The Origin of Vaccine Fears

Some parents refuse to have their children vaccinated because of the fear that the vaccinations may cause autism and other problems. That fear was bolstered in Britain with the publication of a 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. That paper claimed a link between the triple vaccine combination MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) and inflammatory bowel disease and autism. The paper was retracted in 2010 after a long investigation by reporter Brian Deer for the London Sunday Times. Wakefield was removed from the U.K. medical registry in 2010, after the longest-ever professional misconduct hearing by the UK’s General Medical Council.

You can read a summary of the seven-year investigation here: It is a long article which I will further summarize.

According to the article:

It all started with a British lawyer, Richard Barr, “a jobbing solicitor in the small eastern English town of King’s Lynn, who hoped to raise a speculative class action lawsuit against drug companies which manufactured the triple shot. Barr hired medical researcher Andrew Wakefield to find some problem with MMR. “The goal was to find evidence of what the two men claimed to be a ‘new syndrome’, intended to be the centrepiece of (later failed) litigation on behalf of an eventual 1,600 British families, recruited through media stories.”

Wakefield’s entire study “reported on the cases of just 12 anonymous children with apparent brain disorders who had been admitted to a pediatric bowel unit at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, north London, between July 1996 and February 1997.”

“The prime cause of the alarm was findings in the paper claiming that the parents of two thirds of the 12 children blamed MMR for the sudden onset of what was described as a combination of both an inflammatory bowel disease and what Wakefield called ‘regressive autism’, in which language and basic skills were said to have been lost. Most disturbingly, the first behavioral symptoms were reported to have appeared within only 14 days of the shot.”

Deer’s investigation showed that Wakefield was well-paid for his findings. The investigation also found a conflict of interest: The Sunday Times investigation found that in “June 1997 – nearly nine months before the press conference at which Wakefield called for single vaccines – he had filed a patent on products, including his own supposedly ‘safer’ single measles vaccine, which only stood any prospect of success if confidence in MMR was damaged.”

Deer’s investigation also found that the original 12 children were not what they appeared to be. “In the Lancet, the 12 children (11 boys and one girl) had been held out as merely a routine series of kids with developmental disorders and digestive symptoms, needing care from the London hospital. That so many of their parents blamed problems on one common vaccine, understandably, caused public concern. But Deer discovered that nearly all the children (aged between 2½ and 9½) had been pre-selected through MMR campaign groups, and that, at the time of their admission, most of their parents were clients and contacts of the lawyer, Barr.”

“The investigation revealed, moreover, that the paper’s incredible purported finding – of a sudden onset of autism within days of vaccination – was a sham: laundering into medical literature, as apparent facts, the unverified, vague – and sometimes altered – memories and assertions of a group of unnamed parents who, unknown to the journal and its readers, were bound to blame MMR when they came to the hospital because that was why they had been brought there.”

The bottom line is that the original paper, which precipitated so much concern, was based on fraud. No other researchers have been able to replicate the results of Wakefield’s original paper.
Read the entire summary of investigation linked above.