Mike Fitzpatrick calls Andrew Wakefield’s bluff. Wakefield moves goalposts

17 Apr

As recently noted here at Left Brain/Right Brain, Andrew Wakefield asked to debate someone about the MMR vaccine. In specific, he wrote:

The more light that shone on this subject by way of informed, balanced debate, the better. I am offering to debate any serious challenger on MMR vaccine safety and the role of MMR in autism, live, in public, and televised.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick wrote in Andrew Wakefield: return of the wicked witch, Wakefield’s MMR-autism nonsense had a baleful influence on public health, but he doesn’t bear sole responsibility for recent measles outbreaks. that he would take Mr. Wakefield’s challenge.

As both a GP and a parent of an autistic son who had followed the destructive consequences of Wakefield’s campaign over the past 15 years, I for one would welcome the opportunity to challenge his baleful influence. Are you ready for a debate now, Andrew Wakefield?

As you might surmise from the wording above, Dr. Fitzpatrick has previously attempted to debate Mr. Wakefield and offered to engage in a full debate:

Wakefield has subsequently restricted his public appearances to conferences of sympathetic parents, anti-vaccination activists and promoters of quack autism therapies. When I asked him a question from the floor at one such conference in Bournemouth in February 2007, he simply refused to answer, deferring to another platform speaker. When I offered to debate with him at a follow-up conference in March 2009, the organisers refused.

How has Mr. Wakefield responded?

What I’m suggesting is a formal scientific debate in public in front of an audience that is televised. And specifically Dr David Salisbury I would like to debate you because I believe you are at the heart of this matter. I believe the decisions taken by you and by your committee, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, lie at the heart of this matter.

Yes, having had his bluff called, Andrew Wakefield moves the goalposts. He won’t take on Mike Fitzpatrick. He won’t take on “any serious challenger”. Only Dr. David Salisbury.

In addition to lacking integrity, Mr. Wakefield now shows that he lacks courage.

Mike Fitzpatrick is a physician. He is an autism parent. He has written two books on autism: MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know and Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion. Hard to find a more “serious challenger”.

Hundreds of children are suffering from measles in the U.K.. This isn’t the time for empty offers of debate. This isn’t the time for publicity stunts. It’s time to own your mistakes and do what you can to fix the problems you helped create. Do you have that courage, Andrew Wakefield?

By Matt Carey

34 Responses to “Mike Fitzpatrick calls Andrew Wakefield’s bluff. Wakefield moves goalposts”

  1. Science Mom April 18, 2013 at 00:01 #

    By targeting someone not interested in acknowledging him but ignoring Dr. Fitzpatrick, a formidable opponent, I think it’s pretty obvious that this is nothing more than a Wakefield publicity stunt. And as usual, repugnant.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 18, 2013 at 00:27 #

      My guess is Mr. Wakefield never expected to have someone accept his challenge. Note that his “science” debate has morphed into a policy debate.

      The fact that Andrew Wakefield keeps bringing up the urabe strain mumps component of the old MMR says a lot. Only his supporters buy into this story as somehow supporting Andrew Wakefield. What are the facts? Andrew Wakefield was informed by a “whistleblower” that UK health officials may have known ahead of time that the urabe strain vaccine might raise meningitis risk. What did Andrew Wakefield do with that knowledge? Nothing. He didn’t bring it up until, what, a decade later? In the meantime he promoted his own measles-component theory to the litigation team. His theory which was based on a combination of unethical research and sloppy methodology.

      If I felt my kid had been harmed by the urabe mumps component of the vaccine, I’d be angry as hell at Andrew Wakefield for his actions.

      • Chris April 18, 2013 at 01:14 #

        Actually it was two of the three versions of the MMR vaccine being used. I doubt that Wakefield knew there were different formulations of the vaccine being used in the UK, along with a slightly different one in the USA. Or he would not have had an American child in among the twelve case studies, and had made sure that all of the children had received the same kind of MMR vaccine.

