The ball started rolling with a publication in the professional magazine The Lancet in 1998. The British physician Andrew Wakefield, back then working in the department of pediatric gastroenterology at the Royal Free Hospital in London, had drawn the attention to a potential connection between measles vaccination and the development of inflammatory bowl diseases and of autisms in this publication. One of the elements of this hypothesis was the observation that the point of time of the MMR combination vaccination in Great Britain, the 13rth month of life, happens to be the same point of time when children suffering from autism show first symptoms.
A case series and its consequences
The study concluded with the result that the connection between vaccination and bowel diseases respectively autism definitely cannot be established based on the data available. In one of the press conferences coming along with the publication however, Wakefield pleaded to use ingle vaccinations instead o the MMR combination as a precaution and to vary the point of time of vaccination. The fear of vaccination caused autism was born. The work, the press conference and some follow-up publications found an exceptional echo in Great Britain. It kept the media busy for years. And in its last consequence it led to a dangerous decrease of the immunization coverage for measles in the Kingdom. Some other countries joined – at least partly – the British hysteria. Germany wasn’t one of them. Nonetheless the rise and fall of Andrew Wakefield deserves attention beyond the borders of Great Britain. The work done in 1998, withdrawn by The Lancet in 2004 and in 2010 even erased completely from the database was not a real study – it was a case series which included only eight children. That already should have prohibited extensive conclusions, especially since the data speaking against a connection between vaccination and autism wasn’t bad even back then. Over the years more and more scientifically solid studies were submitted practically depriving Wakefield’s accusation against the measles vaccination of all credibility.
Dr. Vaccinestein is alive
In the collective consciousness however, the fear of autism got stuck. Certain circles considered Wakefield a hero. Until today, some guiding principles of vaccination critics exist, which (also) go back to Wakefield and his theses, most of all the scepticism against combination vaccinations. It was not caused by his case series and certainly in his unproven autism thesis as well that the British General Medical Council (GMC) decided to take off to take Andrew Wakefield off the British list of physicians on May 24, 2010. In fact this decision is based on the longest and most comprehensive examination done so far by the GMC connecting Wakefield and his works about measles vaccination with regarding scientific and ethic misconduct which was proven there. And this part of the story published in view of recent events in the British newspaper The Guardian and brought to the publication in great detail really is bizarre.
Not only did Wakefield make studies without approval of the ethic commissions. He also made an unknown number of examinations not indicated, among others plenty of colonoscopies, in order to clinically prove his experimentally never sufficiently supported hypothesis. In addition Wakefield had applied for approval for an own vaccination study in February 1998, one month prior to publishing his Lancet papers, in which he wanted to test a new clean measles vaccination – which at least suggests the question about potential conflicts of interests. Immunospecific Biotechnologies is the name of the company supposed to manufacture the vaccine, its director the father of one of Wakefield’s patients. The first couple of tests of the vaccine Wakefield made – once again – without any official permission on a child and he did not inform its paediatrician about the experiment. During the birthday party of his son he took blood samples for lab examinations of the guests paying them five British pounds each for it.
But many others should question themselves as well
All this together was sufficient enough to the GMC attesting Wakefield sever professional mistakes which now led to the exclusion from the physicians’ registry. The British hope that the whole issue of vaccination autism is cleared off the table now. And off the table it’s not for sure since Wakefield only kicked off the discussions after all. Actually his professional conduct was a catastrophe – that’s what he stumbled over. But he is not the only one to be held responsible for the discredit vaccinations got into. His speculations fell on good soils: The Lancet printing a rotten publication. Other media listening to hysterical ‘wanna-be’ experts instead of taking a close look at existing data. And Physicians more than willing to give in to vaccination scepticism or even worse reproducing and spreading the autism thesis. All that has not vanished simply because Wakefield does not work as a physician any more. If you are in doubt that any of this could happen in Germany you are welcome to recall last year’s discussions about supposedly cancer causing cell culture vaccines against swineflu. Crown witness of prosecution here was a Politian with a medical background who for sure never dealt with the topic he spoke about on a scientific level. England is everywhere.