One of the themes that has grown in the past couple of years that Andrew Wakefield never said MMR causes autism. Rather, the story goes, he was a cautious researcher who merely reported what parents told him and called for more research to be done.
Here is an example by Mr. Dan Olmsted of the Age of Autism blog:
That Early Report – which appeared in 1998 in the Lancet, Britain’s other leading medical journal – noted that in eight of the 12 children (including Thomas’s), parents linked the onset of symptoms to the MMR shot, and it called for more research to see if a link in fact existed. It said no link to the MMR was established by the simple case series report.
Despite that cautious approach, the report and its aftermath sparked a firestorm that, fueled by Deer, ultimately led to Wakefield losing his medical license and to the Lancet retracting the report. Yet thousands of parents continue to support Wakefield and describe the same sequence of shot and symptoms as parents in the original case series. Mainstream media, medical groups, public health officials and pharmaceutical companies say any link has been discredited.
For those who have actually followed the Wakefield/MMR story, the idea that Mr. Wakefield’s approach could be described as “cautious” is difficult to swallow. The idea that the “firestorm” was fueled by Mr. Deer is an odd assertion at the best. Mr. Wakefield’s now-retracted Lancet paper was published coincident with an anything-but-cautious press conference in February 1998. Mr. Deer started reporting in the story in February of 2004. But this is off topic. Mr. Wakefield is repeatedly cited as merely calling “for more research to see if a link existed”.
Mr. Olmsted is not the only one to use the “only called for more research” theme. Dr. Bob Sears, for example, stated:
1. Dr. Wakefield’s study never claimed there was a link between the MMR and autism – it only suggested a possible correlation between the MMR vaccine triggering intestinal inflammation which seems to occur in some children with autism. He basically called for MORE research to be done on this.
To be fair, the “only called for more research” theme goes back quite a way. Here is a news story from 2003.
The problem for Mr. Wakefield’s supporters is that Mr. Wakefield did not limit his discussion to the Lancet. As already noted, he held a press conference to announce his results and has made many more statements over the years. More to the point, Mr. Wakefield *did* say that the MMR causes autism.
Here is a collection of Mr. Wakefield’s statements which range from suggesting a possibility that the MMR causes autism to outright claiming that he “has shown” that the use of the MMR vaccine causes autism.
Mr. Wakefield’s patent application states clearly and unequivocally that the MMR vaccines has “been shown” to cause “pervasive developmental disorder”:
“It has now also been shown that use of the MMR vaccine (which is taken to include live attentuated measles vaccine virus, measles virus, mumps vaccine virus and rubella vaccine virus, and wild strains of the aforementioned viruses) results in ileal lymphoid nodular hyperplasia, chronic colitis and pervasive developmental disorder including autism (RBD), in some infants.”
I have also found that regressive behavioral disorder (RBD) in children is associated with measles, mumps and rubella vaccination.
More examples include:
In the 1998 Lancet paper (now retracted), the MMR is referred to as one of the “the apparent precipitating events”
In sworn testimony in a congressional hearing Mr. Wakefield states that an “environmental insult” (previously discussed at length as vaccination) “in many children, clearly, the subset of autistics, it leads to gut infection and damage…”
So finally, in summary, we have an environmental insult in perhaps a genetically susceptible child. The problem is that if you go to Sweden now, autism affects over 1.2 percent of the pediatric population. So if there is a genetic background, it is clearly widely distributed within the population. We believe that in many children, clearly, the subset of autistics, it leads to gut infection and damage; that leads to an ingress, an impaired metabolism, degradation of these chemicals from the gut which then get through and impact upon the brain.
In the video for the press conference for his (now retracted) 1998 Lancet paper, Mr. Wakefield stated that the single (monovalent) vaccines are “safer than the polyvalent”. How can they be safer if there isn’t a proven link to autism?
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.
and his feeling is that “the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine…”:
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.
From the Power of One Idea” rally, Washington DC, April 21, 2002. Mr. Wakefield informs the public that public health officials have failed and “Among the reasons for this failure is the fact that they are faced with the prospect that they themselves may be responsible for the epidemic”:
We are in the midst of an international epidemic. Those responsible for investigating and dealing with this epidemic have failed. Among the reasons for this failure is the fact that they are faced with the prospect that they themselves may be responsible for the epidemic.
Therefore, in their efforts to exonerate themselves they are an impediment to progress. I believe that public health officials know there is a problem; they are, however, willing to deny the problem and accept the loss of an unknown number of children on the basis that the success of public health policy – mandatory vaccination – by necessity involves sacrifice.
Neither I, nor my colleagues subscribe to the belief that any child is expendable. History has encountered and dealt with such beliefs.
You, the parent’s and children, are the source of the inspiration and strength for our endeavours; our quest for truth through science – a science that is compassionate, uncompromising and uncompromised.
I do not mean to stir you to mutiny, but be assured that armed with this science it is in your power to force this issue, in your pediatricians office, in Congress, in the Law Courts.
Keep faith with your instincts. They have served you well.
From a news story (Shame on officials who say MMR is safe) in 2001, Mr. Wakefield is quoted discussing how there are “long-term adverse reactions that I believe we are now seeing”.
Our new paper is not anti-vaccine. It is about the safest way in which to deliver these vaccines to children in order to protect them against acute infectious disease and against the long-term adverse reactions that I believe we are now seeing
From a BBC news program in 2002. The regression following MMR is referred to as “not a coincidence”:
WAKEFIELD: .. these children received not one dose but three doses of the MMR vaccine, and what we see in many of these children is a double hit phenomenon. They regress after the first dose and then they regress further after the second dose. This child did not receive his first MMR vaccine until he was 4 years 3 months of age. He then deteriorated into autism, a disintegrative disorder. He then received his second dose at 9 years of age and disintegrated catastrophically. He became incontinent of faeces and urine and he lost all his residual skills. This is not coincidence.
This is not to be considered an exhaustive list. I won’t be surprised if more quotes from Mr. Wakefield are in the media. But these should suffice: Mr. Wakefield has, repeatedly, stated that MMR causes autism.