        And on this blog at least one parent (Wendy?) who had a child get meningitis from the Urabe strain has commented. I remember her saying they were gearing up for a lawsuit. Unfortunately Wakefield was not a target from diverting the issue to measles.

      • dingo199 April 19, 2013 at 13:01 #

        But no-one has ever been “harmed” by Urabe mumps vaccine virus, at least not in any permanent way.
        It causes a mild aseptic meningitis, which though unpleasant is self limiting and not associated with any longterm sequelae. It is basically just like the aseptic meningitis that 10-20% of kids with natural mumps get, only milder.

        MMR can cause encephalitis, which is a different beast altogether (though very rare). That’s quite different, and due to the measles component of the vaccine.

        Bottom line – Urabe is pretty well harmless, and no-one need worry about it. The parents who jumped on the Urabe-causes-brain damage bandwagon are merely those who have kids with autism and wanted to blame MMR. Then they got in touch with Wakefield, who had ideas it was actually the measles virus damaged the gut, the hypothesis altered accordingly, and the rest is history.

    • Open debate? April 19, 2013 at 08:49 #

      Whilst ever there are increasing numbers of autistic children and this increase seems to run in the same trajectory as increasing vaccinations in the schedule, surely science and Big Pharma have a duty to ensure that links are investigated. The blanket caveats which are rumoured to be giving BIg Pharma zero liability for any contraindications or harm done need to be removed immediately.
      Are people not worried that doctors get paid bonuses for vaccine uptakes and that all research, and marketing is done by the same companies.? Are people not concerned that two brands of MMR vaccine had to be withdrawn due to it causing Meningitis. (which for the record is a much more serious condition than measles with a higher potential for life limiting outcomes),.and are people not concerned that drug companies can peddle their wares and market them totally unrestricted by giving sweeteners and enhancements to doctors.. in the arms trade such practice is called BRIBES. and what is wrong with a child having a fever and being under the weather for a few days.. which is a minor inconvenience compared to a life of nursing a child whose neural development and health declined within hours of having the MMR? There does need to be an open debate. like why give MMR for a measles outbreak? and if the vaccine is so briliiant why is there such a failure rate? and why is investigation into reported adverse reactions following MMR not being investigated by people with no personal gains- ie totally independent… could it be that there is a mega cover up? This is the real issue here, not a he says she says childish spat which seems to be at the heart of current media hype and expression.

      • Lawrence April 19, 2013 at 10:42 #

        @Open – you’ve not really kept up with the times, have you? In recent years, regulations have been passed that severely restrict the “gifts or chotskies” that doctors can receive – as to the rest, you should do some real research for a change and not just parrot AoA talking points.

  2. Broken Link April 18, 2013 at 12:40 #

    A comment got through at AoA “Andrew Wakefield Responds on Camera” pointing out that Mike Fitzpatrick had offered to debate Wakefield, complete with link to Mike’s blog. So far, no notice has been paid to it.

  3. centuryw April 18, 2013 at 13:15 #

    Nice ‘spin’ Sullivan, but your timings are wrong!
    AW is not responding to Fitzpatrick’s offer.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 18, 2013 at 15:17 #

      I know Andrew Wakefield is not responding to Mike Fitzpatrick’s offer. My guess is he never will. Dr. Fitzpatrick did respond to Mr. Wakefield’s first challenge. He certainly fits the requirement for a qualified “challenger” (who uses language like that in real life, by the way? Who asked for a “challenger” in a scientific debate? Answer: no one). Mr. Wakefield put up a new “challenge” after Dr. Fitzpatrick’s article went live. Was he influenced by Dr. Fitzpatrick? I suspect so. I suspect Andrew Wakefield watches for news stories about Andrew Wakefield.

      Dr. Fitzpatrick’s article went up the morning of the 16th. Morning UK time. The video by Wakefield went up–originally without the challenge to Dr. Salisbury–in the afternoon U.S. time. I watched it when it still had only a hundred or so views and it stopped at about minute 13 at the start of the debate challenge. That was the afternoon PST on the 16th.

