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BMJ accuses researcher who claimed link between vaccines and autism of fraud
January 7, 2011 4:28 AM   Subscribe

The British Medical Journal has called Andrew Wakefield, the lead author of the study that initially claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, a fraud. Investigative journalist Brian Deer went through the original medical records of the children included in the study and found that, amongst other things, some of them didn't have autism. Language this strong in a journal like this is pretty unusual, especially given the UK's libel laws. The Lancet retracted the original paper (PDF) last year due to concerns about breaches of research ethics (previously on Metafilter), but the BMJ is claiming deliberate manipulation and misrepresentation of data for financial gain.
posted by une_heure_pleine (120 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
His fraudulence killed children. So in the absence of accountability to uk libel laws I'm going to call him a murderer.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:39 AM on January 7, 2011 [46 favorites]


It only took them ten years to grow a pair. Too little too late to stop the demented hysteria. I'm looking at you, Jenny McCarthy.
posted by londonmark at 4:46 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Neither the Daily Mail nor the Daily Express, the two UK tabloids which did most to fan the flames of MMR hysteria, have reported on the BMJ's article. The editors who publicised Wakefield's fraud ought to be printing front-page apologies; instead, they are too busy printing more shrill, hysterical articles about flu epidemics.
posted by greycap at 4:52 AM on January 7, 2011 [18 favorites]


Sadly, I don't think it will matter that this has been repudiated. The damage has been done: mass communication spreads lies as fast as truths, and whichever becomes entrenched first usually sticks.
posted by absalom at 4:52 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


McCarthy's "rebuttal" - it's all part of a "vaccine-industry funded media circus."
posted by starvingartist at 4:56 AM on January 7, 2011


This whole bogus vaccine-autism link makes me indescribably mad (and sadly I don't think this retraction, overdue as it is, will eliminate the link in the minds of certifiable goony-birds like Jenny "Dipshit" McCarthy). Measles is now considered endemic in the U.K. due to vaccination rates falling to 80%. Seriously, WTF? One of the things which makes me most grateful to be fortunate enough to be rearing a child today rather than hundreds of years ago is vaccines. I can't imagine the anguish of watching your children die of measles, typhoid, mumps, polio, etc. Big Pharma may be morally ambiguous (verging towards pure evil) on the whole, but vaccinations are a Very Good Thing.
posted by Go Banana at 4:57 AM on January 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


McCarthy's "rebuttal" - it's all part of a "vaccine-industry funded media circus."

Don't feed the animals, please.
posted by londonmark at 5:00 AM on January 7, 2011


That creep should be behind bars. I sincerely hope that will happen.
posted by Decani at 5:00 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


The real question is why the Lancet published this dangerous drivel in the first place.

I think there is an excessive publication bias in that big name journal are too interested in publishing exciting research and place too much faith in peer review procedures to guarantee its authenticity. The scientific method is great, but it does depend on people - their integrity, and competence.

David Freedman has a great piece in The Atlantic (ungated) discussing these problems in scientific research, particularly medical research.
posted by Philosopher's Beard at 5:01 AM on January 7, 2011 [8 favorites]



His fraudulence killed children. So in the absence of accountability to uk libel laws I'm going to call him a murderer.


I'd have to agree. I know a startling number of educated parents, some of them actually scientists, who have opted for not vaccinating their children. I hope that some of them are now reconsidering that decision.
posted by Forktine at 5:02 AM on January 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


So, perhaps a dumb question, but: Why did he do this?
posted by jbickers at 5:16 AM on January 7, 2011


Money.
posted by notsnot at 5:19 AM on January 7, 2011


why did he do this?

Money. He got a $600K payment from the lawyer-troll to bankroll the study, and he had a patent on a competing measles vaccine that stood to make him millions if MMR use was discontinued.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:19 AM on January 7, 2011 [17 favorites]


He should be pilloried. Every day from sunup to sundown, I don't really care about the weather. Public, VERY public humiliation is the only way to shame this piece of shit.
posted by notsnot at 5:27 AM on January 7, 2011


And still, every discussion with anti-vaccination people comes down to them still believing that vaccinations cause autism and kill the indigo soul, that Wakefield's "research" was fine, that this is a witch hunt, that the data is faked, that there is no resurgence in vaccine-preventable illnesses, and that in any case vaccinated children get sick while unvaccinated children do not. Nothing will ever convince them.
posted by jeather at 5:31 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


And still, every discussion with anti-vaccination people comes down to them still believing that vaccinations cause autism and kill the indigo soul, that Wakefield's "research" was fine, that this is a witch hunt, that the data is faked, that there is no resurgence in vaccine-preventable illnesses, and that in any case vaccinated children get sick while unvaccinated children do not. Nothing will ever convince them.

Maybe this is evolution in action.
posted by londonmark at 5:40 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Jenny McCarthy Body Count currently stands at 622.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:40 AM on January 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


Not to mention the deaths elsewhere that don't make the McCarthy count.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 5:53 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


From the local parenting listserv:
"it may have been a flawed study, but the etiology of the autism crisis is still not known. Maybe they were close, even with flawed study. The epidemiology of this problem follows that of a pandemic, increasing all over, at a steady rate"

I know it shouldn't surprise me, but it still does: how you can use the word etiology and epidemiology and still have no idea what the hell you're talking about?

I've yet to ask an anti-vaccine person what it would take to convince them they're wrong, but my guess is there's nothing good enough. Once you start believing in conspiracies, everything you read was probably tampered with by the black helicopter flying jewish pharmaceutical industry knights templar bankers.

And in medicine where the science is always murky and full of outlier studies ripe for cherry picking? You'll never stomp out the flames of crazy burning in the heads of the anti-vaxers. The best you can do is try to keep the fire from spreading.
posted by pjaust at 5:56 AM on January 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


As others have said above - people will believe what they want to believe. This dude could be forced to go door to door to every anti-vaccine moron in the world and apologize and admit he made the whole thing up and every single one of them would see a Big Pharma agent in the bushes with a gun. It reminds me of that Frontline episode about Todd Willingham. Every single fire inspector involved in the original case poo poo'd any subsequent scientific analysis - "I don't care how many fancy degrees you have or what school you went to..." etc etc.
posted by spicynuts at 5:57 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


McCarthy:
For years, the media has mischaracterized Wakefield's work as implicating the MMR vaccine in the autism epidemic. This was never true, as Wakefield himself wrote in the conclusion to his paper:

"We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described."
Wakefield paper discussion section:
Disintegrative psychosis is recognized as a sequel to measles encephalitis, although in most cases no cause is ever identified.14 Viral encephalitis can give rise to autistic disorders, particularly when it occurs early in life.15 Rubella virus is associated with autism and the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (rather than monovalent measles vaccine) has also been implicated. Fuldenberg16 noted that for 15 of 20 autistic children, the first symptoms developed within a week of vaccination. Gupta17 commented on the striking association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and the onset of behavioural symptoms in all the children that he had investigated for regressive autism. Measles virus18,19 and measles vaccination20 have both been implicated as risk factors for Crohn's disease and persistent measles vaccine-strain virus infection has been found in children with autoimmune hepatitis.21

We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described. Virological studies are underway that may help to resolve this issue.

If there is a causal link between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and this syndrome, a rising incidence might be anticipated after the introduction of this vaccine in the UC in 1988. Published evidence is inadequate to show whether there is a change in incidence22 or a link with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. 23 ...
The implication throughout the paper is, "here's evidence that MMR causes autism, but we've not proved it because we're not done with our study."
posted by zennie at 5:58 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most published research findings are false.

