Andrew Wakefield is having a rough time these days. His famed study linking autism and MMR was retracted by the Lancet. He was stripped of his medical license because his study was not only wrong, but was conducted unethically… and now, according to Brian Deer at the BMJ, he’s not only wrong; he’s not only a little unethical; he’s a God Damned Mother Fucking LiarÂ®. Straight up mother fucking liar.
Seems all this hubbub about Big Pharma profiting off of vaccines and lying about the safety of vaccines may have been what psychologists refer to as “projecting”. Or… more likely what psychologists and lay people alike call, “lying like a goddamn mother fucking liar to cover your own ass for profit.” Because, you see, Wakefield didn’t just conduct a bad study. His study was a fraud.
Now I’m not talking about someone fudging some statistics. He didn’t just take data and do funky magic anti-vax math with it. He changed the data. He changed the stories of his subjects. He flat out lied. His subjects were fictional characters based on real children he interacted with during his study. (The study you are about to read is based on a true story. All names and clinical data have been changed to protect the innocent… and by “innocent” we mean “money”… and by “money” we mean the nearly Â£500,000 (~US$760,000) he was paid by attorney Richard Barr to come up with evidence to support a lawsuit against vaccineÂ manufacturers.)
Wakefield was “looking for” (read: already concluded) a link between MMR, regressive autism and non-specific colitis. Deer writes:
â€œChildren with enteritis/disintegrative disorder [an expression he used for bowel inflammation and regressive autism] form part of a new syndrome,â€ he and Barr Â explained in a confidential grant application to the UK governmentâ€™s Legal Aid BoardÂ before any of the children were investigated.Â â€œNonetheless the evidence is undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology.â€
The two men also aimed to show a sudden-onset â€œtemporal associationâ€â€”strong evidence in product liability. â€œDr Wakefield feels that if we can show a clear time link between the vaccination and onset of symptoms,â€ Barr told the legal board, â€œwe should be able to dispose of the suggestion that itâ€™s simply a chance encounter.â€
And looking at his findings, you’ll see that he sure did seem to find a link. 9/12 of the children had regressive autism (which is a form of autism that results in the loss of previously mastered skills and milestones, compared to classical autism where the child will fail to meet the milestones to begin with), 11/12 had colitis and 8/12 of those children developed symptoms within days of receiving the MMR. Half the children studied hit the trifecta with both autism and colitis developing within days of the vaccine.
As a lay person, I don’t know how impressive those numbers are… but for 12 years the Lancet thought they were good enough to publish, so I’ll appeal to their authority and say “WOW! Yowza! That’s amazing! I’m never vaccinating my children! It’s too scary! They’ll become autistic and have poo problems! If MMR can cause this, what else can it cause?” (The lay definition of “non-specific colitis” is “poo problems” BTW. )
But when you break it down, case by case, and look at the information that Wakefield presented vs what Brian Deer discovered, you find that the link is not as strong… or, if you prefer more precise language, totally fucking imaginary.
Let’s take, for example, “Child 11”. Child 11 was one of the reported trifecta kids. According to Wakefield, 11 experienced his firstÂ autisticÂ and bowel symptoms within one week of receiving is MMR vaccine. But 11’s father, and medical records, say otherwise.
. . .â€œHis developmental milestones were normal until 13 months of age,â€ notes the discharge summary. â€œIn the period 13-18 months he developed slow speech patterns and repetitive hand movements. Over this period his parents remarked on his slow gradual deterioration.â€
That put the first symptom two months earlier than reported in theÂ Lancet, and a month before the boy received the MMR vaccination. And this was not the only anomaly to catch the fatherâ€™s eye. What the paper reported as a â€œbehavioural symptomâ€ was noted in the records as a chest infection.
So Child 11 did not suddenly become autistic after receiving his MMR. Yet, Wakefield reported that he did. It’s not clear whether or not his autism would be considered “regressive”. And he was never diagnosed with colitis.
â€œPlease let me know if Andrew W has his doctorâ€™s license revoked,â€ wrote Mr 11, who is convinced that many vaccines and environmental pollutants may be responsible for childhood brain disorders. â€œHis misrepresentation of my son in his research paper is inexcusable. His motives for this I may never know.â€
But you know, Mr Wakefield was performing a gigantic-scale study… certainly when you have that many patients something is bound to get confused or misinterpreted. I mean… twelve people. He doesn’t even have enough fingers to keep track of all those kids. And Kid 11 was one of the last kids examined for the study. By the time you get to like 8, aren’t they all the same anyway?
Hopefully Brian Deer’s entire claim that Wakefield is a God Damn Mother Fucking LiarÂ®Â is based on more than just one kid.