      Who knows when he filmed it, bit he uploaded it after the Fitzpatrick article.

      Either way, why isn’t Wakefield taking Dr. Fitzpatrick up on the offer? Why did he avoid Dr. Fitzpatrick in the past? Wakefield says he wants a debate but he has refused in the past and seems to be ignoring this one.

    • lilady April 18, 2013 at 16:55 #

      We know he isn’t responding to Fitzpatrick’s offer. He’s doing some damage control after all the unfavorable publicity he has received, since the major outbreaks of confirmed measles cases in Wales and London, due to older children and teens not being vaccinated…because of Wakefield’s fraudulent study.

      That *damage control* is not working for Wakefield and for all the antivaccine websites that posted that video.

      • centuryw April 18, 2013 at 20:44 #


        Nursey knows best everyone 😉

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 18, 2013 at 21:00 #

        I don’t know if she knows best, but she certainly knows what she’s talking about.

        1) ” since the major outbreaks of confirmed measles cases in Wales and London, due to older children and teens not being vaccinated” These areas are seeing outbreaks. More specifically, the age group with the largest rate of measles infection is the 10-14 year old group. That puts them born in 1999-2003, the peak of the Wakefield scare. http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/page/66389

        2) She says that the drop is “because of Wakefield’s fraudulent study.” Now, Mr. Wakefield would likely take issue with the “fraudulent” term, but he did accept that his study resulted in a drop in uptake. On day 55 of the GMC hearing he stated “I have no doubt that that decline was exacerbated by the publication of this paper”

        He was referring to “that drop” was the drop in uptake following the removal of the urabe strain containing vaccines from the market. “this paper” is his Lancet study.

        3) is it damage control? Clearly yes. He uses different terms, but Mr. Wakefield states that he’s responding to the bad press he’s getting.

        4) is it working? No. He continues to get bad press and the rightful blame for the decrease in vaccine uptake and the resulting outbreak.

        So, drop your short snide comments if you wish. One of you has the facts, and it isn’t you.

      • Chris April 18, 2013 at 21:00 #

        So, centuryw, why isn’t Wakefield willing to discuss his “research” with Dr. Fitzpatrick?

      • Open debate? April 19, 2013 at 09:04 #

        If there is no concern about “the evidence from the other side” why are websites being blocked or have we lost the right for free debate in this country?

      • Lawrence April 19, 2013 at 10:43 #

        @Open – why don’t you head over to AoA & complain about their commenting policy….I haven’t been able to post there in months.

      • Chris April 19, 2013 at 15:00 #

        Open debate, what websites have been blocked? This one? Respectful Insolence?

      • Mike Stanton April 20, 2013 at 21:55 #

        When I blogged this http://penumbrage.com/2013/04/11/mmr-and-autism/ I quoted the epidemiologist for Public Health Wales who pointed out that the local newspaper gave very sympathetic coverage to Wakefield resulting in a dramatic slump in vaccination. It is those children in that area who are at the heart of the current outbreak. Clearly Wakefield is the source of the scare behind the outbreak. But the UK media recorded an epic fail in turning the scare into a full scale panic.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 21, 2013 at 16:58 #

        True. There is a lot of blame to share on this. Mr. Wakefield deserves to be recognized for his contribution. Without him, the mis steps of the press and others wouldn’t have happened.

  4. lilady April 18, 2013 at 23:56 #

    The snide one, hasn’t even read the transcripts from the Wakefield GMC hearing. Use your google fu snide one…


  5. Brian Deer April 19, 2013 at 07:16 #

    Wakefield’s own lawyer formally submitted to the GMC panel that Wakefield caused the downturn in vaccination. On Day 130 of the hearing, Kieran Coonan QC submitted:

    “Dr Wakefield was, as you know, a senior author of the Lancet paper, and publication of the paper, together with the commentary and the observations that he made at the press briefing, has led on the evidence that you have received to a downturn, or at least did turn to a downturn, in vaccination rates for the MMR vaccine. That is a fact. And it is a fact, even though Dr Wakefield may have been justified in publishing the paper; even though he held honest views about the safety of the MMR vaccine, and even though he advocated the use of a single vaccine. The fact of the linkage between the paper and the press briefing and the downturn is a fact, and it is not difficult to imagine that in some quarters he would be heavily criticised for that fact.”

