Andrew Wakefield, MMR and….The Observer??

8 Jul

I have a category tag on this blog especially for the loons at the Daily Mail (Melanie Phillips et al) which I usually select whenever I write about Andrew Wakefield or the MMR because its invariably one of them doing the writing.

This time I was amazed to see that it was that usual bastion of intelligence and propriety, The Observer, that had decided to play the role of media dumbass. Obviously the mail and Private Eye are having an off day.

First up was Andrew Wakefield himself – comparing himself to Vaclav Havel no less he pontificates:

Wakefield told The Observer that he has no regrets for saying what he did in 1998 nor for continuing to seek to prove his view of MMR as the likeliest explanation for the rise in cases of autism in Britain. Almost every child health expert, though, regards the jab as hugely beneficial to public health and rules out any connection between it and autism.

‘My concern is that it’s biologically plausible that the MMR vaccine causes or contributes to the disease in many children, and that nothing in the science so far dissuades me from the continued need to pursue that question’, Wakefield said.

Nothing in the science? Is he joking?

How about the sworn testimony of Stephen Bustin, the world expert in the technique Wakefield’s lab of choice screwed up:

What I immediately observed was that they had forgotten to do the RT step…….If you detect a target that is apparently measles virus in the absence of an RT step by definition it can’t be measles virus because it has to be DNA. It’s a very simple concept. At least it is to me. It’s not to everyone else……[b]ecause measles virus doesn’t exist as a DNA molecule in nature, they cannot be detecting measles virus….

What’s not to get here Andy? Your lab fucked up. And whats more, in your original study, you ignored the fact that you had been proven wrong:

Q Okay. Did you personally test the gut biopsy samples for measles RNA?
A Yes.

Q What tests did you perform?
A A PCR test, a polymerase chain reaction.

Q What results did you receive from the gut biopsy materials for measles RNA?
A They were all negative.

Q They were always negative?
A Yes. There were a few cases of false positive results, which I used a method to see whether they were real positive results or false positive, and in every case they turned out to be false positive results. Essentially all the samples tested were negative.


Q So you personally tested while you were in Dr. Wakefield’s lab gut biopsy material, CSF and PBMCs?
A Yes, that’s right.

Q And all the results were either negative, or if they were positive it always turned out that they were false positives?
A Yes, that’s correct.

Q Did you inform Dr. Wakefield of the negative results?
A Yes. Yes.

Please, someone – anyone – I mean it, anyone. please explain to me _what science_ exists that supports Andrew Wakefield’s opinion that ‘it’s biologically plausible that the MMR vaccine causes or contributes to [autism]’.

Also in The Observer (where is the third to complete the Trifecta of Stupid?) is the story:

New health fears over big surge in autism

And how did The Observer know this?

A study, as yet unpublished, shows that as many as one in 58 children may have some form of the condition

An unpublished study…? So, in other words, hearsay? Is there any indication as to the methodology of this study?

Well, according to Public Address, the team used the CAST (Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test) tool for evaluation. CAST has the following conclusion applied to it by the team that developed it:

The CAST is useful as a screening test for autism spectrum conditions in epidemiological research. There is not currently enough evidence to recommend the use of the CAST as a screening test within a public health screening programme in the general population

Those sorts of questionnaires are preliminary, for children who *might* have an ASD, and who should be followed up. If you take the 1 in 58 having features that might make you suspicious of ASD, then it’s a much more realistic feature – go down the full diagnostic road and you’re going to find that not all of them have an ASD.

And yet this is trumpted as a new health fear? An alternate and much more accurate headline would be: _We think some kids may have autism but we haven’t really tested for it at all_ – not quite as snappy though I grant you.

And hey, how did this story get linked to the MMR?

Seven academics at Cambridge University, six of them from its renowned Autism Research Centre, undertook the research by studying children at local primary schools. Two of the academics, leaders in their field, privately believe that the surprisingly high figure may be linked to the use of the controversial MMR vaccine.

Well, well, I wonder how these two could be? Again, from Public Address (link as above):

Dr Fiona Scott and Dr Carol Stott. Stott is a psychologist and is about as qualified to comment on diseases of the gut, immunology and PCR testing (all of which are relevant to the MMR claims) as I am. But there’s more to it. Her name will be known to anyone who has looked at this saga. It was Stott who sent a string of abusive emails to Brian Deer, which led to a formal warning from the British Psychological Society. (Stott accused her colleagues of failing to support her in her battle with Deer because they were in thrall of drug companies.)

Campbell doesn’t tell his readers all that. He also forgets to note that Stott is no longer employed as a junior researcher at Cambridge. She now works with the California-based clinic Thoughtful House, which is run by – did you see this coming? – Andrew Wakefield. As you might expect, Deer takes a dim view of what goes on there.

