Brandeis Hoot On Jake Crosby's Event with Dr. Andrew Wakefield
Embattled doctor defends Autism research
By Jon Ostrowsky
April 15, 2011
Section: Front Page, Top Stories
Former British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who authored the 1998 Lancet paper suggesting that vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella can cause autism, defended his research during a speech in Rapaporte Treasure Hall Wednesday evening.
Last February, The Lancet retracted the article and in May 2010, the British General Medical Council prohibited Wakefield from practicing medicine in Britain for unethical behavior and misconduct. Wakefield’s paper frightened many parents about the potential dangers of the MMR vaccine and some claim the scare has led to outbreaks of the measles virus.
“How can you possibly determine that the benefits [of the vaccine] outweigh the risks when you have no idea what the risks are?” Wakefield asked at Brandeis on Wednesday.
Ninety percent of unvaccinated kids can develop measles after a brief exposure, and it can cause encephalitis and death, Dr. Steven Miles, Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota, said in a statement to The Hoot.
“Wakefield came to Minnesota and frightened our Somali community. We have had 15 cases and eight hospitalizations in the last month, a stunning increase,” Miles said. “Mr. Wakefield is an anti-science fraud whose words are responsible for outbreaks of measles and diphtheria across the United States. He deserves freedom of speech but he does not deserve the respect of attendance at a university like Brandeis.”
Miles said that Wakefield should not have been invited to speak.
“I can understand giving preference to community members. Wakefield is not a community member.
The people who currently have measles in Massachusetts are,” Miles said.
Wakefield said that the schedule and time between when vaccinations are given can have negative health effects on the patient.
“You could have a huge impact on mortality … if you simply modified the program,” Wakefield said. “We are giving children poisons in vaccines. This may not of itself cause developmental problems but what it does do is render the children vulnerable.”
Jake Crosby ’11, a contributing editor for the publication Age of Autism, organized the event on Wednesday.
In front of a slideshow with photographs of sick children that Wakefield and his colleagues saw, Wakefield defended himself against allegations that he used fraud to manipulate data and research for the Lancet paper.
“These children were not investigated as part of a scientific study. They came to Professor Walker Smith because they were sick,” Wakefield said about some of the patients. “There was no unethical research at anytime on any child at the Royal Free.”
Wakefield’s defense comes after the General Medical Council in Britain investigated the research and found that among other breaches of conduct, lawyers for parents planning to sue vaccine manufacturers paid Wakefield. The Council also stated that Wakefield took blood samples from children at a birthday party and paid the children £5 for giving their blood.
Wakefield denied the criticism.
“Not one single patient came to us through lawyers,” he said. “They were clinical referrals.”
“Accordingly the Panel has determined that Dr Wakefield’s name should be erased from the medical register,” the Council wrote in the May 2010 report. “The Panel concluded that it is the only sanction that is appropriate to protect patients and is in the wider public interest, including the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the profession and is proportionate to the serious and wide-ranging findings made against him.”
Since the 1998 paper, most scientists have concluded that there is no link suggesting a cause between vaccines and autism.
During his lecture, Wakefield repeatedly criticized Sunday Times journalist Brian Deer, who wrote a series of stories exposing the alleged fraud and unethical conduct by Wakefield.
He also blamed journalists for misrepresenting the issue and the facts, in part because the media gets many ads from pharmaceutical companies.
Wakefield said that he did not care what journalists like Deer had to say about him and explained that criticism of his research has only hurt sick children.
About 30 people in the audience of 80 stood up to applaud Wakefield during his introduction and at the end of his remarks.
Today, between one in 100 and one in 150 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism. Crosby said that Wakefield’s research represents a potential cause.
“[Autism Spectrum Disorder] exploded and something has happened. And tonight, we’ll discover the biggest controversy over one of the things that might have happened,” Crosby said.
Others disapproved of the talk. “I have never in my life seen such atrocious science and statistical fudging be so readily gobbled up by a group of angry parents,” Brandeis student Zach Feiger (PhD) said in a statement to The Hoot.
Suggesting that the MMR vaccine causes bowel symptoms and disease, Wakefield pointed to a photograph of a child stuck leaning over the side of a couch who had recently received a vaccine.
“This is a child who has lost the ability to communicate that he has abdominal pain,” Wakefield said.
He showed another photograph of a child with an abnormally large abdomen, but who was otherwise extremely thin and weak. “He is sick. He looks like a child from a famine zone in West Africa,” Wakefield said.