It can be a quicksand swamp of emptied worm cans I tell you.
posted by bukvich at 6:10 AM on January 7, 2011


I work in public health, and I have to talk about this often. I remember sitting at an elementary school open house, a poor school with a lot of single parent families trying to survive on welfare. Most have little or no health care coverage to speak of, and sit in clinics and ER's when they are deperate.

The school social worker came up to me, at my table about FREE vaccinations for kids, and told me that I should be ashamed of myself for pushing vaccines that cause autism. Not only that but I was pushing thimerosal as well, and she knew what THAT did. I was stunned. She was going to tell the parents to skip talking to me. And some did.
posted by chocolatetiara at 6:14 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


my family is heavily affected by a whole host of immunological problems related to allergies. i have said before there are legitimate concerns over pharmaceutical production in the US due to the ways in which pharmaceuticals can change non-active ingredients in their formulas without making public said changes. what vexes me about this whole fiasco is that there are legitimate concerns for the very real minority of people who do get affected by vaccines (particularly the way they are bundled here in the US). i fear we're now going to be taken even less seriously.

when i was trying to make sense of THING1s health's problems after finding out all the allergy markers he has, i found out that many children diagnosed with autism seem to also have the same immunological issues. i am not an expert on this subject, but i do know that from the standpoint of immunology there's a whole world of maybes that projects like the University of Texas Medical Branch's SDAP - SDAP - Structural Database of Allergenic Proteins are uncovering.

in our case, we had to wait for the kids to grow up a bit to start the immunization process. this for some bizarre reason has become heresy in the United States no thanks to places like Metafilter. there is a real, legitimate difference between the immunological system of a newborn, a 2 year old, a 6 year and a 10 year old and beyond thanks in part to that whole other field of study called endocrinology. to call me and other parents who decide to wait "anti-science", "lunatics", "child abusers" is not just unfair given many of us are working with our doctors closely to get the best health care for our children.

again, i am not an expert. am only a mom who has had to deal with the hell of having a child with multiple chronic medical problems caused by allergies. i am also a mom that wasn't taken seriously by her child's pediatrician, let her child get the MMRs all at once instead of having them broken out and spaced out into separate shots and had to run to said pediatrician's office with said child after he got a nasty reaction hours later. we fired the pediatrician and have a wonderful family doctor who has, with our immunologist, guided us through wellness at our family's particular pace and schedule, not at the arbitrarily imposed timeline by government agencies.

if allergy and endocrinology testing were part of neo-natal care, i wouldn't be complaining about the anti-autism witch burning happening here at Metafilter. but you're calling witches people who have children not only with developmental issues but with other health problems, including immunological issues. if they have had to deal with any of the problems i've had to deal with my kids ON TOP OF the developmental issues of autism, i can tell you it is enough to break anybody's spirit and make you suspect of those who claim to care about your plight.

if autism is somehow related to immunological/endocrinological problems, we should be seeing a shift from vaccines to allergies in a few years if not months times and that's my fear. projects like SDAP are showing that cross-reactivity *is* an issue that could have larger consequences in health care and public health policy yet even after 10 years this data isn't being taken seriously by health care providers (aka HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES).

we don't need anti-autism witch hunters decrying quackery on 10+ years of immunological research to satisfy your "science" righteousness. i dont have autistic children, but i have been driven to the brink of despair by the illnesses and health issues my children share with many autistic children. it is unfair to attack these parents who CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT abide by the bureaucracy of public health timelines due to the complexity of their children's health issues.

they don't need mockery from people who claim to have their children's best interest in the name of science. what they need is more health care and wellness support.
posted by liza at 6:31 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


i am also a mom that wasn't taken seriously by her child's pediatrician, let her child get the MMRs all at once instead of having them broken out and spaced out into separate shots and had to run to said pediatrician's office with said child after he got a nasty reaction hours later.

You're generalizing from your particular case. You have no way of knowing that, had your child had the shots spaced out, he wouldn't've had the same reaction.

Spacing out the shots and letting families proceed at their own pace is a great way to lower the number of children who ever actually get the shots. Even if the close spacing causes some additional reactions (and I'm not familiar with any scientific evidence that it does), it's entirely possible that it's worth it, socially speaking, in order to encourage more children to get the full course of injections.
posted by jedicus at 6:36 AM on January 7, 2011 [39 favorites]


David Freedman has a great piece in The Atlantic (ungated) discussing these problems in scientific research, particularly medical research.

Thanks for that, Philosopher's Beard - really interesting. This bit jumped out at me, partly because it's one of Wakefield's many failures:
We could solve much of the wrongness problem, Ioannidis says, if the world simply stopped expecting scientists to be right. That’s because being wrong in science is fine, and even necessary—as long as scientists recognize that they blew it, report their mistake openly instead of disguising it as a success, and then move on to the next thing, until they come up with the very occasional genuine breakthrough.
At least most of his co-authors have had the decency to admit they were wrong, both in the content of the paper and in trusting their colleague to conduct his research appropriately.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 6:40 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Too little too late to stop the demented hysteria.

Funny thing about that. The "demented" hysteria was based, in part, on what was assumed to be peer-reviwed research in the Lancet. The Lancet (until a few days ago) was generally considered a pretty respectable journal of science. Amirite?

So the "demented" hysteria at least had as a foundation some scientific research.

The funny thing is that I, as a parent, utterly refused to accept this scientific evidence and vaccinated both of my kids (in recent years) using the heretofore suspect MMR vaccine. I was absolutely confident that the "autism-vaccination" link was statistically unlikely, but that measles, mumps, and rubella are statistically real and I did not suffer a moment's pause when the time came to give my approval.

So it was actually I who held the "demented" view that I was smarter than the Lancet!

And now that the Lancet is proven wrong, maybe I am not so demented after all.....
posted by three blind mice at 6:41 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Zennie, that innocuous excerpt from Wakefield's study hardly does the man justice. The BMJ article states: "Wakefield altered numerous facts about the patients’ medical histories in order to support his claim to have identified a new syndrome..." and "...sought to exploit the ensuing MMR scare for financial gain."

Maybe he's been unfairly demonised; Ben Goldacre argued so, and put most of the blame on the media circus and the celebrities who jumped on the bandwagon (very eloquently and thoroughly if you want an interesting history of the MMR scare). But he's certainly not an innocent bystander.

McCarthy's a dangerous, ignorant woman in my opinion, but I never meant to imply she's some kind of Wakefield denier, simply that she's a very high-profile example of the celebrity-fuelled vaccination paranoia that the media whipped up around Wakefield.
posted by londonmark at 6:41 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


why did he do this?

Money. He got a $600K payment

I'd be very surprised if this is the full truth. Research into scientific fraud shows that, in virtually all examined cases, the researcher responsible (almost always individuals, deceiving their collaborators) was feeling under great pressure to produce data and honestly believes that the data they've falsified reflects what they'd find if only they had the time and resources to do the experiment properly.

Money may well be an additional factor, but I'd bet that he honestly believes that the effect is real, and probably viewed what he did as more like fudging the data to reflect the pattern that he "knows" should be there. Which is still fraud, obviously, but one that he honestly believes is for the greater good.

As for owning a competing vaccine, I again doubt that the money was the cause here rather than an effect. It's more likely that he believed that an alternative vaccine was better and, having created it, why not take a stake in the IP? It's not uncommon in academia for medicine developers to get a share in the revenue of the stuff they create.

Note that I am not trying to defend Wakefield in this. I just think that "he did it for the money!" is overly simplistic. I think it's much more useful to acknowledge that he probably started out in this evil thing with the very best of intentions. Otherwise, we're setting up a bit of a strawman -- and intensifying the "us vs them" aspect of the debate -- that can only hinder the communication necessary to win the other side over.