Until Deer started writing about it, Stott and Dr Fiona Scott shared a website, on which they touted their “substantial experience in medico-legal and educational-legal expert witness work” to parents who might have been minded to pursue legal action in the belief that the MMR vaccine had caused their children’s autism.

It would appear that either or both of Stott and Scott are Campbell’s source, and that the timing of the story around Wakefield’s return to face the music before the GMC is no accident.

Suddenly, the story becomes clearer. Andrew Wakefield is on a PR campaign to paint himself as the beatific hero of the piece and his two glamorous assistants are happy to sell out their study partners in order to help him. of course, this will also entail rehashing all the unfounded and non-scientific fears about autism and MMR just to muddy the waters a bit.

I am not surprised at Wakefield or his two cronies. But The Observer? I’m surprised to say the least.

Update from Ben at Badscience

Ben has received email from Fiona Scott regarding this. Her email reads:

I can respond to your question in terms of the following which will be the
formal press release available from the National Autistic Society:

The Cambridge University Autism Research Centre have not yet released the
findings from their prevalence study, as the study is not yet complete. The
Cambridge researchers are surprised that an unpublished report of their work
was described out of context by the Observer. They are investigating how
this report was made available to the Observer. They are equally surprised
that the Observer fabricated comments attributed to their team. They do not
believe there is any link between rising prevalence and the MMR, or chemical
. It is untrue that Prof Baron-Cohen “was so concerned by the 1 in 58
figure that he proposed informing public health officials in the county “.
Such journalism raises anxiety unnecessarily and is irresponsible.

So it really does seem as if The Observer has out-and-out fabricated comments. Incredible.


Autism Diva
Autism Vox
Black Triangle
Mike Stanton
Public Address
Tim Worstall
Tony Hatfield

74 Responses to “Andrew Wakefield, MMR and….The Observer??”

  1. Shinga July 8, 2007 at 16:34 #

    Surprised and disappointed. There are too many flaws both Observer pieces to counter: the MSM put it out there and take no responsibility for the consequences (the obvious exception being Brian Deer and his outstanding work on this matter) or even its approximate accuracy.

    How many times are we going to have to revisit:
    there is not, nor has there ever been, any thiomersal/thimerosal in MMR vaccines because they are live vaccines (UK and USA);
    mercury is not 50% of thiomersal by weight (ignoring molecular weight discussions).

    The only thing missing was the Amish gambit and similar…

  2. HN July 8, 2007 at 16:54 #

    Also, how many times do people have to be reminded that this is the same MMR that was introduced in the USA in 1971. Why in the thirty plus years this vaccine has been in use, that it only “seemed” to cause a problem in the last 18 years after being introduced into the UK (the reason being the change of the mumps component, the Jeryl Lynn strain being safer than the Urabe strain).

    By the way, it is NOT the same one that was used in Japan (which had the Urabe strain). But because they stopped using the MMR, they now have had to close college campuses because of a measles outbreak:

  3. kristina July 8, 2007 at 16:56 #

    As soon as I saw the Havel reference……… very aggrandizing of the doctor, I would say.

  4. Gerry Lynch July 8, 2007 at 17:17 #

    Could someone at the Observer enlighten us as to whether there is a connection between Campbell and Stott or Scott?

  5. Brian Deer July 8, 2007 at 17:24 #

    My personal take on this is that somebody with a more legitimate claim to an interest than myself (as a mere journalist with no kids, developmentally-challenged or otherwise), should write to The Observer about this piece, and make it politely pretty damn clear that a correction or clarification is in order. To source a splash of that nature to Carol Stott and Fiona Scott, both of whom were handsomely-paid advisers (£100,000 and £27,000) to claimants in the MMR litigation, without making this clear, is certainly worthy of an investigation by the Press Complaints Commission. To describe them as “leaders in their field” was little more than a trick by Mr Campbell, or possibly the Observer newsdesk, to justify their inflammatory and baseless opinions. It’s quite obvious from what little we know about this (unpublished) alleged study that it would be entirely uninformative about MMR.

    We could all probably spend the rest of our lives trying to deal with this constant barrage of untruth that surrounds MMR, but I think there is a prima facie argument for the PCC to be brought in, on the basis that these deceitful stories – whether about Krigsman, or Aitken, or Halvosen, of Bradstreet, or Yazbak, or any of the other paid critics of MMR – need to be brought to an end.

    To be honest, I can’t think, off the top of my head, of a single person cited in media reports attacking MMR who wasn’t a litigant, a paid advisor, or some other person with an undisclosed axe to grind.

