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British doctor who kicked off vaccines-autism scare may have lied, newspaper says

February 9, 2009 |  3:39 pm

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the British physician who jump-started the scare about a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, manipulated and changed data to make his case in the 1998 Lancet paper, according to an investigation by the Sunday Times of London. The purported link has subsequently been refuted by a large number of epidemiological studies.

That Lancet paper said that the families of eight of 12 autistic children attending a routine clinic at Wakefield's hospital claimed that symptoms of autism developed within days after they were given the shot -- or the "jab," as the British call it. Wakefield and his colleagues also claimed to have found the measles virus in the children's intestines and that the virus caused an inflammatory bowel disease linked to autism.

But by studying confidential and public records, investigative reporter Brian Deer, who has been following the MMR controversy since the beginning, found a different story. Hospital and other records indicated that virtually all of the children had begun developing symptoms of autism well before the shot, Deer's report said. Hospital pathologists examining the children for signs of inflammatory bowel disease were unable to find it in most of the cases, Deer discovered, but Wakefield or someone on the team changed the data to make it appear as if the condition was found, Deer reported in the Times. At least one parent of a child in whose intestines the virus was said to have been found took samples to three other labs, which were unable to find the virus, Deer's report said.

Moreover, Deer reported, Wakefield was retained as an expert witness two years earlier by a lawyer planning to sue vaccine manufacturers on behalf of parents who thought MMR caused their children's problems. The parents cited in the Lancet article came to Wakefield's clinic in response to an advertising campaign led by the lawyer's group, called Jabs, and not for routine screening, Deer's report said.

In 2004, 10 of the 13 original authors on the Lancet paper requested that the paper be withdrawn, concluding that "no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism because the data was insufficient." Wakefield has continued to stand by the paper's conclusions.

Wakefield and two other co-authors, Dr. John Walker-Smith and Dr. Simon Murch, are now defending themselves against allegations of professional misconduct brought by England's General Medical Council, which oversees physicians. Those charges are not related to the data in the newspaper, but to the researchers' ethics in using the children.

The Times said it was forwarding all the new data to the GMC for review. Through his lawyers, Wakefield denied the paper's allegations.

In the fallout from Wakefield's original paper, vaccination rates in the country have fallen from 92% to below 80%. As a consequence, 1,348 cases of measles were reported in England and Wales in 2008, compared with only 56 in 1998. Two children died of the disease.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II

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Comments (22)

Mr. Maugh,

This "report" is unworthy of you. Will you run a follow up, when facts become clearer, entitled "Brian Deer May Have Lied"?

I suggest you read Dr. Wakefield's response to this latest slander before taking up the subject again.

Brian Deer of the Times has been on a witch hunt against Dr. Wakefied for years. The new article in the Times mentions an investigation but yet offers no findings by this reporter.

The fact remains that the Autism community has consistently reported on alarming numbers of children who regressed following their jabs at 18 months. Of those, many report severe GI tract issues in their children.

One of the many voices of the Autism community is Age of Autism. For those who wish to learn what all of this MMR business is about and how it got started, please read

If this were about some unimportant issue, it almost wouldn't matter. The vast majority of children do receive vaccinations. All too many of those children end up having Autism and disorders such as Epilepsy. If many of those cases could be avoided by instituting a slower vaccination schedule, or reducing the amount of live vaccine, then it should be done immediately. The pharmaceutical industry should make separate vaccines available to those who wish to buy them. Lately, in the Los Angeles area, it has become difficult to find a supply of single vaccines. Why is that?

Was anyone paid to debunk Wakefield? Do freelancers such as Deer get money to write articles for newspapers?

Anyone know what, if anything, this has to do with the fact that there is an increase in the number of children suffering brain injuries and in a few cases death, immediately after receiving the MMR,MMRV and HepB vaccines? Did Dr. Wakefield create this epidemic?

I never heard of Wakefield prior to my son's brain swelling up after his ProQuad, MMRV. (BTW, ProQuad was removed from the market the same month my son got his jab) Am I imaging the GI problems, the loss of speech, all the classical autistic like symptoms that resulted immediately after his vaccines?

Any idea if these vaccines' manufacturers are required to mention the possible brain damage or injury as a result of the administration of these vaccines to children? If so, did the FDA require the manufacturer to do so based on Wakefield's study? OR did they do their own study?

What percentage of children vaccinated are 100% safe from the disease? (chicken pox vaccine is 87% effective

If you read the Deer report you'll know he himself found that one out of the 12 children in the Wakefield study had regressed into exhibiting symptoms of autism immediately after receiving the MMR.

Deer said in his article, “Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated.”

That's one out of 12. Should parents be fed that ALL VACCINES ARE SAFE when they are not? Come on, one out of twelve regressed into autism or so Deer said.