The real question is why the Lancet published this dangerous drivel in the first place.

Medicine is one of those fields where incompletely examined policies can maim or kill thousands of people. Thalidomide is the most famous example, but there are plenty of other cases in which critical analysis of well-established practices have shown them to be causing a net harm to the population. Thus, it's absolutely essential that research criticising current healthcare policies is encouraged and widely reported. Now, the Wakefield paper may not have been a perfect piece of work but:
a) it did not make strong claims -- the authors were very clear that it was a small study and that they'd shown an association, not a causal relationship; and
b) if the effect was real, it would have been tremendously important and warranted urgent further study.

Now, his research methods have since been revealed to have not matched what he wrote in the paper and, in this most recent development, have been determined to be a deliberate fraud. However, the journal had no way of know that at the time. They also could not have predicted that the scummier news outlets would latch onto this with such fervour, or that they would push people into what's effectively a faith position that it must be vaccines causing autism, complete with a shifting goalposts/god-of-the-gaps approach to the supposed mechanism.

Perhaps you could argue that the journal was being naive, and I'm sure they'll handle similar papers much more carefully from now on. But the peer review system is simply not set up to detect deliberate fraud (except when certain types of data have been clumsily falsified), and this style of research -- criticising current medical policy, even the sacred calves -- has the very real potential to save countless lives. So I think that the investigation into and retraction of the paper should have been faster, but I don't think they were wrong to publish it in the first place.
posted by metaBugs at 6:47 AM on January 7, 2011 [18 favorites]


Like the Birthers, the Creationists, and the Homeopaths, there is nothing that will change the Antivaxxers' beliefs, because they are defined by their beliefs. If your life is your belief in something, how can you possibly give that up and admit you've been loudly, eagerly, evangelically wrong? In addition, in American society we've canonized "belief" -- the entire Bush administration was erected around the idea that belief, not facts, was paramount. (I'm not saying Bush was a cause for this, but a symptom of it.) We've lost the battle against antivaxxers because we've lost the battle against rationality and reality, and all the facts and studies in the world won't change that.
posted by Legomancer at 6:50 AM on January 7, 2011 [16 favorites]


liza, it sounds like you have a legitimate, scientific based case for your course of action, and I'm sorry your first pediatrician wasn't responsive enough to recognize it. I hope you and yours stay well.

Yours is one of the reasons why we need to have the herd immunity derived from immunizations of the vast majority of the population who have no serious reason to delay or skip. Your kids deserve the protection of measles not being endemic--which is why, until or unless we see issues such as those you've experienced arise in our little girl, she's getting her shots no matter how much she cries about it.
posted by stevis23 at 6:54 AM on January 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


So it was actually I who held the "demented" view that I was smarter than the Lancet!

Well, kind of, and no. I don't think parents should be making medical decisions for their children based on what a small study in a peer-reviewed journal may or may not have implied or actually stated. There's a reason these publications are not aimed at the general public, and the fact that journalists cherry-pick them for headlines is one of the biggest aggrevating factors in this debacle. There are definitely issues with peer review, but those issues shouldn't have to be something that non-medical professionals need to contend with. You most certainly were following the official medical advice for parents at that time, so not demented at all.
posted by londonmark at 6:54 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"not at the arbitrarily imposed timeline by government agencies"

These are not as arbitrary as you suggest. The guidelines imposed have to due with the clinical research on effectiveness and 'herd' immunity.

I am glad your kids are safe, liza, but it seems like the crux of your argument is "allergies are bad, so don't get a vaccine," which doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Obviously immuno-compromised individuals have to be more careful about vaccinations, but I haven't heard much about allergies.
posted by rosswald at 6:55 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't miss FRONTLINE: The Vaccine War.
posted by phaedon at 6:57 AM on January 7, 2011


A friend wrote a great post about this: Bad Science Kills Babies.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:58 AM on January 7, 2011


Spacing out the shots and letting families proceed at their own pace is a great way to lower the number of children who ever actually get the shots.

if they are doing this with their team of doctors, why wouldn't they? again, am actually on the camp that would love to see immunological and endocrinological testing done before vaccines, especially in families with histories of high allergy markers.

btw: for people who have had allergic reactions to vaccines, the vaccine has nothing to do with it. the problem seems to be the primary cells they were grown on. chicken eggs, which were supposed to free pharmaceuticals from the animal testing stigma, may be part of the problem (at least it was for my son).

but to go back to your comment, your attitude is horrible. basically you're saying you can't trust parents and their medical/health care teams to have the best interest for their children. which is why you're part of the problem.

again, we need better health care and wellness support systems; not just medically and scientifically, but culturally as well. we really don't need the witch hunting and parent-shaming.
posted by liza at 7:02 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]



McCarthy's "rebuttal" - it's all part of a "vaccine-industry funded media circus."

Yeah, keep in mind McCarthy dates an actor who became famous for talking out of his ass.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:03 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yours is one of the reasons why we need to have the herd immunity derived from immunizations of the vast majority of the population who have no serious reason to delay or skip.

Quoted for motherfucking truth. Wakefield is, effectively, a mass-murderer. Up there with those fear-mongering bastards in Kano.
posted by aramaic at 7:07 AM on January 7, 2011


Yeah, keep in mind McCarthy dates an actor who became famous for talking out of his ass.

Actually, they broke up.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:09 AM on January 7, 2011


if they are doing this with their team of doctors, why wouldn't they?

Obviously people who are working with a "team of doctors" are probably going to get vaccinated eventually. I'm quite obviously talking about the bulk of people in the US, who don't have a "team of doctors" and are generally very, very ill-informed about medicine and healthcare. Getting children vaccinated is actually pretty difficult. It takes a coordinated, cohesive public health campaign to get vaccination levels up to the point that herd immunity works. As we've seen in the UK, it doesn't take much for that to fall apart.

basically you're saying you can't trust parents and their medical/health care teams to have the best interest for their children.

Most people in the US do not have a "medical/health care team." They're lucky if they have a primary care physician or a pediatrician. They're even luckier if they can manage to get (or afford) the time off to be able to see their doctor.

And yes, we can't trust parents to have the best interest for their children because many parents have no idea what's best. They're often extremely ill-informed or even aggressively ignorant about medicine and healthcare. That's why public health campaigns are necessary in the first place (e.g. vaccinations, food safety, breast feeding promotion, etc).
posted by jedicus at 7:11 AM on January 7, 2011 [31 favorites]


What might bring the anti-vaccine crowd around is a genuine epidemic, I'm talking babies dying in Oprah's arms. Unfortunately because of the lack of herd immunity everyone kid could be at risk.

My daughter (12 at the time) actually got whooping cough because we didn't get the booster in time. It was tough, months of a nagging cough and the subsequent parental guilt over something so easily avoidable. Then again she wouldn't have even been exposed to it if some other parent hadn't neglected their duties too.

The state board of public health had to be notified, as did the school system. Fortunately none of her younger cousins got it. Whooping cough used to kill 20,000 children a year in the US alone, and that was back when the population was only 100 million. That is just one disease.

I'm very fortunate I've never come across an anti-vaxxer in real life, I would probably publicly embarrass myself yelling at them in rage. They are murderers plain and simple.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 7:20 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I always figured that McCarthy was consumed by doubt and guilt at her sons autism diagnosis and was struggling to find an external cause. I would consider that a normal response to having an atypical child taken to an unfortunate level given her fame and personal zeal.

As to Wakefield I just can't reconcile greed as the sole motivation for falsifying data in the paper that brought us to our current circumstance. I don't know what motivated him and I don't care to further cloud myself with anger thinking about it.