  6. bengoldacre July 8, 2007 at 17:47 #

    hear hear.

    campbell seems to be a sports reporter according to the observer biog, although he has written health stories in the past couple of years.

    he did pop up with this from wakefield in 2001, when he seems to have only been doing health stuff:,,610560,00.html

  7. Anthony July 8, 2007 at 18:19 #

    Excellent suggestion Brian.

  8. mike stanton July 8, 2007 at 20:18 #

    We need a torrent of letters to the Observer about this. It is some of the worst reporting I have seen since my run in with the Sunday Times when they ran an Action Against Autism press release as a story last year and ignored all my attempts to publish a factual correction.

  9. Lenny Schafer July 8, 2007 at 21:11 #

    Brian Deer is frantically casting stones against those who he says sin with self-interest. Many know better what Deer’s “personal take” is on this. His personal career (and fellow rhetorical thugs) is down the toilet once his own yellow journalism crusade against Wakefield is exposed and he is held accountable for helping to damage the health of so many children needlessly. I’d be posting hysterically, too.

  10. catherina July 8, 2007 at 21:30 #

    it is more sinning with sloppy science and intent to deceive…

  11. mike stanton July 8, 2007 at 21:30 #

    No, Lenny
    Brian is suggesting that the Observer is publishing an irresponsible scare story without foundation. The basis for this story is that two of the authors of an unpublished study personally believe that MMR is responsible for some cases of autism. The spin is that MMR is responsible for the alleged dramatic increase that is supposed to be in the aforementioned study.

    Carol Stott is one of the authors of the study and used to work as a junior researcher in Cambridge and is now employed by Andy Wakefield. She is the most likely source of the leaked report. She is described as a leading expert in her field. But her field is certainly not immunology or anything to do with Wakefield’s hypothesis. She is a psychologist. moreover she was paid over £100,000 as an expert witness for MMR litigants in the UK. Shouldn’t the Observer have mentioned that little conflict of interest?

  12. HN July 8, 2007 at 21:46 #

    Lenny, is Brian Deer responsible for this: … starting at page 2898:
    Begin Quote
    I know I’ve mentioned several times in the course of these proceedings Andrew Wakefield and his theory, and there’s a reason for that. That’s because all the strands through these cases come back to him. He presented bad science.

    I’m going to run through the chronology again because it’s important, the chronology of how this arose and how it was promoted. In 1996,
    7 Alexander Harris, a firm of solicitors in Great Britain, approached Andrew Wakefield and asked him to consult with them in cases involving MMR, allegations of MMR causing autism. Andrew Wakefield was paid 55,000 pounds for his efforts at that point. Andrew Wakefield in 1997 took out a patent for a monovalent measles vaccine. In 1998, he published the paper that caused the stir that we’ve now seen reinterpreted, rearticulated a number of times until more than 10 years later we have it in our courtroom today.

    He did not reveal at the time that he published that paper that he had this financial interest. He did not reveal that several of his patients in that paper were in fact litigants in the MMR litigation. In 1998, Andrew Wakefield approached John O’Leary and consulted with him. John O’Leary went on to set up Unigenetics, a company of which he was the director and shareholder. Unigenetics’ purpose was to test samples for the U.K. MMR litigation.

    Now, you’ve heard testimony about the reliability of that testing. You’ve seen the papers that have come out of that lab. In fact, the Uhlmann paper that was discussed here at length and relied on so heavily by the Petitioners, the patients, some of the patients at least, some of the patients in that case study were MMR litigants.

    There’s a direct connection between that litigation and our litigation here. That litigation folded. Unigenetics went away, but we have it back here now in this case. It folded in 2004 after the whistle was blown on Andrew Wakefield and it was revealed his substantial financial connection with ongoing litigation.

    End Quote

    Lenny, was the above written by Brian Deer? IIs it an example of “Yellow Journalism”, or something else?

    And exactly why is it that the MMR introduced in the USA in 1971 only started to cause “trouble” when it was adopted for use in the UK about seventeen years later?

  13. HN July 8, 2007 at 21:56 #

    Ooh, looky… Ben Goldacre has an update where one of the researchers claims the Observer made up quotes and that the study has not been released, because it is not complete:

    He states “Fiona Scott has just written back to me. She accuses the Observer of fabricating comments.”

    The “yellow journalism” is from which newspaper?

  14. Brian Deer July 8, 2007 at 23:29 #

    So, if what Scott is saying is correct, the whole thing looks like a crude fabrication, aimed at influencing Wakefield’s GMC panel with the idea that the Cambridge institute is saying there might be an MMR -> autism link.

    Am I surprised?

  15. Ms. Clark July 9, 2007 at 01:27 #

    Oh my goodness. Lenny Schafer makes an appearance, even.