It is sad that people are still defending Wakefield. The man falsified his data!

Instead of addressing the real, major flaws in Wakefield's story, people are relying on questions of "are vaccines 100% safe".

Get a grip, people--Wakefield was a crappy scientist who took us all for a ride. Millions of doolars have been wasted trying to follow up on his work. Would that money and researcher time were applied to actually helping people with autism!!!

Andrew Wakefield owes me a big apology. He claims in his carefully crafted response that he didn't "create" the vaccine scare.

That's like saying, "I didn't create the fire that burned down the house. I just threw gasoline on the already lit match".

bensmyson - Are you seriously saying that the FDA should require the manufacturer to post a warning based on a study of 12 patients, which were not randomly selected? Even if Wakefield is totally legit in his findings, the study is still way too small and poorly designed to have any validity. In fact, in the actual study, Wakefield himself states that there was no casual link found between the MMR vaccine and autism. Since the study was peer reviewed, he had to make this statement,because no link was found. It is only in his subsequent media blitz that he promotes this idea of this link.

You talk about at least one out of twelve regressing into autism, but remember these patients were highly selected and there was no control group.

There have been subsequent studies that have shown no link between this vaccine and autism. It is time to put this "study" to rest.

@Mary Hirzel - I have read Dr. Wakefield's response, and it is all smoke and mirrors. He does not directly address the fact that many of these patients had signs of autism before the MMR vaccination. He states that this data was not available to him at the time. However, even if this is true, he has this information now, but refuses to look into what it means as far as his study is concerned. That alone is fraud.

My question to the anti vax camp is "What would finally convince you that you may be wrong"?
The blind faith I am witnessing reminds me of creationists faced with the evidence of evolution or Scientologists being told once again why there is no evidence that psychiatry was behind 9/11.
The follow up studies say there is no autism vaccine link.
A study in China where children weren't vaccinated confirms that the rise of autism continued there despite the lack of vaccinations.
The holes in Wakefeilds study have now come to light.
If you aren't blindly following this belief then tell me

What evidence COULD finally convince you that your "gut" feeling about vaccines is wrong?
Just as a exercise in critical thinking. You may still think you're right but Seriously, please answer what.

Koi Pond, I have asked this question many times, and have yet to receive a response.

Please, those of you who are anti-vaccination - please let us know what you are looking for.

There are many posters here who some are accusing of being "anti-vaccination". I'd like to state that it is wrong to assume this. The public has to understand that even though many from this "community" question vaccination so that they can be better informed doesn't necessarily mean they are for or against. They simply want unbiased information prior to the administration of vaccines to their children. How many of you parents were actually given the package inserts where you can learn of the risks associated with the vaccines....because there are risks. And please stop insulting them with the "benefits outweigh the risks" statements that so many of these doctors are programmed to make. How can anyone possible know this without independent, non-governmental, non-industry research being done into the genetic and other biological high risk factors of vaccine associated brain and immune system dysfunction, including autism? We believe the public has a right to vaccine choice, just as with other medical procedures. And if you stop to think about it like most from the "community" does....our "gut" feeling aka common sense tells us that Carcinogens and Neurotoxins do not belong in vaccines for children....period.

Koi Pond and Laure,

Here's what I am looking for: real answers. Right now, there are still no conclusive reasons for why kids are getting autism and the numbers are continuing to grow at such alarming rates. My personal theory is that the vaccines play a role, along with genetics, diet, and a million other environmental factors to which kids are exposed these days. In the case of many unlucky kids, the vaccine is the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back. As I said though, that's just a theory. The vaccine studies on both sides have issues, and to my mind, there are still too many possible risk factors to rule them out -- i.e. maybe the measles aren't a problem on their own, but the aluminum, formaldehyde, etc. are issues...

Until we have conclusive answers as to why this is happening to our kids; until I feel confident that the studies being done are impartial, and not funded by either the pro- or anti-vaccine camps; until I stop haring reports from parents who believe their kids were damaged by vaccines -- I will continue to do everything in my power to make the most balanced decisions possible on behalf of my own child. This in the face of what I believe continues to be very unclear and incomplete information.

What became used by masses of teens and adults, since the 60s? Drugs, Mariuana, Coke. Heroin, Meth....

Perhaps, DNA changes take place that are passed on to babies. Perhaps, even a few generations later, to babies born to parents who did NOT use drugs, but whose parents or grandparents did.

This is simply a question to be investigated. People need to courageously think 'out of the box' to what became common in the culture that, perhaps, was not there, in earlier days.

@Liz Day - there are real answers out there. The Institute of Medicine conducted a review of data, with an independent panel, and concluded there was no MMR vaccine/autism link. In addition, there have been studies in the UK and Sweden which have reached the same conclusion. I know you say you want a study conducted by neither a drug company nor the government, but a study with absolutely no connection the government will be hard to find. (Who would sponsor such a study?)

