Earlier this month, I was contacted by Rosa Silverman, feature writer of the Daily Telegraph, who wanted to discuss with me the anti-vaccine movement in America in the light of that great public issue of the moment, the friendship of Andrew Wakefield with Elle Macpherson. As far as could tell our discussions were respectful, and when the article was published the following day to my surprise she did me the honor of quoting me several times. Personally, I was not particularly unhappy or surprised but in the end I decided that the way she had reduced people to types while ultimately ignoring all the information and data I had made available to her both by word of mouth and by email was unacceptable. I think our valued correspondent Annie got the idea when she remarked under an earlier article: "I really wasn't sure if there was a causal relationship between vaccines and autism until Dr. Wakefield started dating Elle McPherson. Now it's for real! Thanks guys! My "celebrity obsessed" American brain can now rest assured!" So, I wrote to her and her newspaper, gave them time to reply and then filed a complaint with IPSO the Independent Press Standards Organization- which I now publish below.
The core charges (which had been made collectively) against all three doctors in the Wakefield case (ie Profs Walker-Smith and Murch as well) at the GMC were set aside when Prof Walker-Smith appealed in the High Court in 2012 and was completely exonerated, leaving Wakefield and Murch technically guilty of things which had never been shown to have happened, or even had been shown not to have happened. In particular, Sir John Mitting dismissed the claim that the doctors were executing a protocol for a Legal Aid Board funded study upon which lay may other discrepancies and subsidiary charges, none of which could be true once this was found to be false. I had drawn Ms Silverman's attention to this major anomaly and provided documentation, which she evidently ignored. http://ahrp.org/laffaire-wakef
Anyone seriously interested in the facts of the Wakefield case needs to address the High Court finding of 2012, otherwise they are just repeating malicious rumours. I put the issue to Ms Silverman in my email unresponded to (19 July): "I posed the question whether Wakefield had had fair treatment, and produced chapter and verse on why he did not - which you seem to have completely ignored. The central issue of the Legal Aid Board protocol at the GMC which Sir John Mitting dismissed was laid collectively against all three doctors, and was simple wrong. It was historically wrong, and Mitting's findings were unappealed, though very inconvenient to the official narrative. To write a proper article about Wakefield you need to address this, and you manifestly have not: re-cycling shibboleths and appeals to authority I am afraid fail the standard."
The Silverman article was one of a barrage of apparently coordinated mainstream media articles in the past two weeks giving hostile coverage to photographs of Wakefield in the company of Elle Macpherson. It is impossible to see in what way this could be in the public interest. Despite the collection of very senior journalists involved, Wakefield's personal life has no bearing on public health issues, and it is surreal how this has been used. This is not how a serious public debate should be conducted.
The terms of this article - like many similar are very prejudicial. It characterises anyone critical of the vaccine programme, whatever their experiences or knowledge, as being irrational. In effect, it reduces anyone critical of any aspect of the vaccine programme, or the lobby, or one of the products to an "anti-vax" type. It takes no account of the immense quantity of published scientific studies, data etc. which leave the benefits of the programme ambiguous. In my letter to Silverman (19 July) I wrote: "On reflection I decided that your article - which was very prejudicial - should not go without comment. After all I had gone to a lot of trouble to document the justified concerns of vaccine critics in the US or anywhere else. At the top of the list I would point to agency capture, so the public not only have to pay for the products they have to receive them often compulsorily (whatever happened to informed consent?): more and more of them every year. And, of course, if something goes wrong people are subject to bullying, opprobrium and denial (not least from media sources: intimidating citizens is a very effective way of influencing data). "I also documented the catastrophic rise in autism (now minimally 4.7% in Belfast schools for example, nearly 300 new cases per year per borough in SW London)). Autism goes on rising year after year everywhere - if it is ever reported, it is a resource problem, not like the iceberg floating towards us for which there is no official explanation available.
In many cases I have had to calculate the rates from other data because public bodies are shirking the issue. Meanwhile, the mainstream media just seems to cover up for failed government policies, instead of investigating them and calling them to account. The press has completely abandoned its historic role. I sent you a recent compilation of 150 Pubmed listed articles which implicate vaccines in the rise of autism: doctors and academics are laying their careers on the line to publish publicly unpalatable facts but the mainstream media is silent, even denies this is happening. "Rather than all the allegedly bad people of Trump's America this is the sort of thing that real journalism should be about (it is what we used to call sleaze). The de-restriction of pharmaceutical advertising in the USA is not something I dreamt up (and an issue which would concern Trump not at all) it means that the increasing beleaguered mainstream media is all too likely to represent only the interests of its advertisers.
In the UK there are other means of corporate and government influence, not least PR agencies like SenseAboutScience and Science Media Centre. In particular, I wonder why David Robert Grimes, a physicist from SAS, is so often quoted on these issues? Not being a medical doctor he has no professional responsibility for what he says. On the other hand, as a responsible parent advocate I have to master the detail, make absolutely sure I know what I am talking about..." I wrote to complain to the Telegraph (23 July): "I wish to make a formal complaint against Rosa Silverman's article "Whatever happened to Andrew Wakefield: the curious rehabilitation of the doctor behind the MMR scare" (18 July). I wrote to her four days ago (below) making some of my concerns known and she has failed to reply.
As will be seen from previous emails I had taken every trouble to point out the solid basis of the concerns of vaccine critics, the systematic misreporting of the Wakefield affair and although she quoted me extensively she made no attempt to report on the foundations of people's concerns rather than simply disparaging them as people. I note that in our interview (which took place on a pleasant and respectful basis) RS posed the intelligent question whether opposition to vaccines in the US was ideological or more commonly because the sceptics were parents whose children had been injured (then characterised as anti-vaccine), and I confirmed that I believed the latter (and coming from all over the political spectrum): but in the article everyone is reduced to a conspiracy believing post-Trump phenomenon. "The reality at the present time is that the US Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting Database has reported more than 650,000 events since 1990: http://medalerts.org/vaersdb/f
Additionally, in the last few days Robert F KennedyJnr has wrung an admission from the HHS that they failed to honour their obligation under the National Childhoood Vaccine Injury Act to report on the safety of vaccines every two years: in fact going back to 1986 they never did at all. https://jonrappoport.wordpress
These are people's real concerns, not Andrew Wakefield's private life, which should have remained private. "The continued scapegoating of Wakefield in the British media is not only deplorable, it looks as if it is a deliberate attempt to distract from the real issues, and we seem to have returned to the realms of Orwell's 5 minutes hate. I do wish RS had not gone off into this reprehensible territory as many other journalists who should know better have done in recent days. It is terrifying the extent to which mainstream journalism has abandoned the objective reporting of complex reality, and turned on many responsible communities across the world wide web, who are actually often well-informed and trying to do their best for their fellow citizens.
What instead we have is FAKE NEWS, a story in itself without public significance being outrageously blown up, and a distraction from the real reasons why all those American people (and may others around the globe) are distressed and angry."