Two years on from our removed exchange about Andrew Wakefield and MMR in The Times of London David Aaronovitch, chair of Index on Censorship , is still engaged in cheap innuendo against Andrew Wakefield (the latest sally being in a presentation on ‘Heresy’ at the Institute of Art and Ideas’). When I published a column in Age of Autism attacking Aaronovitch in 2013 he complained on AoA that he was not responsible for the removal of the exchange, to which I responded:
“Okay, I have altered the text and I apologise unreservedly for any false inference but it remains a problem - does it not? - that I offered well-mannered and informed comment and it was deleted (including your response to me). It should be obvious to you that none of this should have been taken down and that actually if it does not raise important issues about [what] you have said, we ought to have a proper discussion as to why not, rather than just consign the whole thing to the memory hole.
“In my first comment I had already pointed out the problem of the Mitting judgement (which is apparently deadly to Deer's claims), and in my second comment I was a lot more specific. There could be no reasonable doubt that if we are going to have a public discussion about this matter we should be able to discuss a High Court judgement and other things relating to it. You ducked this with your original response and subsequently the exchange was removed (I am surprised that no one would consult you about the removal of your own comments).
“Of course, if you were happy for the comments to be removed and don't take steps to have them replaced then there is not very much difference. I would be very much more impressed if you responded to the detail of what I had said (perhaps you were completely unaware of it).”
In the meantime, of course, another matter has arisen which may not be reported in The Times or elsewhere are the disclosures of Centers for Disease Control whistleblower, William Thompson, about how key subsets from 2004 De Stefano MMR/Autism study were omitted. But Aaronovitch smears on regardless. And in the end let there be no mistake the ultimate victims are not Wakefield but the countless injured children. A story is being perpetuated which is full of holes and Aaronovitch cannot be naive because he was at the centre of the News International attack on Wakefield in 2009: he also acquiesced in the blocking of the challenges he could not answer in 2013. He is supposed to be a competent journalist and an advocate of freedom of speech, although perhaps corporate bully and flanneller would be a more accurate description.
The original text of my 2013 article follows:
David Aaronovitch Loses Exchange About Wakefield & MMR: Then it is Deleted
With British journalists running relays to resuscitate the dead story of the Swansea measles epidemic the former Communist Party activist, David Aaronovitch – newly appointed chairman of the “human-rights” organisation Index-on-Censorship - has come off worse in an exchange with me about Andrew Wakefield and MMR in The Times of London, which was after some hours deleted.
I had written under his article:
It is very unclear that Wakefield cheated bearing in mind the complete exoneration in the High Court last [year] of the senior author and clinician in the Lancet paper Prof John Walker-Smith, who unlike Wakefield was funded to appeal. Walker-Smith was equally responsible for [the] paper and it’s reporting, and more responsible for any clinical decisions regarding the patients in it. The GMC findings, which were based on Brian Deer's allegations, cannot be considered reliable: indeed were highly flawed.
However, an over-riding problem with MMR is that irrespective of Wakefield it is used despite any scientific certainty as to safety. The conclusion in abstract of the Cochrane review of MMR in both 2005 and 2012 is:
"The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate. The evidence of adverse events following immunisation with MMR cannot be separated from its role in preventing the target diseases."
Perhaps by some Orwellian sleight of hand "largely inadequate" for the professional has become "adequate" for the layman, but in my opinion being lulled to sleep by official truths is not being a good journalist.
To which Aaronovitch responded:
@John Stone You have a dog in this fight, John. Brian Deer's "allegations" as you call them concerned Wakefield's methods, his undeclared financial interest in single vaccinations and role as paid expert to anti-vaccination litigation, his doctoring of case histories and the ethics of his research on his subjects. And obscure the facts as much as you will, you cannot come up with credible evidence of an autism link to MMR, either correlative or causal. It would have been much better for those dealing with autism had this whole MMR farrago not distracted from the business of research into causes and help to parents.
For those who want it here is the link to Brian Deer's website…
Aaronovitch, it should be noted was the London Times commentator who followed up Brian Deer’s 2009 allegations against Wakefield with two attacks on Andrew Wakefield in the space of a week, just after Times newpaper boss James Murdoch was appointed to the board of MMR manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline with a brief to help protect the group’s reputation.
Anyhow, I answered:
It is an issue which of Brian Deer's allegations regarding the Wakefield Lancet paper can any longer be held to be true after Mr Justice Mitting's ruling in the High Court.
Was there mis-reporting about referral? No.
Were there unauthorised or inappropriate investigations? No.
Was there mis-reporting of clinical data? No.
Was the paper funded by the Legal Aid Board? No.
Was the paper based on a research protocol, rather than early report of cases seen on the basis of clinical need as stated? No.
If any of these things had been true Walker-Smith would have lost his appeal.
As to Wakefield, he plainly stated in a letter to the Lancet (published 2 May 1998) that he was acting as an expert in the litigation, but the Lancet had known about this for a year at the time, and it was not in those days the convention to disclose court work as a competing interest. Also, Wakefield 's job (he was contracted to the Royal Free Hospital) was to research treatments (which was what the "vaccine" was) but in February 1998 he advised the use of single vaccines on the NHS (which was then an option removed by the government in the succeeding months) in which he had no financial interest. This happened because the dean of the Royal Free medical school had asked Wakefield to do a press briefing supporting the vaccine programme, which is what he did (the policy was changed later).
You accuse me of "obscuring" things, which deftly moves the attack from the things that I am saying to me.
Very plainly there have been court cases in the US and Italy in which governments have conceded that vaccine damage (including MMR) resulted in autism. Vaccines cause encephalopathies - this is not seriously disputed, but we don't know how often because the fundamental official response to reporting is the bare-faced antagonism which your article buys in to.
To which I added a postscript pointing out that the two histopathologist co-authors of the Wakefield paper had repudiated Deer’s claim that Wakefield had tampered with biopsy results.
All this stood without answer for several hours before being quietly removed.
Another extended comment of mine which was removed read:
Yes, I am aware of most of these studies. The problem with the Japanese story is that actually their autism statistics declined as citizens boycotted MMR but shot up when separate vaccines were introduced but administered close together. When the co-author of the Honda paper was quizzed about this in Private Eye he blustered somewhat:
"One of the co-authors of the Honda paper was Professor Sir Michael Rutter, of the Institute of Psychiatry, who had prepared a draft report for GlaxoSmithKline, one of the defendant drug companies in the UK litigation but who was not retained by them. He told the Eye that as he was not an immunlogist he could not comment on the suggestion that giving three separate vaccines a short time apart was the same as administerng the MMR triple vaccine. But he added that although it was unfortunate there was little relevant material published on any possible interference between vaccine components, immunologists whom he had consulted doubted that this was a significant issue"
Cochrane also pointed out there was no proper control group in the Smeeth study. Also, they were discovering insufficient autism cases from their database (from memory ~0.1% as against a figure of >1% in the school population).
Any paper by DeStefano is hopelessly conflicted because as a Centers for Disease Control official he has responsibility for the policy in the first place. Of a contemporaneous DeStefano paper Cochrane said:
“The conclusion, however, implied bias in the enrollment of cases which may not be representative of the rest of the autistic population of the city of Atlanta, USA where the study was set.” (Re: DeStefano 2004)
Perhaps an even more fundamental problem is the [that] epidemiological studies - even better conducted than these might be powerless to detect significant sub-groups as former NIH boss Bernardine Healy pointed out in 2008.
Of course, the 2001 winner of the Orwell prize could have contested the detail of what I had said, or agreed that the issues were more complex than he had previously acknowledged but The Times took the totalitarian line and just pulled everything.