Ian Birrell is not a minor journalist and he has experience with the disability scene. Years ago I used to see his wife and daughter at my son’s music therapy sessions and I know the family had to cope with difficulties of a special order. But he is also well connected, and was David Cameron’s speech writer during the 2010 election.
This weekend I was dismayed to see a journalist – in this case Birrell - once again smear Andrew Wakefield. Birrell is capable of doing research but instead he just repeats the old whispers. I noticed that back in May he had written an excellent piece on the contaminated blood scandal with which the United Kingdom Department of Health in the early 1980s wiped out a generation of haemophiliacs, and went on to try and pull the wool for more than three decades. Quite rightly he is outraged, but what he does not seem to understand is the flawed culture that leads to such things. Another example was the Camelford water disaster, in which at exactly moment that DH was arranging to import a known to be faulty version of the MMR vaccine, they began a twenty-five year cover up of the poisoning of residents by aluminium sulphate in a Cornish village – they may not in this instance have got the media to believe them, but from the legal point of view it was perfectly executed exercise in time wasting.
One thing that Birrell could learn from the contaminated blood incident is that things that are supposed to be good for you are not always. Preventing disease is a fine idea, but what happens if the products are neither as safer or effective as claimed in the propaganda, and what happens when there ever more of them?
Birrell can state that Wakefield was disgraced (I suppose Jan Hus was disgraced when the Papal inquisition put a dunce's cap on his head and set light to him) and that the General Medical Council erased him from the register, but that is superficial stuff. History asks intelligent people to ask serious questions. The reality is that the proceedings against Wakefield and colleagues were based substantially on false allegations and these were shown in detail to be false allegations when they were reviewed by a High Court judge, Sir John Mitting, in the case of Wakefield’s senior colleague Prof Walker-Smith. Though neither Wakefield or Prof Murch was in a position to appeal it does not mean that claims which were inherently false were somehow true about them. If the products are so wonderful, why this incredible litany of lies which has to be endlessly repeated?
The safety of vaccines has become a required belief of the political and journalistic class: if you want a place in public life I suppose that is what you do. But nothing would make more certain that the products are unsafe than this totemistic devotion, and this ugly witch-hunt which is not only against Wakefield but anyone with testimony of adverse experiences, and finally against a public being re-assured about faulty products.
The bigger problem for our society now is not infectious disease but neuro-developmental disorders.
Well, I wrote to Ian Birrell I asked him to tell me where I was wrong, and have yet to hear back.
You have not read this situation right and you have not drawn correct conclusions. The DH will sell vaccine injured children down the river just as they sold the haemophiliacs down the river or the people of Camelford, as they did in those cases with sadistically obfuscating inquiries which went on for decades finding nothing. Welcome to Dickens's Circumlocution Office.
Apart from anything else the main findings against AW at the GMC were shown to be false when his senior colleague Prof Walker-Smith appealed, so essentially you are just repeating rumour.
Vaccines are a nice idea but in the real world there are no damage free medical interventions. Possibly unwittingly, what an article such as yours becomes is an exercise in social repression and control. The message is that if you dare attack vaccines, whatever your experience, you will be subject to media/social hostility. That is also something else which warps the scientific evidence base. In a liberal democracy - which we scarcely live in any more - everyone would have the right to be heard.
This is my column, which I have written for many years without financial reward.
Nothing human is ever error free but if want to dispute anything I have written I am very willing to answer you.
I well remember your wife and daughter from Nordoff-Robbins two decades ago. I know that you also have had to fight many battles but please understand other people have rights too, and you are presently trying to shout them down.
With all good wishes,
John Stone, UK Editor, Age of Autism