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 19, 2013 at 17:54 #

      I saw that one. Pretty clear. I also saw, but can’t find right now, a letter from one of his colleagues (Walker-Smith?) from before the press conference. In the letter, Mr. Wakefield is told about how his previous work in IBD and measles virus caused a big downturn in vaccine uptake rates and how he needs to show his support for the single vaccine.

      Very interesting stuff. First, it is not often remembered that Mr. Wakefield accused the measles vaccines of causing problems before the autism paper, and that this had a big effect on vaccine uptake. Mr. Wakefield now would have us believe that downturn is due to the Urabe strain MMR issues. Second, Mr. Wakefield’s earlier work implicated all measles vaccines, as he suggested that it was the introduction of the single vaccine that resulted in the increase in IBD. Somewhere along the line he changed his mind and focused on the combined vaccine.

      • Brian Deer April 20, 2013 at 10:52 #

        Yes, he started his public campaign in 1995, and waged it through 1997, until the focus of the campaign shifted decisively to autism. This activity caused the first downturns, before the 1998 paper, when he was claiming that measles vaccine caused Crohn’s disease..

        People forget that it wasn’t just one paper. Only one has been thoroughly examined because the UK has no regulator to whom one can go with concerns, and that one took long enough.

        Wakefield waged a relentless campaign, with public relations consultants and a series of papers, right through to his preparations for his GMC case and his numerous lawsuits against me.

  6. Wendy Stephen April 20, 2013 at 10:59 #

    The two brands of MMR vaccine withdrawn in 1992, Pluserix and Immravax, were withdrawn because of an increased risk of aseptic meningitis which was associated with the Urabe mumps virus strain. Laboratory confirmed vaccine induced Urabe virus had been isolated from the CSF of some recipient children and as a result of that, the two brands were removed from the UK immunisation programme. That risk does not exist today as none of the brands of MMR used in the UK since September 1992, contain the Urabe mumps strain.

    Because of that, it seems unlikely that there would have been a drop in the uptake of MMR at that point since the problem had been dealt with, and no further risk from Urabe induced mumps meningitis existed. There was an alternative brand still available. There is no reason why anyone considering MMR vaccination today needs to turn the clock back over twenty years and give consideration to, or be concerned about, the withdrawal of Pluserix and Immravax because it caused mumps meningitis. Quite simply, that problem does not exist today.

    That said however, it is not the case that Urabe wasn’t associated with any long term sequelae or that no one has ever been “harmed” by it.

    Dingo199, you might want to catch up on an article in The Times by Dominic Kennedy on 5th September 2012, “MMR Vaccine Caused Children’s Deafness”. You may also like to read a paper by Stewart and Prabhu “Reports of Sensorineural Deafness after Measles Mumps and Rubella immunisation”, July 1993, which was a follow up study commissioned and financed by the DOH in the UK to investigate lasting sequelae in children who had been identified in a previous study having contracted meningitis following MMR

    Finally, I share your sentiments that no one need worry about Urabe today not because it was harmless but for the reasons I gave at at the start of this post. It is not the case, given the acceptance that Urabe could cause sensorineural deafness, that those who suffered in that way, jumped on anyone’s band wagon.