    I expect to see some major groveling on the part of the Guardian, apparently a usually reputable broadsheet, I mean since they printed an outright fabrication designed to protect the lowlife Wakefield from the consequences of lying about the MMR causing autism. Lenny, did you read the actual testimony of Drs. Bustin and Chadwick in the Cedillo case, or just the ACHAMP blog version?

    I wonder if they’ll fire Mr. Sports Writer cum Health Correspondent, Denis Campbell, the guy who “broke the story” now. Hmmm. Lenny can you pull some strings for sure and get him a job on the Schafer Autism Report newsletter or something? His investigative skills would fit in well with the standards of the SAR.

    Lenny, did you see the check that Wakers wrote out to pay Mr. Deer?
    Andrew Wakefield compensates Brian Deer for costs of abandoned defamation claim.

  16. Joseph July 9, 2007 at 02:27 #

    I love this part:

    “As is customary in legal settlements, the amount paid to Brian Deer as a result of Andrew Wakefield’s capitulation has been withheld. The money, however, has been wholly reinvested in this website and the continuing investigation of the Wakefield MMR-autism scam”

    Putting Wakers’ money to good use 🙂

  17. notmercury July 9, 2007 at 02:42 #

    Well hey there Lenny,
    How is Brian “helping to damage the health of so many children needlessly”? I was under the impression you believe thimerosal causes most autism. Isn’t the whole MMR thing distracting attention from the real problem?

    Now that thimerosal has been cleared are you shifting back to MMR?

  18. Ms. Clark July 9, 2007 at 03:10 #

    Andy’s got bucks as shown by the Thoughtful House forms 990. Maybe Andy paid Lenny to post something in his defense/defence?

    Lenny, are you being paid by the word?

  19. HN July 9, 2007 at 03:16 #

    Well, if Lenny switches back to the MMR, I want to see how he remembers that it was introduced into the USA in 1971.

    Yeah, 1971… the same MMR that was introduced to the UK in 1988. The main difference is the mumps component. Prior to the introduction of the present MMR the mumps strain in the UK was the Urabe strain. That strain can cause meningitis. The MMR vaccine has the much safer Jeryl Lynn mumps strain.

    Oh, funny thing about the single jabs… in the UK some folks tried to import single mumps vaccines. It turns out the strain used in them was the less safe Urabe mumps strain:

  20. Kev July 9, 2007 at 06:47 #

    Lenny – considering the amount of times I’ve read you telling people not to bother reading this blog or posting to it, it seems that only one person is posting hysterically here.

    Whilst you’re here though Lenny please tell us – what peer reviewed pubmed indexed science exists to support the belief that MMR cause autism? Further, why do you think that nobody thought to take it with them to the Cedillo hearings?

  21. Sharon July 9, 2007 at 07:47 #

    I was so pissed off when I read this load of excrement yesterday in what I had thought was a quality newspaper.
    How can they expect to get away with such low level of reporting?
    May the letters of complaint, knock them bloody flying.

  22. Brian Deer July 9, 2007 at 09:06 #

    Perhaps Mr Schafer could be prevailed upon to read my summary – so far – and let me know if he can identify any inaccuracy:

  23. stephane July 9, 2007 at 23:41 #

    I really do not understand where the likes of Kevin Leitch and Brian Deer are coming from on this issue. How much do you actually know about autism? How many people with autistic children have you spoken to? I saw Brian Deer’s attempted character assassination on Andrew Wakefield and I thought it failed miserably. I could not see any compelling evidence to suggest that Mr Wakefield was seeking to line his pockets as was the inference. It had all the jounalistic integrity and fairness of Michael Moore but without the humour.

    Also, just a minor point, reading what you have set out above, Scott is both Wakefield’s crony and the person whose email you quote distancing herself from the Observer article. You can’t have it both ways. I thought the Observer article was as balanced an article as you get these days on the MMR and autism. Anyway, the main piece was an interview with Andrew Wakefield so that was bound to be from his perspective.

    I have met Andrew Wakefield, and I know people who know him and his family well, and I can tell you, and all those people writing to this blog that he is a decent, honest man who has sincere concerns about the safety of the MMR vaccine. I have no doubt about that whatsover. Unlike the medical authorities and politicians who claim that the vaccine is 100% safe (if it were why does the Government set aside millions of pounds to compensate children damaged by vaccines, including the MMR?) he has never to my knowledge claimed that he is 100% certain of a connection between the two.

