This was originally posted at http://africanjungle.iblog.co.za on June 12th, 2010.
In February 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist working at the Royal Free Hospital in London, submitted a paper to The Lancet, the British Medical Journal. In it, he claimed to have found Measles Virus in the Large Intestines of several autistic patients. At a later press conference, he expressed concern about the MMR (Measles Mumps and Rubella) triple-shot and hypothesized that it may be a cause of autism.
Ever since vaccination began with Edward Jenner, groups of people have been opposed to it. Anti-vaccinationists have expressed “concerns” over its risks, and “doubts” about its effectiveness. Prior to 1998, these groups were very much fringe groups with little influence. Wakefield’s paper changed all that. Masquerading as autism advocates, anti-vaccination groups like Autism Speaks, Generation Rescue, Age of Autism and JABS sprang up, hyping the MMR-Vaccine-causes-Autism lie. Around the world, parents became afraid of the “risk” and vaccination rates fell.
What almost nobody knew then was that Wakefield had been hired by Richard Barr, a solicitor working on a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine, to find evidence that could be used in a court case. Additionally, Wakefield had patented a transfer factor that could be used to vaccinate against Measles, and this stood a better chance if confidence in MMR was damaged. But it would be another six years before Brian Deer would uncover Wakefield’s conflicts of interest.
In my next post, I will blog about Brian Deer and his investigation into Wakefield.