  7. Mike Stanton April 20, 2013 at 21:30 #

    I suffered (and I use the word advisedly) from both mumps and measles before the introduction of the MMR triple vaccine. The Urabe strain did cause aseptic meningitis in a minority of cases. According to Mike Fitzpatrick in his book, MMR and Autism, What Parents Need to Know, this was a known but rare side effect during trials of the vaccine. When MMR was introduced the actual incidence of aseptic meningitis emerged as 1 in 3000. Even then, Mike points out that Urabe strain MMR was much safer than mumps itself, where at least 10 per cent of sufferers develop aseptic meningitis. It was withdrawn not because it was unsafe but because an even safer vaccine was available.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 21, 2013 at 17:08 #

      I’ve tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to stay out of the Urabe discussion as much as possible. Mr. Wakefield expects us to accept his view of the Urabe story as a given while we discuss his own work. As I have written above, had I felt my child were injured by the Urabe strain vaccine, I would be very angry with Mr Wakefield for his part in getting the MMR litigation to ignore the Urabe mumps vaccine. I say this not because I’ve decided that the vaccine was dangerous, but because this group was denied their opportunity to argue their point.

      Mr. Wakefield is engaging in pure revisionist history. Having ignored the Urabe story for over a decade, having referred to it once only in the GMC hearing and (from what I can see) never in the press or the scientific literature, he now asks us to see this as a great scandal. Were it such, he is culpable for whatever cover up he claims occurred.

  8. Brian Deer April 21, 2013 at 18:59 #

    What happened to Sheldon? He seemed to just disappear from my radar a while back.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 22, 2013 at 04:24 #

      I think her just went offline. Sad. He was very good at countering misinformation

  9. Wendy Stephen April 22, 2013 at 12:34 #

    The Practice Directions governing the workings of the MMR litigation in the UK ensured that ALL claims in respect of alleged damage following an MR/MMR vaccination were to be included in the class action. Despite that, claims which involved the Urabe mumps strain in two of the brands of MMR used, were never yet addressed.
    Not only were they not addressed, they somehow ended up being placed in abeyance whilst the action moved forward only in respect of claims seeking to establish that measles virus in MR/MMR vaccines caused ASD and IBD.

    That was entirely at odds with the intentions laid down in the Practice Directions.

    In his Judgement of the 8th June 2007, at the close of the Litigation, Keith J the presiding Judge said ” The mumps component of the vaccine – where that component consisted of the Urabe strain – was never investigated at all”.

    As the parent of one such Urabe claimant, that was a horrendous thing to hear the Judge acknowledge after eight years of litigating.

    In 2003 when the Legal Services Commission decided to withdraw funding for the litigation because the claimants QC’s had advised them that as things stood they could not bring a case to establish causation between measles virus in the MR and MMR vaccines and autism, ALL the claimants including the Urabe claimants whose claims were still in abeyance and had not been worked up or seen the light of day, lost their funding. Whether or not those claims were meritorious had not been established but they lost their funding anyway!

    Urabe IS a historical issue and of no relevance today in respect of modern versions of the MMR vaccine but it is still of relevance to those children (now young adults) who alleged neurological disability following administration of a Urabe containing vaccine and whose claims never saw the inside of a courtroom.

    That was surely entirely wrong and as yet unexplained but I for one hope that the new claim my daughter and I are pursuing will provide answers.

    • Lara Lohne April 22, 2013 at 17:13 #


      My best to you and your daughter and I’m so sorry that you had to go through what you have. It is unjust and ridiculously wrong that so much time was spent on the wrong part of the concern in vaccines and your family and many others with legitimate vaccine injuries were overlooked and tossed aside. I do hope that you will be vindicated, and soon. If I were in your shoes, I would very much hold those responsible for shifting attention from the Urabe mumps strain and injuries from it to measles and autism, possibly a law suit for negligence would be in order? I don’t know the law so I don’t know how that would work.


  1. Andrew Wakefield: Now, what about that debate? | Left Brain Right Brain - April 30, 2013

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    […] On 17 April Matt Carey published an article on the Left Brain, Right Brain blog, entitled ‘Mike Fitzpatrick calls Andrew Wakefield’s Bluff. Wakefield moves the goalposts’, drawing attention to Dr Wakefield’s apparent switch from being ready to debate ‘any serious contender’ to proposing that he was only prepared to debate with British immunisation chief, Dr David Salisbury: https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2013/04/ […]

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