    I also know of parents of children with autism who have no doubts about the effect that the MMR had on their children. They are not stupid people. They do not seek to blame their children’s autism on something incredible (why would they want to do that?) nor have they been misled by Wakefield. They told Wakefield what they saw with their own eyes. It is in their eyes evidence of a connection. Wakefield has acted on their anecdotal evidence. He actually listened to what the parents of these children were telling him.

    We have an autistic child, aged 7. She also suffers from bowel disorder which we believe is connected to her autism. We do not know what caused her autism. I can tell you though that the doctor who diagnosed our child – a well respected consultant paediatric psychologist at a leading British hospital and a good man (I am not going to give you his name because I don’t want him getting doorstepped by Deer) – believes that the MMR may have been a contributory factor in our child developing autism (notice the use of the word “may”). He is an expert on autism. In fact, he is the only expert on autism that we have seen (there are not many around except it would appear on this blog). Apart from this man we have received next to no support from the medical profession. He, like Mr Wakefield, supports the gluten and dairy free diet which has significantly improved our child’s behaviour.

    This doctor decsribed to us the rise in the number of cases of autism as “an epidemic” – and he would know wouldn’t he because children with autism get referred to him for diagnosis. He accepts that there is no conclusive evidence of a connection between autism and the MMR but at the same time, he also describes the Government’s evidence on which it relies to say that there is no link as, and I quote, “rubbish”. I can also tell you that the community paediatrician who we saw at the same hospital, while not agreeing with her colleague about the MMR, told us that there were more cases of autism today. This is not just about better diagnosis, there are as she said to us simply, “more of these children.” That was 5 years ago.

    So, could those who want to get to the truth, like Mr Wakefield and no doubt our esteemed journalist friends who contribute to this blog, just accept that there has been at the very least a significant increase in the number of cases of autism (if not an epidemic) and allow those who have an interest in and knowledge of the subject the opportunity to try and work out what is causing it.

  24. Jon July 9, 2007 at 23:53 #

    If writing to the Observer to request a correction/clarification, it might also be worth trying their reader’s editor – as the Observer website says:

    To make a correction, or raise an issue about The Observer, with the Readers’ editor:

    Write to: Readers’ Editor
    The Observer
    3-7 Herbal Hill
    London EC1R 3EJ
    Tel: 020 7713 4656

    A multi-pronged attack can’t hurt…and apologies if mentioning the reader’s editor is just stating the obvious…

  25. Prometheus July 10, 2007 at 00:20 #

    I have to wonder – what alternate universe are Lenny and Stephane [sic] writing from?

    If you read the testimony from the Omnibus Proceedings in the US, it is painfully apparent that Andy Wakefield ignored clear warnings that his “measles in the gut” data was flawed (wrong) and charged ahead regardless of the facts.

    I may be in the minority here – I think that Wakefield is sincere in his belief that the MMR jab causes autism AND I think that the data shows that he is absolutely wrong.

    The parallels between Andy Wakefield and the Pons and Fleischmann “Cold Fusion” debacle are amazing. In both cases, people with the education and training enough to know better allowed their firm belief in their own infallibility blind them to rising amounts of data showing that they were wrong.

    In both cases, the “scientific” debate was carried out in the media, rather than in scientific journals and meetings.

    In both cases, monumental hubris led to a crushing, humiliating downfall. Wakefield’s downfall has already occurred – the pieces just haven’t all hit the ground yet.

    It is supremely ironic that the scientists who gave Wakefield the benefit of the doubt, who responded to his media circus in calm, measured tones, are being called arrogant. What could possibly be more arrogant than a man who feels that he is so smart, that he knows so much he is able to ignore the data and just “go with his gut”?

    Andy Wakefield went with his “gut feeling” – regardless of the data and the consequences – and is now paying the just price for his arrogance.

    It’s like a Greek tragedy – everybody but the protagonist knows that disaster is coming.

    Just a member of the chorus.


  26. HN July 10, 2007 at 01:31 #


    Try some actual reading on this blog:

    Also, please answer this question: Why is it that the MMR which was approved for the USA in 1971 is now causing a problem in the UK?

    The reason the American version of the MMR was adopted was due to the fact that the mumps vaccine strain previously used in the UK was the Urabe strain… one that had problems. The American version has the Jeryl Lynn mumps strain which does not.

  27. Kev July 10, 2007 at 03:51 #


    How much do I know about autism? I have exactly the same number of years experience as you do, having an autistic seven year old daughter. It sickens and disgusts me that your consultant friend (whom you conveniently won’t name) is such a poor scientist as to be unable to process basic facts about biology that even I, not a scientist at all, can grasp.

  28. anonimouse July 10, 2007 at 03:59 #


    Thanks for the boiler plate Wakefield defense. If you don’t think the fact that Wakefield had patents on a rival MMR vaccine, took money from lawyers to study kids (which he did NOT disclose) and deliberately ignored negative results makes him a lying crank, then I’m not sure what would convince you.