So… let’s get down to it. Besides Child 11, how many other kids were diagnosed with regressive autism and colitis within 14 days of getting vaccinated? Five. Five out of twelve is probably still a good number. How about we take a quick look at the five other trifecta kids.
Child 1Â â€”Â First possible symptom of autism, 9 months otherwise developed normally until 18 months… then, BAM, regressive autism! Just three months after getting his MMR at 15 months! But Wakefield reported that symptoms developed within days of receiving the shot… and… Wakefield reported that the first autistic symptoms started within one week!
But there’s still 4 more who fit all the criteria.
Child 2Â â€”Â Deer asked the child’s mother about his symptoms
Her concerns about MMR had been noted by her general practitioner when her son was 6 years old.Â But she told me the boyâ€™s troubles began after his vaccination, which he received at 15 months.Â â€œHeâ€™d scream all night, and he started head banging, which heâ€™d never done before,â€ she explained.
â€œWhen did that begin, do you think?â€ I asked.
â€œThat began after a couple of months, a few months afterward, but it was still, it was concerning me enough, I remember going back . . .â€
â€œSorry. I donâ€™t want to be, like, massively pernickety, but was it a few months, or a couple of months?â€
â€œIt was more like a few months because heâ€™d had this, kind of, you know, slide down. He wasnâ€™t right. He wasnâ€™t right. Before he started.â€
â€œNot quicker than two months, but not longer than how many months? What are we talking about here?â€
â€œFrom memory, about six months, I think.â€
Child 3Â â€”Â Never appeared to be developing normally, so obviously didn’t begin showing symptoms of regressing after MMR. Was not diagnosed with colitis, and it’s not clear whether any symptoms at all developed within 14 days of receiving the shot.
Child 4â€”Â Well…:
Multiple concerns of the parents and doctors over child 4â€™s development are documentedÂ before he received MMR. These include â€œdevelopmental delayâ€, â€œgeneral delayâ€ and restrictedÂ vocabulary. The boyâ€™s mother had persistent concerns that he was â€œdeafâ€, and there were alsoâ€œconcerns over his head and appearanceâ€
Ok, Child 6, you’re the only one left who gets a yes in every column! Give some Wakeylove to mommaÂ â€” Â What do you have for regressive autism?… Aspergers?! That’s not regressive autism! Did it at least start right after your MMR in June 1993? Yes? Yes? Yes!… Well, sort of.
Mom can’t keep her story straight and it changes with every single visit to every single doctor she sees. And there’s reason to believe she might be trying to say the right thing to win a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers.
Each of Wakefield’s strongest links were either ambiguous in at least one category, stretched to fit the criteria or flat out fabricated.
Deer sums up Wakefield’s wrongness:
How the link was fixed
The Lancet paper was a case series of 12 child patients; it reported a proposed â€œnew syndromeâ€ of enterocolitis and regressive autism and associated this with MMR as an â€œapparent precipitating event.â€ But in fact: Three of nine children reported with regressive autism did not have autism diagnosed at all. Only one child clearly had regressive autism Despite the paper claiming that all 12 children were â€œpreviously normal,â€ five had documented pre-existing developmental concerns Some children were reported to have experienced first behavioural symptoms within days of MMR, but the records documented these as starting some months after vaccination In nine cases, unremarkable colonic histopathology resultsâ€”noting no or minimal fluctuations in inflammatory cell populationsâ€”were changed after a medical school â€œresearch reviewâ€ to â€œnon-specific colitisâ€ The parents of eight children were reported as blaming MMR, but 11 families made this allegation at the hospital. The exclusion of three allegationsâ€”all giving times to onset of problems in monthsâ€”helped to create the appearance of a 14 day temporal link Patients were recruited through anti-MMR campaigners, and the study was commissioned and funded for planned litigation
Before reading Deer’s full article, I was thrilled. I wanted to dance, drunk and naked, around town in celebration. Wakefield was exposed!
But after reading it, I’m sad. I’m angered. I’m a little nauseous.
As happy as I am that he’s being outed as a liar and a fraud, I have a hard time celebrating theÂ hypocrisy, greed and narcissism that has unnecessarily killed thousands of people. He wanted a big pay off from a frivolous law suit. The rest of us just want our kids healthy. We worry about things like disease and autism because they’re not trivial to us. Our jobs as parents is to protect our children. Wakefield told parents that the only way to protect them was to not vaccinate… so they stopped. And now people are dead because of that.
Wakefield may be disgraced. He may have a destroyed career. But he continues to be hailed a hero amongst the anti-vax crowd. He’ll still get his speaker fees. He’ll still get his royalties. And his hoax will continue to scare parents and cost people their health for years to come.
And he continues to defend himself: