By Wiiliam Beier
I grew up when parents in this country were terrified of their children contracting polio, and Jonas Salk became almost a saint for having developed a vaccine to prevent the crippling disease.
Smallpox, TB, and other previously devastating diseases were significantly reduced because intelligent, brave, educated, socially conscientious medical and scientific professionals labored exhaustively to develop medicines to protect people and their children from childhood diseases such as mumps, measles, chicken pox, and many others. Uncounted pregnant women and their fetuses were shielded nation-wide because of the government mandate to vaccinate children entering school, and thus reduce the spread of contagion.
And the Lord smiled.
Fast-forward to 1998 and what has become justifiably reviled in the annals of medical research as the “Lancet MMR Autism Fraud” and the sad consequences of one man’s greed and dishonesty.
Enter Andrew Wakefield, the director and star of the 2016 anti-vaccination film Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, a sacred movie among those deriding vaccines in general and the COVID vaccines in particular. As a reviewer in The Wall Street Journal, said: “If Vaxxed had been submitted as science fiction, it would merit attention for its story line, character development and dialogue. But as a documentary it misrepresents what science knows about autism, undermines public confidence in the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and attacks the integrity of legitimate scientists and public-health officials.”
So who is Andrew Wakefield, and why are people saying awful things about him?
Well, for those interested, ex-Dr. Wakefield authored, and convinced 12 others to co-sign as authors with him, an article published in the well-respected British medical journal Lancet that falsely claimed to link the MMR vaccine to colitis and autism. However, after a well-documented expose in The Times, coupled with thorough investigations, the British General Medical Council (GMC) in 2010 found that Wakefield had been dishonest in his research, had acted against his patients’ best interests and mistreated developmentally delayed children, and had “failed in his duties as a responsible consultant”. The Lancet fully retracted Wakefield’s 1998 publication on the basis of the GMC’s findings, noting that elements of the manuscript had been falsified and that the journal had been “deceived” by Wakefield. Wakefield was booted off the UK medical register and was barred from practicing medicine in the UK. Most of his co-authors then formally withdrew their authorship once Wakefield’s deception was revealed.
Aside from the fact other researchers were unable to replicate Wakefield’s findings, raising obvious suspicion in the medical/scientific community, The Sunday Times reported that Wakefield had “fixed” results and “manipulated” patient data in his 1998 paper, creating the appearance of a link with autism. In addition, Wakefield’s financial incentive for fabricating the hoax was revealed with previously undisclosed financial conflicts of interest on Wakefield’s part, disclosing his patent for a single measles vaccine where he reportedly stood to earn up to $43 million per year selling test kits. (For those interested in more information about Wakefield’s financial rewards, unethical behavior, and loss of medical and scientific respectability from the whole sordid episode, check Wikipedia under “Andrew Wakefield” and “Lancet MMR autism fraud”, to which this article is heavily indebted.)
Wakefield’s Lancet paper has been described as “perhaps the most damaging medical hoax of the 20th Century,” resulting in a sharp drop in vaccination rates in Britain, Ireland, and America. And, despite being refuted, has led to an increase in the incidence of measles and mumps, resulting in deaths and serious permanent injuries.
One man’s greed, a political party’s cynical exploitation of fear, and a President’s callous disregard for public safety have all converged to create the healthcare mess that had been avoided by previous Presidents threatened with similar pandemics. With people like Tucker Carlson and others pushing the anti-vax anti-mask agenda (despite, in all likelihood, having been vaccinated himself), a better educated populace should be more interested in facts and the safety of their loved ones than the false rhetoric tooting so-called personal “freedom.”
When you witness the sick and bury the dead, remember the individual who started us on the road to our present national tragedy.
The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal. If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.
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