  29. stephane July 10, 2007 at 20:20 #

    This the last post I am going to make on this blog because some of the people contributing to it sound so extreme as not to be reasonable.

    To anonimouse, and plenty more of you, if Wakefield actually wanted to make money he would not have done what he did. He was already a successful doctor. He could just have gone into private practice and made a fortune instead of taking on the medical authorities and the pharmaceuticals. If you think that is the best way for a doctor to make money then you must be crazy.

    The premise of Deer’s arguments if I understand correctly is that Wakefield was hoping to corner the market with his own vaccine by more or less single handedly destroying the MMR. It is a potty conspiracy theory and nothing more. At what point exactly did he set out to secure world domination of the market for single vaccines in this area?

    It ignores the fact that Wakefield is a gastro-enterologist who had patients referred to him who suffered from serious bowel disorders and had autism. He listened to what the parents were telling him and about their concerns about the effect the MMR had on their children. He investigated. What else would a doctor do in the circumstances? Do doctor’s trying to find the cause of cancer and other serious illnesses get this sort of treatment?

    Even some of his harshest critics, who attack the basis of his hypothesis about the possible connection autism and the MMR, do not make this absurd claim. As I said before, Deer is from the Michael Moore school of investigative journalism, he simply lacks the wit and charm.

    Look, as Wakefield himself says, it may turn out that he is wrong. He believes he is onto someting but wants to do further research. I don’t know whether he is right or not and you can attack the scientific basis of his hypothesis as much as you want but it has absolutely nothing to do with money I assure you.

    As for Kev and his comments about our doctor the words “sicken” and “disgust” are a bit over the top don’t you think to decribe his views on autism and its causes? Now I know that I was entirely justified in not telling you his name.

    So, Kev, what do you reckon is causing the dramatic rise in the number of cases of autism? And don’t say better disgnosis because that is clearly nonsense.

  30. Kev July 10, 2007 at 20:29 #

    _”To anonimouse, and plenty more of you, if Wakefield actually wanted to make money he would not have done what he did.”_

    Except he _did_ do what he did and made half a million quid. Nice one.

    You continue to miss the point about Wakefield. Him investigating causes is not the issue. The issue is him investigating causes with a pre-conceived agenda and then ignoring results that demonstrate he was wrong and publishing anyway.

    _”a bit over the top don’t you think to decribe his views on autism and its causes? Now I know that I was entirely justified in not telling you his name.”_

    A bit over the top? No, I don’t think so. One UK child has died from a vaccine preventable disease. Several Irish kids have died from vaccine preventable diseases. Cases of measles and mumps have sky rocketed and over 12% of these cases have resulted in hospitalisation. And for what? Absolutely nothing.

    _”So, Kev, what do you reckon is causing the dramatic rise in the number of cases of autism? And don’t say better disgnosis because that is clearly nonsense.”_

    That’s an interesting variation on canard no. 2. I actually _do_ think better diagnosis contributes, alongside more testing centres, more diagnosticians, more cultural awareness and possibly some unknown environmental aspect. Mainly as that’s what the science says. By contrast, the idea that MMR contributes to autism causation is _factually_ nonsense.

  31. Brian Deer July 10, 2007 at 21:11 #

    Hang on a minute. MMR and the “dramatic rise” in autism? I thought it was supposed to be a subset of cases so small that epidemiology couldn’t detect it.

  32. stephane July 10, 2007 at 21:24 #

    I said I would not contribute again, and this is definitely my last post. I just want to clarify something I said.

    The point I was making (though I admit not very well) about the rise in the number of cases of autism, which is the point I made in my previous blog, is that the rise in the number of cases cannot simply be put down to better or wider diagnosis. That was the view of the community paediatrician who treated our child.

    Therefore to say that there is “possibly some unknown environmental aspect” is not an accurate statement. If the dramatic rise is not all down to better diagnosis, and to claim that it was would surely be nonsense, there must be some enviornmental cause. Funny how the Government never seeks to put the rise in the number of cases of athsma purely down to better diagnosis.

    I have to end though with your statement that it is “factually nonsense” to say that the MMR contributes to autism causation. It may in your opinion be nonsense. Fine. It may not be true at all that the MMR causes autism. But you cannot seriously assert as fact that the MMR has not conrtibuted to autism causation. Apart from the obvious difficulty of making such a factual assertion, there are many parents who are convinced that the MMR contributed to their child’s autism, a view which is sincerely held – not by stupid gullible people as you would no doubt have it, and not because Wakefield said so.