I don't know why you don't consider these studies to be real answers.

Also, when considering the rise in autism, you have to consider the change in criteria. The criteria changed in 1980 and then again in 1994. In each case, the criteria became much looser. This is like saying "tall" was defined as 6 feet before 1994, and then after 1994 was defined as 5 feet, 8 inches, and then trying to find a reason why there are so many more tall people. This is not to say that there is no real rise in autism, but it is impossible to know exactly what it is.

There was a study where a group of people who were defined as autistic after 1994 were subjected to the pre-1994 criteria, and only 25% would have been defined as autistic pre-1994. If you believe these numbers, that means you should expect a four-fold increase just based on changing criteria. (This does not take into account the change in 1980, or more frequent screening.)

One more thing - I have no inherent bias for or against vaccines. When I was pregnant, I researched vaccines the same as I researched many other things. In all my research, I could only find evidence in favor of the safety of vaccines. It is true, this does not mean that, out of the millions of people who get vaccines, there won't be any negative side effects. However, you have to take these in comparison with the benefit, which is huge both for the child and for the community.

It is not "pre-programmed" to say the benefits outweigh the risks. This is based on solid, scientific data. This is how you decide if something is worth doing. Anything at all that you do in your life has some kind of risk. If you avoided everything that had risk, you wouldn't breath or wouldn't eat anything either.

The "data" Dr. Wakefield came up with is about as un-scientific as they come, even if he didn't lie.

MMR is totally safe. I have been using it repeatedly for 4 years to alleviate autoimmune disease. In multiple dosing, I have found MMR works best when given daily for weeks at a time. Its beneficial effects can be enhanced with the addition of other viruses such as varicella and yellow fever. Addition of multiple doses of mercuric-containing vaccine (e.g. tetanus-diphtheria) is also totally harmless. The federal vaccine court definitely made the right decision in Cedillo v. HHS. Randy Crawford 3701 Second St. #10 Coralville, Iowa 52241 (319)400-2837

I'm so tired of all the money that has been spent to do follow-up research to refute this quack. Money that could have been spent on researching how to better help children with disabilities.

My daughter was playing outdoors on a sunny day and was injured in an accident. I know many other children who were injured playing outdoors on sunny days! Playing outdoors on sunny days causes children to be injured! When is the government going to step up and demand that children be kept inside on sunny days? The safety of our children is at stake!

Sounds ludacris right?

A lethal hoax story


The real shame is in the source of the original story. The scammer registered a patent to make safe vaccines BEFORE the fake link study and obviously to use FUD to promote his patent and make money.

The hoax killed at least a kid with chelation and the count is not finish with the fear of vaccines .

Surely enough children over many years, have had MMR jabs, for a quick and easy questionaire to be sent to all General Practitioners , to report on the incidence of autism found in their patients and what time frame was involved after the jabs.

And you expect us to believe this crap?

You ought to be ashamed of yourself for helping to put that needle in the children of this world that will cause such a desease..............

How do you sleep at night?



Birthers, 9/11 truthers, World Jewish Conspiracy nutcases, vaccines-cause-all-diseases - same chicken different egg.

Vaccines do an enormous amount of good, but they only fully work when about 92% of the population is vaccinated. Why? Because even among the vaccinated some people are still susceptible to the disease being inoculated against - their immune system doesn't respond to that particular virus. Vaccines can only prepare the immune system you have, they don't give you a bionic one. If enough people are un-vaccinated, the disease starts to circulate again, and some will get the disease. In short, vaccines work because they deny bugs a foothold in a population, not by conferring 100% bionic-hero immunity on each person.

Vaccines are not 100% safe - *nothing* is. They are safer than most prescription drugs, and perhaps we can find ways of reducing the very small risks they still have. But everything on Earth carries some type of risk. The only way to be 100% safe is to be dead.

The Wakefield comments are a travesty of what this case is all about. The GMC made it clear in the early proceedings that they were not challenging Wakefield's conclusions but instead they picked him up on the protocols. In doing so they went well beyond what is proportionate to the scale of any mistakes he may have made. In general he is not wrong either, autistic kids do have considerable gut problems simply because the gut contains many more immune cells than any other part of the body. Autism is an immune condition.

My daughter born well before the MMR and who for that matter didn't have a measles jab until she was five was diagnosed as autistic at around two years old and in her thirties she began to experience serious gut problems described by her specialist as 'Colitis'. Whatever so called experts say autistic kids do have these problems, I know of dozens, and the GMC has now frightened the life out of any specialist whose help an autistic adult may need in later years.

Tony Bateson, Oxford, UK.


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