I do know that the process we are using - the financing model, peer-review, information dissemination, tort law &c - to ensure prevention and/or curing of disease is not working as well as it could or should. I can only imagine the level of frustration those that dedicate their working lives to disease prevention and cures must suffer, not to mention those that suffer both directly and indirectly from disease.

If the process was working properly situations like this would not arise and unless we address the weakness of the process situations like this will continue to arise.
posted by vapidave at 7:22 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I do know that the process we are using - the financing model, peer-review, information dissemination, tort law &c - to ensure prevention and/or curing of disease is not working as well as it could or should. I can only imagine the level of frustration those that dedicate their working lives to disease prevention and cures must suffer, not to mention those that suffer both directly and indirectly from disease.

If the process was working properly situations like this would not arise and unless we address the weakness of the process situations like this will continue to arise.
posted by vapidave at 10:22 AM on January 7


THIS! THIS! THIS!
posted by liza at 7:36 AM on January 7, 2011


Is there not enough room in our righteous outrage for some compassion for parents who, like liza, were dealing with a terrifying prospect, i.e., that they might actually be damaging their kids irrevocably by using the MMR vaccine?

In other words can we just fucking stop with the LOLANTIVAXXER PARENTS SO STUPID OMG bullshit? Because if you have been told, by sources who seem reputable (like a respected medical journal) that you might actually run the risk of giving your child autism, a disease which will radically limit their prospects and ability to function and rob them of so much that you want for them, then you are going to be afraid. Not because you're a dumb redneck who hates science, or because you want to kill children with measles, but because you love your kids and don't want to give them autism.

It is unfortunate that this one study spawned an explosion of quack cures, celebrity stupidity, and worst of all, preventable illness and death. Wakefield and his enablers have much to answer for. But part of the reason this spread so quickly and affected so many is that parents love their kids and don't want to give them autism. Autism scares you, when you're about to become a parent; we don't understand it, we can't cure it, and it can make your life and your child's life orders of magnitude more difficult.

I had my son right as questions about Wakefield began to surface, but still, I was afraid. I watched him carefully after each shot (we spaced them out) and lay awake at night praying that he would be ok, that I hadn't harmed him. And I hadn't. But the agonizing I did was real, because it was a while before I could be sure, and the stakes were incredibly high. Because I love him, just like the parents we're mocking love their kids.

I believe in science, and I think vaccines are a Good Thing. I also remember, as some of you seem not to, how dismissive doctors were, cruelly so, when parents began to raise questions about vaccines. What about the allergic reactions? What about using thimerosol? What about the kids who do get sick from vaccines? When you asked these questions, what you got was, don't be stupid, We Are Doctors, give your kids shots and shut up, we know best. Which made the ground that much more fertile for anti-vaccination ideas to take hold.
posted by emjaybee at 7:39 AM on January 7, 2011 [19 favorites]


The article mentions an outbreak in a school in Essen in Germany, and I didn't even have to google it to know that it had to be a Waldorf school. If you take a map of measles outbreaks in germany, you will get the location of Waldorf schools.
After all their founder Steiner was opposed to vaccinations because measles are the "physical-karmic effect" of too much brooding in your previous life, which lead to a "weakness of the soul". So going through the measles is the organic self-disciplination necessary for it's healing process. (original quote in german can be found here)
It's no wonder that the contra-factual nonsense of the anti-vaccination proponents fell on fertile grounds with the Steiner crowd.

There is also some strange connection to the right-wing esoteric nutbags who believe in the GNM (new germanic medicine) of "Dr." Hamer, the most notorious case I know of.
Since his son died after a shooting under unknown cirumstances, Hamer was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He got the tumors removed in the conventional way, but since then started to teach that cancer is the result of an emotional shock, and just part of the healing process. Viruses or bacteria can be involved too (although he doesn't believe in the existence of viruses). So the thing to do is to take away the patients fear of cancer, what he calls a "conflict resolution", and to not stop this healing process by medication or surgeries.
Hamer got his license revoked, spent some years in prison in germany and france - it is estimated that about 80 people died because they followed Hamers teachings. Mostly I can not get all too upset if people want to follow this antisemitic charlatan to their deaths (his germanic medicine is in opposition to what he thinks of as the "jewish western medicine"), they are free to die the way they choose. But it angers me when they endanger the lives of their children, like six year old cancer patient Olivia Pilhar, who suffered through his treatments until the authorities took her away from her deluded parents.
posted by ts;dr at 7:40 AM on January 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


My sympathy for the stupid and the willfully ignorant ends at the first casualty. If anti-vaxxers weren't murderers- and let's not mince words, if you are anti-vaccine you are, personall, guilty of murder- then I'd say hey, whatever, it's another group of dumb, frightened assholes who don't know any better.

But they've got blood on their hands, so fuck them and anybody who defends them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:49 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


@jedicus

our "team" is basically our family doctor, our immunologist and occasionally our chiropractor (who makes a big fucking difference when you're in the middle of a bad bout of asthma).

it was because of them that we actually went without medical insurance for 5 years. we were paying them directly after the health insurance company raised our rates to over 1000 a month and the deductible to 5000 and it didnt cover most of our kids' meds. it wasn't the best solution by most people's standards but it saved us from bankruptcy.

i call them our team because these doctors actually talk to each other and compare notes. i am not saying i have perfect health care ---ironically, none of my doctor's picked up on the fact that most of *my* health problems were related to my gall bladder and it's why i ended up in the emergency room last May and had 2 surgical interventions plus the actual removal of that fucker.

so yeah, a "medical team" isn't hard to come by but health insurance companies will fight you tooth and nail against them. they don't want you to get the best health care for you. they want the best health care for their bottom line.

that's the tragedy of a lot of these autism parents. if autism were taken seriously by the health insurance companies as a syndrome of health care needs, autism parents wouldn't be grasping at LANCET published straws for the misguided benefit of their children. but health insurance companies won't because it would mean actually paying out for medical care that would affect these companies bottom lines.

that's the tragedy behind this Wakefield scandal.
posted by liza at 7:52 AM on January 7, 2011


and @emjaybee: THANK YOU.
posted by liza at 7:56 AM on January 7, 2011


liza - basically you're saying you can't trust parents and their medical/health care teams to have the best interest for their children.
In addition to Jedicus' point, getting people to turn up to vaccination appointments -- even people who aren't at all opposed to vaccination -- is an administrative nightmare.

I've never looked at the data comparing separate vaccinations with the all-in-one for MMR, but I have read data on the logistical side of things. An astonishingly high proportion of parents fail to bring their kids for their first appointment to be vaccinated for a wide variety of non-ideological reasons: they're away on holiday, they can't get out of work to take the kid to the clinic, they forget, road conditions are bad that day, etc. Arranging additional appointments for these families -- and nagging them to actually turn up -- costs a huge amount of time and resources.

In a system where parents must bring their kids to multiple appointments, this problem becomes astronomically more difficult. As a result, compliance rates -- and therefore the herd immunity -- plummet, directly endangering kids like yours who're forced by medical conditions to have delayed or no vaccinations. (This is from actual trials of various vaccination regimes in various countries, supported by mathematical modeling of populations).

Even if the combined MMR were more likely to cause side effects than the separate shots (my understanding is that, for the vast majority of patients, this isn't the case; however I haven't read the data myself), it could very well be the case that it's still the better choice: the few (hypothetical) adverse reactions to a combined dose may be a far better outcome than the dramatically reduced herd immunity that a system of separate shots would lead to. I haven't crunched the numbers for this myself, but I'll be my spleen that various health organisations have spent countless hours agonising over exactly this, to inform their policy decisions.