    I do believe the consultant, the one who sickens and disgusts you (I still say that is an over the top reaction to that doctor’s honestly held opinion), when he says that the evidence on which the Government relies to say that it has proved that there is no connection is rubbish. They get the answers they want don’t they. No Government is going to fund research which could leave it bankrupt in compensation claims.

  33. HN July 10, 2007 at 23:22 #

    Again I ask: The MMR in question is the Merck MMR that was approved for use in the USA in 1971. This is the exact same vaccine that was introduced in the UK in 1988 (the biggest difference being the mumps strain). So why it is that in this vaccine’s thirty-plus years of use, is it only since it started use in the UK that it became a problem?

  34. Ms. Clark July 11, 2007 at 08:01 #

    Stephane seems to be painting this picture of the good Dr. Wakefield, pediatric gastroenterologist seeing patients in a clinic and noticing some pattern some gut patients were also autistic, etc.

    In Wakefileld’s words:
    ” Children with developmental disorders and undiagnosed gastrointestinal symptoms were referred to Professor John-Walker Smith or his junior Consultant colleagues, and not to me. Since I was a Reader in the Department of Medicine (not Paediatric Gastroenterology) and my work was exclusively research based, with no clinical commitment, at no time was I responsible for the clinical care of these children, or for making the decision to perform ileo-colonoscopy or upper gastrointestinal endoscopy on these, or any other children.”

    For an overview of who said what to whom and when and when the money started rolling in for Wakers, et al:

  35. Brian Deer July 11, 2007 at 09:49 #

    Another thing worth remembering is that Wakefield began with no interest at all in autism, helping children, blah, blah. He wanted access to children’s guts so he could prove they harboured measles virus, which he said (wrongly) was the cause of Crohn’s disease. When a bunch of litigants turned up offering him their children to experiment upon, he leapt at the chance. Tube into the bowel, needle into the spine…

    If Stephanie knew how many millions Wakefield reckoned his businesses would be coining off these things, I’m sure even she would be shocked.

    Subsequently, he has been driven into the position of being the “autism doctor” [not licensed to practise], with desperate young mums swooning around him as he flashes irrelevant or misrepresented scientific papers onto conference hall screens, but this too has an extraordinary economic base.

  36. Lucas McCarty July 11, 2007 at 15:40 #

    What I can’t work out is how a lot of people keep trying to frame it as ‘parents VS the government’ or ‘Wakefield VS the government’.

    Ahem, the government is not the one doing the criticising: I checked PubMed and not one politician or government official has a published paper relating to MMR-Autism, unless of course you consider anybody paid from the public purse to be ‘the government’. No, the devastating critics, the ones challenging Wakefield on this are scientists and other interested parties that scour the research material.

    Even Peter Hitchens can’t resist it, on his blog he still insists he’s on the fence but the sheer weakness of his ‘government oppression’ gambit kind of betrays his sentiments. I don’t know if he actually approves the comments himself or the web team does, but mine have yet to appear in that post.

  37. anonimouse July 14, 2007 at 03:52 #

    Just because “smart” people honestly believe their kid was poisoned by the MMR and made autistic doesn’t make it true. I know a lot of “smart” people who honestly believe a lot of very stupid things.

  38. Gerry Lynch July 15, 2007 at 07:28 #

    This is the Observer’s pathetic response:,,2126631,00.html

  39. Ms. Clark July 15, 2007 at 08:01 #,,2126633,00.html

    There’s a letter from Simon Baron-Cohen, and one from Stephen Bustin (who testified about how they weren’t finding measles in biopsies in the infamous O’Leary lab).

    I agree, the response from the reader editor was pathetic. What about the fact that SBC’s survey looking for social-communication difficulties among kids who are in regular schools (not in special schools for disabled children) he said that his survey gave lots of false postives. They didn’t apologize for not ringing up any authorities, not even SBC. They acknowledge that they didn’t need to add the MMR idea to the already interesting idea that there was an apparent rise in autism prevalence, but there HASNT’ BEEN A RISE (excuse me for screaming) apparent or otherwise, in autism prevalence! Not according to SBC’s leaked survey data.

    Here’s Bustin’s letter
    Remarkably, there is no reference in your story to the fact that on 11 June the first of 4,800 cases in autism proceedings came to trial at the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington. These are designed to establish whether or not autism can be caused by MMR. For the first time, a succession of highly respected researchers in epidemiology, genetics, virology, molecular biology and other medical and scientific disciplines – the ‘medical and scientific establishment’ of the Observer article – provided detailed evidence of why, in their opinion, there is no medical or scientific basis for any claim linking the MMR vaccine with autism.
    Stephen A Bustin BA (mod) PhD
    Professor of Molecular Science, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London

    SBC’s letter:
    Your story (‘New health fears over big surge in autism’, last week) was a misleading report of research still being undertaken at the Cambridge University Autism Research Centre. The article linked MMR and autism.
    The research does not.