Wakefield, who said that gastrointestinal and bowel symptoms affect between 45 to 80 percent of children with autism, said that the damage from the vaccines can be reversed.
“When medicine doesn’t have an answer, it blames the patient or the parent,” Wakefield said. “This isn’t rocket science. This is treatable.
“My colleagues years ago said we cannot be seen to question the safety of vaccinations because we are pediatricians,” Wakefield said. “If you don’t ask the question, then you’ll never know.”
Despite the loss of his career and reputation, Wakefield defended his work.
“I’m just a doctor trying to do a job,” he said. “The job has to be done. It’s far too important an issue to walk away from.”
I'm sure that Wakefield talked about Honda et al. at Brandeis because he talked about it at the Boulder Public Library (at 35:38): http://www.vaccinesafetycoalition.com/event-video.html
The Honda, Shimizu, Rutter study is "No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study." According to Wakefield, Philip Landrigan told the IOM that this study was the best evidence that MMR does not cause autism.
The study is here: http://14studies.org/pdf/MMR_5.pdf. Go there to look at the graphs and tables. Do you see Mount Fuji with its peak at birth year 1990? It's to the left of Mount Everest at 1994. You might want to keep the paper open in another window for the rest of this.
According to Wakefield, MMR was introduced to Japan in 1989 and targeted at infants from 12 to 18 mos old. (Accordingly we see a steepish rise in ASD peaking at birth year 1990.) But almost immediately it became apparent that MMR was causing meningitis so uptake of the vaccine fell off sharply. (Now we see a steepish decline in ASD bottoming out at birth year 1991.) Soon thereafter the practice became to give single measles and rubella vaccines on the same day with mumps optionally 4 weeks after, a situation which due to the biology of live virus vaccines is similar to giving MMR. At that point the incidence of ASD in Kohoku Ward started to rise again.
That's Wakefield's plausible explanation, but how do the study authors explain Mount Fuji? I first went to the discussion which I suspect is the only section anybody ever reads and found this astonishing statement: "The key findings are that the seven-year cumulative incidence of ASD rose progressively from 47.6 per 10,000 for children born in 1988 to 117.2 for those born in 1996." Huh? My lying eyes tell me that ASD *declined* sharply from 85.9 to 55.8 for birth years 1990 to 1991. How did this mountain disappear? The explanation had to be in the results section so I went there next, where this sentence appeared through the mist: "However, this trend [increasing cumulative incidence of ASD] differed after 1993 and before 1992. When 1996 is used as the standard, ASD incidence is significantly low in each birth year until 1992...." What the sam hill is going on here? Incidence was 85.9 for 1990 and only 63.3 for 1992 so how could it be low *until* 1992? And why should 1996 be the "standard" anyway? Standard what? Standard for what? The Kohoku Ward was redistricted in 1994. It changed size. 1996 can't be the standard, whatever that means, for previous years.
So that's how you make a mountain disappear without a revolving platform. You just say things that anybody with eyeballs can see are not true and hope that nobody bothers to look. I have to assume that there was no way for the study authors to explain the rise-fall-rise of ASD which comported with their desired result. I give it to Wakefield's explanation by default. Hideo Honda must have a set of brass ones. Either that or something was lost in translation.
Posted by: Carol | April 20, 2011 at 01:43 PM
Just because of people like this guy, promoting stupidity and not helping people learn the truth we need to unify forces and bring Dr. Wakefield to speak in our cities!
I belong to a group of parents that is bringing Dr. Wakefield to our city to speak. Thursday April 28th, 2011 at the Angelika Theater in Plano, TX. 7pm
If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area come and join us! We need to support him and be part of the change our kids need!
Posted by: Erika | April 18, 2011 at 06:56 PM
For a well-nourished and cared for child measles is a mild uneventful disease. Drug companies would be loved by everybody, if they turned their activity to producing effective antibiotics and antivirals to treat sick children, rather than vaccines to permanently injure the healthy.
Posted by: veritas | April 18, 2011 at 10:26 AM
@ Ninety percent of unvaccinated kids can develop measles after a brief exposure, and it can cause encephalitis and death, Dr. Steven Miles, Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota, said in a statement to The Hoot.
What is being implied is that 90 % of children who get measles will wind up with brain damage or death. That might be true in a third world country with very poor nutrition, sanitation and hygiene. Our country hasn't had those conditions for last 75 years or better. The death rate for measles fell by 95 % between 1915 and 1958, 5 years before the vaccine was introduced. There never was a vaccine for scarlet fever but it declined in the same manner. Vaccines have been given FAR TOO MUCH CREDIT which helps pharma and the medical profession keep the emphasis off what was really responsible and in turn keep their profits high.