It's astonishing how much of patient-facing work (I'm not a medical doctor, but I work and socialise with a lot) is largely a matter of persuading them to do what's in their best interests - turn up to appointments, take their medicine, etc. If every parent was as interested and actively involved in their family's healthcare as much as you are, many of the developed world's biggest health concerns would largely vanish overnight.
posted by metaBugs at 8:01 AM on January 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


liza, I am terribly sorry that your family is dealing with such challenging medical issues, and wish you all the best.

The families discussed in the Wakefield fraud are also dealing with terribly challenging medical issues. They deserved better than to have the private health information they shared with a doctor who claimed to want to find answers falsified in order so other people could make money and/or find fame and/or prove their pet theories.

Wakefield helped nobody, and harmed many. I have no compassion for him whatsoever.

Per Ben Goldacre, the solicitor who funded Wakefield's study--because he wanted to bring a lawsuit against vax manufacturers--is now on the board of directors of the UK's Society of Homeopaths.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:03 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"if autism were taken seriously by the health insurance companies as a syndrome of health care needs"

Are you saying health care delivery causes autism, or that insurance companies should cover services for autistic children...? Cause I can get behind the former, but not the latter.

"that's the tragedy behind this Wakefield scandal."

I disagree.

"Autism parents wouldn't be grasping at LANCET published straws for the misguided benefit of their children"

Blaming vaccines doesn't benefit the children though (especially with little evidence).
posted by rosswald at 8:04 AM on January 7, 2011


Er, latter, not the former. Woops.
posted by rosswald at 8:04 AM on January 7, 2011


I had a certain sympathy for the parents when the Wakefield study first came out. But it isn't just now being discredited. The Lancet paper came out in 1998. But wakefield's coauthors began retracting their support in 2004, which is the same year that the Sunday Times revealed significant conflict of interest in Wakefield's study. That was also the year that Vaccine did a meta-review of studies concerning the vaccine, and, based on 120, found any connection between vaccines and autism to be unlikely. And, from there, study after study has determined that there is no connection. That's seven years now that anti-vaccers have been decidedly in the anti-science camp, arguing, without evidence, that every single peer-reviewed study on connections between vaccines and autism are the product of an undemonstrated conspiracy between big pharma and science. In the meanwhile, the original study, which has fallen apart under peer review and actually has a proven conflict of interest, is the only piece of science that ever purported to show the connection.

This is conspiracy theory hogwash, and kids are dying from it. My sympathy ends when people reject facts to fit a narrative they prefer, and people suffer because of it. They're not good parents, they're selfish parents, and they have been in the wrong, demonstrably, for more than a half decade. That's a lot of opportunity for deadly illness, and for no reason than people just don't want to believe that a vaccinated child is better for the world than an unvaccinated child.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:05 AM on January 7, 2011 [27 favorites]


In my comment above, "non-ideological reasons" was a stupid choice of words; I intended no offence, so sorry if I have caused it. I intended something more along the lines of "for reasons other than disliking the idea of vaccination for their children", which would include medical concerns specific to their families.

Also, I fail at HTML. I've flagged it, so hopefully a mod will be along soonish.
posted by metaBugs at 8:10 AM on January 7, 2011


our "team" is basically our family doctor, our immunologist

Many people have neither. Heck, a lot of kids don't even have parents who care all that much or can afford to devote much time or attention to them. The idea of seeing multiple doctors on a regular or even semi-regular basis is a pipedream in such cases. That's why we need public health campaigns, which, by their nature, are going to tend towards schedules and rules that, while not perfect for everyone, are (or try to be) best for society overall.

so yeah, a "medical team" isn't hard to come by

For those that have the money and time to afford it. Evidently you did (even if it was difficult), and that's great, but many, many people do not have that option. When you're talking about public health, you have to look at the big picture. And the big picture is that if we let the millions of uninsured, underinsured, ill-informed, uncaring, or too-busy parents take their sweet time with vaccinations or encourage them to make up their own minds then a lot of kids aren't going to get vaccinated. And that might be enough to kill herd immunity and cause hundreds or thousands of preventable deaths, including among children who did get vaccinated because vaccines aren't perfect.

health insurance companies will fight you tooth and nail against them. they don't want you to get the best health care for you. they want the best health care for their bottom line.

That's a legitimate problem with the health care system in the US, but it's a wholly separate issue from whether vaccines actually have anything to do with allergies, autism, or other chronic health problems.
posted by jedicus at 8:12 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


"if autism were taken seriously by the health insurance companies as a syndrome of health care needs, autism parents wouldn't be grasping at LANCET published straws for the misguided benefit of their children."
Wakefield was a British doctor. Plenty of British papers ran the story. Plenty of British parents got scared, and plenty of British kids didn't get their MMR. And over here we have a state healthcare system (and Wakefield worked in an NHS hospital), so I don't think the problem is caused by health insurance companies. You can blame them for a lot of other things perhaps, but I think you'd have a hard time arguing that without private health insurance companies this wouldn't have happened.
posted by edd at 8:17 AM on January 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


What this comes down to, like so much these days, is who do you trust? And for some reason, a lot of parents with no medical training or knowledge whatsoever chose to trust something they read about in a tabloid newspaper over what their doctors were telling them. So on a very general level, if you want to know why there is so much scorn poured on anti-vaccinators, it probably comes down to this arrogant leap of logic.

Nobody's saying that some parents may have good reason for being cautious. (Liza, I take your word for it that your own situation is exceptional.) But loving your kids and not wanting to hurt them is not a good enough reason to reject conventional medical wisdom and the advise of your doctor over something you might have heard on Oprah. It is, in fact, a very good reason to accept conventional medical wisdom and the advise of your doctor.

Sheesh. We live in a very complicated world. We cannot hope to understand it all. Sometimes you just have to trust that the people who's jobs it is to know stuff and the people who have spent their lives working on stuff know better than you. And quite frankly, unless you're prepared to study the science responsibly and with an open mind, you're not qualified to argue with them.
posted by londonmark at 8:19 AM on January 7, 2011


It's not just Wakefield's study that caused this. He only dealth with MMR. Thermasol and other preservatives cause fear in many parents, a close friend being one of them. There is a huge sect of misinformed moms out there and the internet doesn't help things. They get on the bandwagon of sensational headlines, start doing their own research, find people like Jenny McCarthy, it moves to message boards and blog, and the fever of hysteria starts. Like my friend, some have a really smart baseline knowledge about science and some are part of environmental sciences to know the difference between harsh government fraud stories and hype. So for example my friend firmly believes that Hep B is a useless vaccine. That Hep B is only for those who are drug users and her son will never be a drug user.

I argue to her that is she sure her son will never be a drug user? Would you want to chance that and have him get sick from Hep B. Far fetch argument. But a better argument is what about a surgery and a transfusion goes wrong? What about a kid in a class with Hep B bites and draws blood on the child? Things happen. Certain diseases are not only for high risk lifestyles. It brings it back to the AIDS hysteria and Ryan White. "OMG dont' shake his hand he has AIDS and you'll get it." When my kid was well over his hand, foot, mouth, they were still paranoid to the point they wouldn't let me enter their room, touch anything, or be in the same presence as their child. It was annoying and stupid for it to get to that level.

The best was probably during my baby shower when one of the environmental friends gave me organic bath products (appreciated) but it also came with a pamphlet entitled "You are killing your child every time you use soap." Essentially non-organic soaps will kill your child.