    The research is based on a study of Cambridgeshire children, which ran for five years. It has not yet come out with a definitive figure on the prevalence of autism and it is therefore irresponsible to single out one figure.

    The best estimate of the prevalence of autism is the 1 per cent figure published in the Lancet in 2006.
    My view is that any apparent rise is likely to be driven by better recognition, greater awareness, growth in services, a widening of the definition of autism and a shift towards viewing it as a spectrum rather than a categorical condition.
    Professor Simon Baron-Cohen
    Director, Autism Research Centre, Cambridge University

  40. Raymond Gallup July 15, 2007 at 13:40 #

    Much is made about Andrew Wakefield’s research but totally ignored is the research done by Dr. Vijendra Singh indicating the high percentage of children with autism testing position for myelin basic protein antibodies and elevated measles antibody titers in blood tests. See…………

    Dr. Singh’s research hasn’t been atttacked as has been Dr. Wakefield’s research. Could it be that people are ignorant of what his research indicates or they are afraid of attacking him because they will appear to be racist????

  41. HN July 15, 2007 at 15:57 #

    Uh, Raymond… why did you post a Wikipedia link (which you are mentioned in, did you have a hand in creating that page?)? Wouldn’t it have been better to link to the actual articles that are indexed in

    Why wasn’t Singh on the witness list for the Autism Omnibus trial? The petitioners were desperate for good witnesses, and yet he was not called. Oh, wait… I see now, they needed someone to be on the full bandwagon. And Singh has a paper that claims thimerosal does NOT cause autism! I found something about it here:

    No matter… perhaps you can answer this question: The MMR in question was approved for use in the USA in 1971, and then later approved in 1988 in the UK (the main difference being that the Merck MMR has a much safer mumps component). Why is it that in the thirty-plus years that this vaccine has been in use that it was only considered a problem in the UK over 20 years after its creation? Oh, and that the problem was found by a gut surgeon only after being approached and paid for by a personal injury lawyer?

  42. Brian Deer July 15, 2007 at 16:19 #

    If Mr Gallup would be so kind as to pass me any evidence he has of serious professional misconduct concerning Dr Singh, I would be happy to look into it.

  43. HN July 15, 2007 at 16:44 #

    Well, I don’t think Mr. Gallup is accusing Dr. Singh of misconduct. He probably thinks that this man’s research is somehow exonerating Wakefield.

    Dr. Singh did publish in 2003 about measles in autistic children:
    …and his paper has been cited by a couple of other papers showing that there is no measles antibodies in autistic children. Mainly this one:

    Being that Dr. Singh seems to be an honest researcher… all subsequent papers seem to show that thimerosal is NOT a factor in “autoimmune autism”.

    Note: Mr. Gallup you may want to edit the external links in that Wiki page, many of them are broken.

  44. A. mulen July 15, 2007 at 20:23 #

    Most of you good fellows write as the “experts” that you are but none of you is bold enough apart from people like wakefield to try and explain to the many worried parents out here in the real world why their children are not well (in plain Language). Why does a child who is well until the 4th birthday or so when after they get the vaccine things begin to go wrong!! Come out boldly and tell the parents what then if not MMR? If you say it is something else, what is it then? explain to the parents. Oh and by the way do not start by saying that so and so government accepted it etc etc most parent may not be medical experts but they are not fools

  45. Kev July 15, 2007 at 21:07 #

    I don’t know. What I _do_ know is that it is clearly established beyond any shadow of a doubt that Andrew Wakefields lab results were false positives.

    At the moment, you are suggesting canard no.5

  46. HN July 16, 2007 at 00:38 #

    Okay, A. mulen… maybe YOU can answer my question: The MMR in question was approved for use in the USA in 1971, and in 1988 in the UK (the UK switched to a vaccine with a safer mumps component). Why did the Merck MMR vaccine only start being a problem after over 20 years of use, and in the UK?

  47. Joseph July 16, 2007 at 01:14 #

    A kid becoming autistic at age 4 is not common at all. In fact, isn’t there an age limit for a diagnosis of autism?

    Maybe they can get diagnosed at age 4 even though they were autistic all along. That’s plausible.

    Anyway, regression at around age 5 happens in Landau-Kleffner syndrome, which is arguably not autism.

    Other than that, regression due to genetic syndromes happens, as is the case in Rett’s.

    Whatever the causes, I seriously doubt wild guesses based on anecdotal correlations will give the answer. Any number of things happen in infancy, not only vaccination.


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