Posted by: Adam M | April 18, 2011 at 06:05 AM
In Jon Ostrowsky's defense, he does call Wakefield a doctor in the title, and at the event I did read from the bio in his book that included his country of birth as one of the things he lost. That's probably what Ostrowsky meant when he said Wakefield is a "former British doctor" - might not be clear to the average reader, though.
Posted by: Jake Crosby | April 17, 2011 at 07:38 PM
Thank you so much for organizing the effort to have Dr. Wakefield speak at Brandeis. It is so important that as many people as possible get the chance to hear this wonderful man's science and story.
You're a courageous and brilliant young man and we're all so grateful for the many things you've done to advance the truth.
Jake in 2012! :-)
Posted by: Mary Hirzel | April 17, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Part of the problem is that people read anti-Wakefield sites and think they understand the issues. That's a bit like going to Dick Cheney's website (if he had one) and thinking you're an expert on WMD in Iraq. Then Dr. Wakefield presents his actual arguments and you have nothing to counter them because you've never actually heard them before. You still, however, have the emotions that have been whipped up in you--false outrage syndrome, as it were.
Posted by: Carol | April 17, 2011 at 10:56 AM
Jake - you astound me, as usual. I dream that my son will one day be just like you.
Posted by: Jake - you astound me, as usual | April 17, 2011 at 09:31 AM
I am sure if Zach had a child that was normal and took that child for it "Well Baby shots" at 18 mo.s and that child got sick with - in hours of getting that shot and started to regress a few days later he would change his mind fast.
He may even start to look into this problem with a different mind set.
It is time for Doctors to listen to the parents of these children and not the media and drug co.s.
Posted by: Walter Constantine | April 17, 2011 at 09:10 AM
"Ninety percent of unvaccinated kids can develop measles after a brief exposure, and it can cause encephalitis and death, Dr. Steven Miles, Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota, said in a statement to The Hoot."
According to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Table .. serious adverse reaction warnings .. including DEATH .. are listed for the following vaccines:
Tetanus, Pertussis, Measles, mumps, rubella, both "live" and "inactivated" polio, HEP B
I think we can safely assume vaccine manufacturers did not list death as a potential adverse reaction to so many vaccines without "scientific" evidence that demanded they do so .. which makes Dr. Wakefield's question to his audience at Brandeis University not only reasonable .. but compelling as well:
“How can you possibly determine that the benefits [of the vaccine] outweigh the risks when you have no idea what the risks are?”
Asked another way .. how many deaths of children are public health officials willing to accept in order to "protect the herd"?
Posted by: Bob Moffitt | April 17, 2011 at 09:10 AM
Thank you Jake Crosby for bringing Dr. Wakefield to Brandeis University. I am anxious Jake to hear your impressions of his lecture.
Why is it people like Dr. Miles don't seem to care at all about the exploding autism rates? Why does a child with measles mean more to him than a child suffering in pain with bowel problems and non verbal autism?
And why does Brandeis student Zach Feiger assume Dr. Wakefield is a liar and a fraud? Because the media has told him so? Did he even listen to what Dr. Wakefield had to say? Or was his mind slammed shut to the information Dr. Wakefield was sharing? This mindset from someone in a PhD program to be so closed-minded-kind of surprising and sad. And Zach made a comment saying something about angry parents in the audience. Zach is so uniformed on this issue that he has no idea why parents would be angry. I'll tell you Zach why parents would be angry. We had healthy children who were developing and normal. We got them vaccinated and they changed. They regressed, fell ill....became autistic. We listened to our doctors and we unknowingly allowed our children to be harmed. We are upset for our ignorance. We are upset about our children's poor health and associated problems due to their "autism". We know what happened to them, yet people like you don't seem to care. We are uspet that children today...every day are still falling ill and regressing after vaccination. Our children were harmed and subsequently ignored. They don't matter to people like you and Dr. Miles. So, until people start paying attention and giving a damn about our sick and injured kids, I guess we will just carry on supporting Dr. Wakefield because he does give a damn and he is out there telling our kids story. Dr. Wakefield is a hero.
Posted by: Wakefield=HERO | April 17, 2011 at 08:20 AM
It would be nice if Zach could give an example of atrocious science and fudged statistics because then we could see why his panties are in such a twist.
He has said elsewhere that he didn't stay for the whole talk and I'm assuming that his outrage was so enormous that he was unable even to ask a question.
Posted by: Carol | April 17, 2011 at 07:49 AM