Prof. Colin Blakemore – head of the MRC from 2003 to 2007 - is just one more member of the British medical establishment to express agitation about Andrew Wakefield in the wake of the phony Welsh measles epidemic, reporting of which by one of many strange coincidences took off in the US media in the week of Wakefield ‘s hearing to have his case re-instated against BMJ and journalist Brian Deer in Texas.
Blakemore it should be noted became head of the Medical Research Council on 1 October 2003. On that very same day the UK Legal Services Commission, in the process of attempting to dissolve the MMR litigation announced that “All the research paid for by the LSC will be sent to the Medical Research Council who are investigating the causes of autism”.
It is by no means clear that the research was for the LSC to dispose of (as opposed to belonging to theQueen’s Counsel Sally Smith, who was to become prosecuting attorney for the GMC against Wakefield and colleagues, was appointed to the Ethics Committee of the MRC, where she remained until 2009 (by which time the GMC prosecution was virtually complete).
Anyhow, if Blakemore had really wanted to find the causes of autism he might have liked to consider the statement issued by officials of the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program:
"The government has never compensated, nor has it ever been ordered to compensate, any case based on a determination that autism was actually caused by vaccines. We have compensated cases in which children exhibited an encephalopathy, or general brain disease. Encephalopathy may be accompanied by a medical progression of an array of symptoms including autistic behavior, autism, or seizures."
Or the remarks Merck’s vaccine chief, Julie Gerberding, when she was still head of the CDC in relation to the Poling case:
“….. if you’re predisposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage. Some of the symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism.”
Nor should he have played dumb over the Valentino Bocca case as he wrote last week:
“And last June an Italian court declared that it had “conclusively established” that a little boy, Valentino Bocca, has been rendered autistic, “ascribed with reasonable scientific probability to the administration of the vaccine MMR”.
”Where that scientific probability came from only the Italian judge knows. Since Mr Wakefield’s paper, 14 major research studies have found no evidence for a link between MMR vaccination and autism.”
But as with his repeated references to “Mr Wakefield” this is just knock-about abuse: the Italian judge made up his mind on the basis of the scientific evidence presented, which has never been contested by the Italian government. It is not clear why with a scientist of Blakemore’s competence there should be a conceptual difficulty when MMR gives rise to a high fever of 39.5C or more in 6 in 100 infants. Vaccines cause encephalopathies and that can lead to autism.
Nor can you resort to epidemiological studies to dismiss what may have happened in individual cases. Indeed, if Prof. Blakemore really cared about the children he would be disturbed by the repeated conclusion of the Cochrane review of MMR that the safety studies were “largely inadequate”.
Prof. Blakemore expresses concern that as result of alleged poor MMR uptake we would have a return to rubella induced deafness and blindness in children, when much more reasonably he could have asked for the return of single rubella vaccines as an option, as Wakefield had suggested in 1998 before the British government and the vaccine manufacturers removed it – that would simply have been logical.
But then, you cannot help thinking that British medical establishment are far more worried about watching their backs in Andrew Wakefield’s defamation case in Texas than they ever were about measles, mumps or rubella.
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John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.