Nothing is a buzz kill than the words 'you are killing your child' at a baby shower. Rock on.
posted by stormpooper at 8:23 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


@jedicus
For those that have the money and time to afford it. Evidently you did (even if it was difficult), and that's great, but many, many people do not have that option.


we don't have a lot of money. we go to one of the few non-profit health clinics left in NYC: THE INSTITUTE FOR FAMILY HEALTH. depending on your income, you either pay on a sliding scale or receive health care for free. they should be a model for how health care is done in the US, not an exception.
posted by liza at 8:25 AM on January 7, 2011


And seriously, let's get this right out there: at no point was the anti-vax position supported by medical science. There was one study. A single study. Nothing happens from one study. One study isn't proof, it isn't evidence, it's a data point among many. Nobody ever replicated Wakefield's results, nobody ever found that any of the claims being made by the anti-vax crowd had a shred of evidence or validity to them. A single study came out, and a good portion of the population absolutely lost their shit.

There's a number of reasons why these people lost their shit. The atrocious state of science education, which causes people to hear "a study showed" and not ask "and what do the rest of the studies show?" is one of them. Another is that there's a lot of people who simply cannot exercise any significant degree of control over their fear- and if you doubt me, well, I would think that the political history of the USA over the last decade would eliminate your doubt. Other people listen to what celebrities tell them, despite the entirety of history providing demonstrations as to why that's a stupid idea, and assumed that so many famous people wouldn't lie, would they?

But let's not pretend that those who lost their shit had anything approaching a valid reason to do so, nor that there was any support for their actions even at the time. Even leaving aside the fact that the anti-vax scare was a hoax from the start, there was never any legitimate reason to freak the fuck out over this.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:30 AM on January 7, 2011 [17 favorites]


So for example my friend firmly believes that Hep B is a useless vaccine. That Hep B is only for those who are drug users and her son will never be a drug user.

This is also where a lot of the hate for the HPV vaccine comes from.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think very few people would suggest that there are no problems with vaccinations for any children, ever. There are immunocompromised kids who can't be vaccinated. There are kids with allergies, who either can't be vaccinated or need very careful monitoring, and their siblings, who need careful monitoring as well. But the "vaccines cause autism and every other bad thing in the entire universe" crowd aren't helping the real families who really need to go to alternative vaccination schedules, or no vaccinations at all.

Has there been historically -- and, sometimes, now -- a lot of "don't worry, we know best" from doctors? Yes. But it doesn't mean that doctors are always wrong, either.

There are, occasionally, stories of thoughtful people who carefully make sure their children have all their vaccinations on an altered schedule. These are swamped by the stories of people who refuse to have any vaccinations at all; who claim that there are no recent outbreaks of measles or whooping cough; who claim that if there are outbreaks, vaccinations wouldn't help anyhow; who claim that it's unfair for their children to be uninvited to birthday parties and sleepovers just after they went to chicken pox parties; who refuse the blood test for phenylketonuria because it is too hard on infants; who want all the pluses of not vaccinating (essentially: lower risk of bad reaction, and not a huge impact on herd immunity for a single person's choice) but none of the minuses (quarantines).

In my ideal world, people who don't have valid medical reasons to not be vaccinated would not be allowed to go to public schools, including universities. (I consider "sibling who had bad reaction to vaccine" a valid medical reason, and would in general want to be reasonably flexible about this.)
posted by jeather at 8:32 AM on January 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


we don't have a lot of money. we go to one of the few non-profit health clinics left in NYC

I didn't say you did. I said you had enough. And you also had enough time, which is something many parents lack (or they don't prioritize giving time to their kids). And you live in a city that has non-profit health clinics, even if it doesn't have many. It may not seem like it, but you have a lot of advantages that worked out to your benefit, and many people do not share those advantages.
posted by jedicus at 8:42 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The most depressing thing, really, is that even if you had a privately funded double-blind longitudinal study funded completely by anti-vaccine orgs with doctors they selected showing zero connection between vaccines and autism, there would still be people who continue to run around in the media yelling about drug companies and conspiracies and how they're killing kids.

It's the wonder of cognitive dissonance. People make judgments, then stick to them even in the wake of overwhelming contrary evidence.

We have an atrocious vaccination rate here in Washington, mainly because it's easy to opt out.
posted by dw at 8:45 AM on January 7, 2011


What if there was a vaccine for righteous indignation?
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:52 AM on January 7, 2011


It was probably be about as effective as the vaccine for snarky hypotheticals.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:09 AM on January 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


FTR, I did vaccinate my kid. He isn't spreading anything to anybody except the stuff they don't have shots for; I had heard some concerns about the chicken pox vaccine (and am still hoping it won't result in some kind of epic shingles outbreak for him in adulthood, because that is painful) but got it anyway.

Because yeah, the best info available to me says that these things are the best option, for him and the kids around him. Yay me, Responsible Parent.

But I do find it...interesting how we talk so often here on the blue about skewed medical information, Big Pharma putting out sub-par or even dangerous drugs for enormous profits, government cover-ups, various scandals involving diagnostic machines zapping people with too much radiation or treatments that continue despite the fact that they don't work, etc. etc. but then get indignant about those who ask questions about vaccines.

I know why; it's because kids are involved, and when that happens, we lose our minds. Either we decide Proctor and Gamble is trying to poison our child with soap, or that everyone who was afraid to vaccinate is trying to kill our child with measles.

I am not here to be the Anti-Vax Apologist. I am merely suggesting that, if you want to increase vaccination rates, telling people who hesitate to do so that they're idiots who hate their kids and also want to kill yours is possibly not the most effective approach. More flies with honey, more vaccinations with education and respect. Approach parents assuming they actually love their kids, and that they want to protect them, and then show them how vaccination is our best option...not perfect, not without any complications for some, but for now, our best. How hard is that, really?
posted by emjaybee at 9:14 AM on January 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


: Zennie, that innocuous excerpt from Wakefield's study hardly does the man justice. The BMJ article states: "Wakefield altered numerous facts about the patients’ medical histories in order to support his claim to have identified a new syndrome..." and "...sought to exploit the ensuing MMR scare for financial gain."

OK, maybe I wasn't clear. I think Mr. Wakefield is a quack.

My take on that paper is that it, in addition to the other fraudulent issues, was probably published early so that: a) there would be an excuse for having inconclusive data, which the prideful consider un-publishable, b) there there would be no need to risk taking a side on a controversial issue, and c) to lessen the likelihood of harsh questioning during review, which clearly would have been a concern. But Mr. Wakefield is a quack less for a poorly-written and fraudulent paper, and more for his response to the consequences of said paper.

But wait, why are people attacking liza's reasonable testimony as though she said every child should receive separate vaccinations for MMR? If there's medical cause for concern, shouldn't it be an option? Is that different from doing exactly what liza expressed she fears, which is lumping legitimate concerns with the blind fear of vaccination?

Regardless, most [non-activist] parents are not to blame. Since when is it a fault to be ignorant, or fearful, or fearfully ignorant when you are not the expert and the "experts" all seem to be telling you different things about a very serious issue? If you want to blame someone, that's a bottom-up approach. Lack of ethics is to blame all around, starting with Mr. Wakefield, continuing with persons in media who don't care how they sell stories, and perpetuated by lawyers who don't want the controversy to end because it's an inexhaustible resource of easy work.
posted by zennie at 9:25 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


We live in a place (Southern California) where vaccine rates are not great among a certain type of family. Like if you head over to your local Waldorf charter, about half the kids are not going to be vaccinated.

