In part one we looked at the beginnings of the anti-vaccination movement. Primarily based on one study done in 1998 the anti-vaccination movement gained a lot of momentum, especially in Great Britain where the study was released. Part 3 will cover some of the negative effects of the movement, so I will not go into too much detail here. But is the movement justified? Time to return to our friend, Andrew Wakefield.
As a quick refresher, most of the backlash comes from the idea that thimerosal (along with mercury), once found in the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, is toxic and a cause of Autism. This vaccine became the center fo the controversy and the focus of the Andrew Wakefield study.
Over the past few years it has come to light that he might not have been honest with his study. In fact his study was complete bull. We can’t be sure of his intentions, but the study was done under poor conditions, bad methodologies, and a general misrepresentation of the data. Brian Deer did most of the work digging up information about the study, so most of the information below is from him (you can browse his website here).
It had 13 co-authors. Eleven of them dropped out.
Reviews found the study to be deeply flawed. To start with his sample size was very small; only twelve patients (11 boys and one girl). The families of the children in the study were not innocent either:
But Deer discovered that the children (aged between 2½ and 9½) had been recruited through MMR campaign groups, and that, at the time of their admission, most of their parents were clients and contacts of the lawyer, Barr. None of the 12 lived in London. Two were brothers. Two attended the same doctor’s office, 280 miles from the Royal Free. Three were patients at another hospital clinic. One was flown in from the United States
You might be thinking, who is this lawyer? Andrew Wakefield was paid thousands of dollars by lawyers involved in a lawsuit to prove that the vaccine was unsafe. This is what one might call a conflict of interest. It doesn’t get any better. He was in the process of patenting his own vaccine.
The study was a lie. Brian Deer had discovered that it was rigged. Everyone had something to gain. This is now how science is done. The one study that offered the most proof that vaccines cause autism was revealed as a fraud.
Finally, in 2010, the Lancet officially retracted the study. That is in the UK.
As the anti-vaccination movement took hold in the US so did the lawsuits. These were all piled together into one giant lawsuit called an omnibus hearing. The Autism Omnibus. In 2008 they looked at three cases. They found no connection between Autism and vaccines in those three cases. you can read one of the judge’s rulings here. A tasting of the ruling:
I concluded that the evidence was overwhelmingly contrary to the petitioners’ contentions. The expert witnesses presented by the respondent were far better qualified, far more experienced, and far more persuasive than the petitioners’ experts, concerning most of the key points. The numerous medical studies concerning these issues, performed by medical scientists worldwide, have come down strongly against the petitioners’ contentions. Considering all of the evidence, I found that the petitioners have that thimerosal-containing vaccines can contribute to causing immune dysfunction, or that the MMR vaccine can contribute to causing either autism or gastrointestinal dysfunction. I further conclude that while Michelle Cedillo has tragically suffered from autism and other severe conditions, the petitioners have also failed to demonstrate that her vaccinations played any role at all in causing those problems.
Wow, that hurts.
Round two ended in March. Same results. Once again, a snippet:
Support for petitioners’ claim does not come from the epidemiologic evidence, and petitioners’ claim that the performed studies lack the requisite specificity to detect an association between the receipt of thimerosal-containing vaccines and the allegedly small subset of cases involving autism with clear signs of regression is unavailing.
You can find all of the decisions here.
Do I expect this to convince the hardcore anti-vaxers? Not at all. Many of them live in a world full of logical fallacies and delusion. It’s sad and harmful. Part 3 will show how harmful it is.