To the Editor:
While The Hoot’s article covering Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s April 13 lecture at Brandeis presented both sides, the accompanying editorial titled, “Don’t let Wakefield go unchallenged,” was completely biased and provided no support for its claims that Wakefield’s work has been “discredited” and contains “errors and flaws,” or that he “committed great harm through his research, which is filled with fraud and unethical conduct far more than it is with facts.”
In truth, Dr. Wakefield’s greatest harm is to the bottom line of the pharmaceutical companies when he points out serious risks in the vaccine schedule. One such example is the recommendation to delay the Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis vaccine by a mere two months, which has been shown to halve the risk of developing asthma according to a 2008 Canadian study from the University of Manitoba, as cited by Dr. Wakefield in his lecture.
The Hoot editorial also stated that Dr. Wakefield should have debated a Brandeis health policy or science professor. That’s exactly what I’d intended but those who were invited to debate him declined.
A January op-ed in The New York Times written by my former professor, Michael Willrich, criticized Dr. Wakefield. Yet neither Professor Willrich nor anyone from the social or natural science departments who opposes Dr. Wakefield and who was approached with the idea of debating him was willing to do so.
In The Hoot’s article, Dr. Steven Miles—a gerontologist who said Dr. Wakefield “scared” Minnesota’s Somali community—neglected to mention that autism affects a whopping one in 28 Somali children in Minnesota and that Dr. Wakefield was actually invited to speak by the Somali community.
The Somalis had plenty to fear from autism before they were visited by Dr. Wakefield, who advocated an initiative to study why the condition affects their population so profoundly. This is something the state health department and Steven Miles—who was quoted as calling Minnesota’s Somali community “unsophisticated and desperate”—are not publicly supporting.
Parents at the event who came from off-campus—many of whose children had been as sick as the children in Dr. Wakefield’s presentation—were represented as an “angry group” who had “gobbled up” “atrocious science and statistical fudging” in graduate student Zach Feiger’s statement to The Hoot. Yet he did not question the science or the statistics at the question and answer session. Isn’t it “atrocious science” to continue giving every infant the Hep B shot on the first day of life, which is associated with a three-fold greater prevalence of autism in boys according to a SUNY Stony Brook study cited in Dr. Wakefield’s presentation?
That there are people who would not debate Dr. Wakefield, ask him questions or even hear what he has to say is their own responsibility—not that of the speaker, the organizer or anyone else in attendance that night.
I am proud that Dr. Andrew Wakefield had this opportunity to address the allegations against him as well as the science of autism and vaccine risks. He spoke to a diverse audience of students, faculty, staff, parents of children with autism, scientists, a pediatrician and professionals in the field of autism.
—Jake Crosby ’11
Jake Crosby organized Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s Brandeis lecture and is a contributing editor to ageofautism.com.