People here seem to have let go of the vaccines=autism thing. Instead, you get a lot of vaccines=toxic to the developing gut or nervous system=autism or allergies or auto-immune stuff. That is, it's the same argument, it's just dressed up to be fancier. And of course you get a lot of bizarre-to-me insistence that diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough are either not that bad for kids to have, and/or that they were on the decline when vaccines were introduced. So you see, vaccines don't actually DO anything. And are unnecessary. And as proof, you can point to your own unvaccinated child, who has never had any of these "diseases". SOOOOOOOO......

I really struggle with not being angry with anti-vaccine people. No kidding, it's one of my main spiritual challenges. It hits all of my "they're so ignorant!" and "they're so entitled!" and "tragedy of the commons!!!!!" buttons at once. Gah.

But... one of my in-laws, a pediatrician (very sciencey, very mainstream) has kind of changed my thinking a tiny bit. Because her theory is, when you get moms coming in and refusing vaccines, you can say "Okay, well, let's keep talking about it" and at lease some of those moms* will eventually vaccinate. But when you kick them out of your practice, they have to seek out the usually one or two doctors in town who will keep your non-vaccinating kid in their practice. And those doctors are almost always TOTAL WACKOS who will also get into bullshit like colloidal silver. So I think there's a real risk of radicalization of families who initially are relatively medically mainstream, but just have this one vaccine issue, but then get pushed out of the mainstream and wind up "treating" strep throat with mass doses of Vitamin C.

Anyway. Andrew Wakefield. He makes me mad. People who prey on the anxiety all of us have about making complicated healthcare decisions for our children are jerks.

*It's always moms. When people talk about this vaccine thing as being a "parenting" issue - you know, in 95% of the cases, it's not. It's a mom issue. I don't know what's going on there.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:26 AM on January 7, 2011 [19 favorites]


we don't have a lot of money. we go to one of the few non-profit health clinics left in NYC

Seriously, jedicus' point is not about YOU, he is talking about the logistics and headaches of large scale immunization and how best to effect large-scale immunization. Everytime he makes this point, you talk about how much effort YOU put in to look after the health of YOUR children. That is great and you sound like a good and caring mom and everyone in this thread has bent over backwards to point this out and to point out how your experience is a legitimate exception to the general rule, but other parents are not YOU and YOUR anecdotes are irrelevant to the point being made. Getting eight people to show up to dinner on time in is a nightmare, I can only imagine the extreme difficulties is getting the vast majority of parents to show up just once to get a vaccination, let alone to get them to show up multiple times.
posted by Falconetti at 9:26 AM on January 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


liza's kids- kids whose allergies make vaccination difficult or impossible- are who we're trying to protect by going after the anti-vax assholes. That some people can't get vaccinated is part of why it's so important that everyone who can be, is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:34 AM on January 7, 2011 [34 favorites]


I am with emjaybee on this one. I am as angry and frustrated as anyone at the irresponsible to criminal con job that Wakefield pulled.

But honestly, the mythical "big pharma" and the cohort of avaricious corporations, consortiums and hegemonic interests share a big part of the blame. It's easy to believe in the conspiracy when every single day we are bombarded with horrific stories of commercial interests poisoning our environment and our populations with impunity, cynical legislators working with monied interests to craft warped, arcane laws that increase profit at the expense of the health, safety and welfare of their supposed constituencies.

There is a certain amount of faith required to believe in the conventional wisdom, and people are afraid to make mistakes. Compound this with media seeking celebrities who have little capacity for critical thought falling into this group, and compound it again by doctors and lawyers who desire both attention and money. It's a train wreck of the gullible being sucked in by both well intentioned but ignorant, and the knowledgeable but cynical.

There are also numerous cases of the conventional wisdom being challenged by brilliant critical thinkers, who are subsequently castigated by the scientific community. The Australian doctors (Warren and Marshall) who found that ulcers are primarily caused by bacterial infection were the laughingstock of the medical and scientific communities for years before they were finally taken seriously.

Our best hope is that the anti-vax movement will go the way of the "satanic ritual abuse" movement and crawl away to die a quiet death somewhere. There will always be people who believe vaccines cause autism - but we can only hope to educate, to teach people to have both an open mind and critical thought.

It's not going to be easy.
posted by Xoebe at 9:45 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Amen to what Pope Guilty says. If kids who can get vaccinated without risk got vaccinated, liza's kids and others like them would be at less risk for measles, mumps, and rubella.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:45 AM on January 7, 2011


The Australian doctors (Warren and Marshall) who found that ulcers are primarily caused by bacterial infection were the laughingstock of the medical and scientific communities for years before they were finally taken seriously.

Yes. And I personally suffered from that with more than a year of the Sippy diet until I found a gastroenterologist who had read the same issue of The New Yorker that I had and agreed to test me for H. pylorii. The New Yorker!

But that being said, Carl Sagan's great comment that "They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown" is well taken.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:50 AM on January 7, 2011 [15 favorites]


When I consider the fact that science and medicine have a hard time in the public discussions on this topic, I remember this article:

"And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert."
posted by dhens at 10:04 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


So people listened because Jenny McCarthy endorsed a doctor's viewpoint.

MAYBE (but probably not), people will think twice before listening to a celebrity who has absolutely no academic background.

Thanks assholes.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:30 AM on January 7, 2011


But honestly, the mythical "big pharma" and the cohort of avaricious corporations, consortiums and hegemonic interests share a big part of the blame.
This is like when right-wingers blame the government for Enron, or sub-prime loans, or any other regulatory failure. Statements like these serve to downplay and distract from what really happened, and encourage people to just hold on to your fear of the boogeyman, be it government- or corporation-based. Any over-reaction is the boogeyman's fault for being so scary, not yours for over-reacting. That's not to say that, for example, there are no concerns about big-Pharma's profit motivations, but trying to blame big-Pharma for the unfounded and paranoid fears of others is not appropriate.

The real problem is the fear and the irrationality. The real problem is the belief that because you are a loving and caring person and would do anything for your children, you can do no wrong. That by having good and positive intentions you make up for any harm you rack. The real problem is the division of the world into black and white, good and evil, placing yourself in the good camp and your opposition in the evil camp, and assuming that anything that comes from the impure, evil camp is lies and deception. The problem is not the anti-vaxxers, but the anti-vaxxers' attitudes towards debate, information, and perception of the world. The anti-vaxxers are far from the only camp to have these attitudes, they cross all political, socio-economic, and moral alignments, but the Wakefield saga paints such a clear picture of how pernicious social movements infect well-intentioned and seemingly conscientious people.
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:31 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why did he do this?
posted by jbickers at 1:16 PM on January 7


Money, and bull-necked hubris.
posted by Decani at 10:35 AM on January 7, 2011


btw, I meant to agree with you vigorously Xoebe, but it accidentally came across as counter-point.
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:36 AM on January 7, 2011


Is there not enough room in our righteous outrage for some compassion for parents who, like liza, were dealing with a terrifying prospect, i.e., that they might actually be damaging their kids irrevocably by using the MMR vaccine?

Not really, no. Because it was perfectly plain - ill-considered Lancet articles notwithstanding - that Wakefield had nothing of any substance and didn't understand the first thing about either good science or good statistics.

Vaccination was, and is, a well-understood and demonstrably effective, massively life-saving practice. To throw that over on the basis of one highly and obviously dubious "study" ( I feel almost sick using that word for it, even in quotes) was irrational and hysterical and knee-jerk in the extreme, and so was any parent who did so. How come those parents didn't consider the "terrifying prospect" of what measles, mumps and rubella used to do to children before one could vaccinate against them? How come they didn't look at how widespread the effects and misery caused by those diseases were compared to autism? Sorry, I have no sympathy for them at all. They represent the kind of woeful scientific ignorance and lazy lack of rationality, perspective and proportion that is all-too-prevalent nowadays. They need to smarten the fuck up.
posted by Decani at 10:51 AM on January 7, 2011


So how many of you have gotten your flu shot this season?

