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Light! More light!

January 6, 2011

…i.e. that which sends the cockroaches running, that which illuminates the unpleasant (for some) truth.

In another episode of It Came from Pharyngula, PZ drops the latest bad news for the anti-vax movement; the discredited and retracted Wakefield study has been shown to be outright fraud. An extended summary of the entire sordid case can be found here. And the video on Pharyngula from Anderson Cooper’s show where he interviews Wakefield on the demonstrated fraud was amusing, in a sick sort of way.

I looked that latter page up in response to some of the comments at Pharyngula, which mentioned a failed libel lawsuit filed by ex-Dr. Wakefield against the investigative reporter, Brian Deer. Libel eh? Yeah, that interested me.

Throughout the investigation, Wakefield refused to co-operate, filed complaints, and issued statements denying every aspect. He also initiated, and then abandoned with some £1.3m ($2m) costs, a two-year libel lawsuit, financed by the Medical Protection Society, which defends doctors against complaints from patients. In reply, Deer and Channel 4 openly accused Wakefield of being “unremittingly evasive and dishonest”. His conduct in the litigation was also damned by a High Court judge, who said that Wakefield “wished to extract whatever advantage he could from the existence of the proceedings while not wishing to progress them”, and that the doctor was using them as “a weapon in his attempts to close down discussion and debate over an important public issue”.

Interesting that Wakefield and his supporters speak of conspiracies and Big Pharma working to silence them while the former doctor (license revoked) tried to use the courts to silence his detractors. Well, far be it from me to be surprised by a little hypocrisy amongst the credulous.

Moreso to see how new outbreaks of usually vaccinated and eradicated disease have claimed lives, not to mention that Wakefield seems to have had it in mind to cast doubt on the MMR routine in order to promote his alternative.

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.

Now, one might wonder how Wakefield sleeps at night, given the demonstrations of fraudulent research designed to line his pockets from the alternative vaccine he had set up in advance. Clearly this was the plan. …and I woulda got away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!

Right, so Wakefield is a villain. What I am more curious about are the supporters, the Jenny McCarthy types who continue to back this fellow as he battles against what is hopefully a slow march to jail. Of course, it’s not hard to find the apologetics. They readily excuse ‘discrepancies,’ they trot out defamation (this after the sham of a libel suit), they adapt to the growth in cases even after vaccine formulations have been changed. It is a moment of supreme irony to see the anti-vaxers hit upon the essence of the problem that they continue to perpetrate.

The phenomenal growth in autistic children ‒ from one in 2000 in 1987 to one in 64 today ‒ is of epidemic proportions and cannot all be explained away as improvements in diagnosis. No one, least of all Deer and the BMJ editors, can explain why the tragedy of autistic regression is happening to children and families.

This bold ‘no one can explain’ smacks of the incredulity of a creationist. But it is interesting to see, given that the Wakefield study, after all, was intended to do just that — explain why — and how the anti-vaxers continue to claim they know why. It is in their label. Hard to miss! If no one knows why, including these folks, what business do they have blaming vaccines, refusing to vaccinate kids, and consequently spreading disease in our society which had been gone and by rights should still be gone? What business do they have killing kids with measles outbreaks and the like? If they don’t know why?

Ah well. I can’t really out-mock The Onion, so I’ll just leave it at that.

“Some people may call me a bad parent for not having my children vaccinated. Other people may call me an irresponsible asshole. But personally, I don’t see why I can’t be both.”

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