of autism. Let’s take a look at what Generation Rescue’s deceptive 14 Studies website has to say about the study:
This study demonstrates that the MMR vaccine triggered autistic behaviors and inflammatory bowel disease in autistic children
D’oh! Maybe Ms. Stagliano should tell Mr. Handley that he’s wrong in his interpretation of this study. Wakefield never said that, right?
Alright, now back to Jim and Jenny:
Dr. Wakefield is one of the world’s most respected and well-published gastroenterologists. He has published dozens of papers since 1998 in well-regarded peer-reviewed journals all over the world. His work documenting the bowel disease of children with autism and his exploration of novel ways to treat bowel disease has helped relieve the pain and suffering of thousands of children with autism.
If by one of the world’s most respected, you mean most disreputable and least likely to ever work in medicine ever again, then I agree. His name is toast. He might was well be living in the McCarthy-era under the name Andre Wakefieldov. And if his reputation really was secure, he wouldn’t need dopey celebrities to defend him.
For the past decade, parents in our community have been clamoring for a relatively simple scientific study that could settle the debate over the possible role of vaccines in the autism epidemic once and for all: compare children who have been vaccinated with children who have never received any vaccines and see if the rate of autism is different or the same.
There’s nothing at all simple about the demands made by the anti-vaccinationists. First of all, David Kirby stated that once the thimerosal was gone, we’d see a decline in autism. The thimerosal has been gone for nine years and autism is continuing to rise. Kirby is still not satisfied. But regarding the alleged study that will satisfy the anti-vaxxers, this requires keeping thousands of children from getting medicine, which is highly unethical. As David Gorski has pointed out in another blog, this demand is damned near impossible to deliver.
I could go on but what’s the point. This is the same old garbage these cranks continue to feed us and now that the world is beginning to recognize how crazy they are, it’s probably better to just let them hang themselves.