I did for the first time in many years because I'll be traveling a lot this season. But I had to get over an uneasy feeling and I'm the one in the family who's the Big Science fan.

Wakefield planted a fear meme and it goes way beyond MMR.
posted by storybored at 11:02 AM on January 7, 2011


By the way, some props should go to Amanda Peet on this issue. She's not only been the anti-Jenny McCarthy for the reality-based pro-vaccination side, but she has also been consistent in encouraging people to listen to scientific experts instead of entertainment celebrities.
posted by jonp72 at 11:05 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just this morning on BART I saw a public-service-announcement type poster giving tips for avoiding the flu this season. The last tip was "Get a flu vaccine", which someone had crossed out with a marker.
posted by gyusan at 11:14 AM on January 7, 2011


Wakefield was God's gift to hysterical borderline Munchausen cases, and to those who wanted to hear that their intuition or personal feelings about medicine were "righter" than evidence-based medicine and science, and an enemy to the wellbeing of all children and to humanity in general. This much has been known for a long time.

His motives seem to have been base and pecuniary. I hope that he can't live with himself.
posted by knoyers at 11:17 AM on January 7, 2011


So how many of you have gotten your flu shot this season?

I get mine every year like clockwork. It's safe and effective, and I do it as much for myself as for people I know who are immunocompromised. What disgusts me are the people in said immunocompromised people's immediate families who refuse to get vaccinated. It's practically criminally negligent.
posted by jedicus at 11:22 AM on January 7, 2011


There are also numerous cases of the conventional wisdom being challenged by brilliant critical thinkers, who are subsequently castigated by the scientific community. The Australian doctors (Warren and Marshall) who found that ulcers are primarily caused by bacterial infection were the laughingstock of the medical and scientific communities for years before they were finally taken seriously.

But keep in mind that what vindicated Warren and Marshall was what they did was repeatable. The process was very messy, with setbacks along the way, but eventually the evidence built that they were right.

Wakefield's link of MMR to autism was disproven through the body of medical research along with new research and surveys. And this was well before the integrity questions came up with his work.

Science IS messy. We don't want it to be, but it is. Proven links become unproven. Medical practices are ruled invalid. But what we do know is the body of medical research is done with integrity and all added together extends our knowledge.
posted by dw at 11:58 AM on January 7, 2011


I know why; it's because kids are involved, and when that happens, we lose our minds.

It's more than that: You can't do a lot of direct research on children. For instance, you can't shoot half of the kids full of saline instead of vaccine in order to see if the non-vaccinated kids don't develop autism or whatever the issue of the week is. So it's really easy to hide in the gaps of research because it's often unethical to do the sort of research needed to prove or disprove what they're saying.

So long as you can't disprove what they're saying without making yourself look like the bad guy, they will always have an audience.
posted by dw at 12:02 PM on January 7, 2011


I get mine every year like clockwork.

So do I... now. I never got a flu vaccine until about 5 years ago. Not because I don't think vaccines are awesome but because, well, I'm kind of lazy and it's just the flu and so forth. And then I manage to acquire for myself an incredibly awful case of influenza. It was terrible. Most people think of the flu as like a bad cold. In fact I suspect that when a lot of people say they have "the flu" the probably actually do just have a bad cold. Because they're, like, walking around and doing things.

When I had the flu I spent several days doing nothing but lying down as close to the bathroom as possible because I couldn't move very fast. My fever was 104 or so and I was as weak as a kitten.

Now I get a flu shot as soon as possible.
posted by Justinian at 12:15 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


"So how many of you have gotten your flu shot this season? ... But I had to get over an uneasy feeling"

I'm so unworried that I got mine this year while 12 1/2 weeks pregnant. Shortly after having my 18-month-old get his flu jab.

My pediatrician's office has this quote from Ben Franklin in their letter to parents on why vaccinating is important and safe (and why anti-vax hysteria has no foundation in science):

"In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen." - Autobiography of Ben Franklin

The awesomeness level of both addressing parents head-on about the importance of vaccinating AND of quoting Ben Franklin on the topic made me feel very good about their practice.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:45 PM on January 7, 2011 [24 favorites]


I never got a flu vaccine until about 5 years ago. Not because I don't think vaccines are awesome but because, well, I'm kind of lazy and it's just the flu and so forth. And then I manage to acquire for myself an incredibly awful case of influenza.

My story is like yours except it happened to me during finals week of my first semester away at college. Also, torrential rains.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:05 PM on January 7, 2011


Justinian, I had the same experience with the flu -- ye gods I don't think I've ever been that sick. Got my flu shot both last year and this year, mostly by happenstance: "oh, you're here for something else & we happen to have flu shots. want one?" "yes please!" But very happy to have gotten it in any case. (Somewhat relatedly, mr epersonae had what the doc figured to be whooping cough a few years back, and that stuff was scary. It's one thing to hear a 30-something with a cough like that; I can't imagine it in a small child.)
posted by epersonae at 1:09 PM on January 7, 2011


the small-pox, taken in the common way

What a remarkable turn of phrase.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:12 PM on January 7, 2011


I used to not get my flu shot, but then a series of colds led to pneumonia, and after I recovered I found I'd get sick -- and badly sick -- any time I was exposed to any cold.

So I get my flu shot out of fear that if I do get the flu I'll struggle with fighting it off.
posted by dw at 1:40 PM on January 7, 2011


occasionally our chiropractor (who makes a big fucking difference when you're in the middle of a bad bout of asthma)


And you wonder why some of us here might not entirely trust your anecdotal claims about even your own children's health? Are you seriously treating childhood asthma with chiropractic? That's parental malpractice.
posted by spitbull at 1:44 PM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


So how many of you have gotten your flu shot this season?

I'm not sure it's fear (although that's a factor) so much as poor communications. Although I am pro-vaccine and anti-woo, and know all about herd immunity, I had tended to see flu as something you just get occasionally and was more concerned about not running down stockpiles (you might remember there were fears of a flu vaccine shortage some years ago). It was only after noticing recently that I needed to have a flu shot for an upcoming medical that I reset my perspective.

I'm not too sure about our local immunization campaign, though. It is attention-getting and this year has a strong focus on herd immunity, but I really don't care for the imagery and presentation. At worst it plays into the hands of fringe thinkers asserting that either Big Pharma or Big Government are engaging in mind control and so on. You know - 'Herd immunity? Herd?!?! WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!' I can easily imagine Glenn Beck weeping over it for an entire afternoon.

I know it's hard to get the message out, but that's partly a result of everyone competing for the lowest common denominator of attention, resulting in an informational race to the bottom. Just as retailers keep extending the shopping season (Valentine gifts appearing before December 31 this year), nonprofit and public service advertising is subject to consumer fatigue. There are already posters up on the subway for the 2011 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which is in July. Of course the idea is to get people fundraising ahead of time, but there are so many pink ribbon campaigns underway now that it seems to have become an end in itself. Then there's the yellow wristband for some kind of guy cancer (prostate? testicular? anyway, Lance Armstrong rides bikes and doesn't afraid of anything), a red ribbon campaign involving local baseball hero Tim Lincecum for some other cancer or maybe cancer in general, and occasional plaintive adverts about lung cancer which is too ugly and fatal to have any glamorous spokespersons. I have no idea which brand flavor color style type of cancer is most in need of funding or is yielding the most promising advances in research, but I make any donations to lung cancer because it seems so scary and difficult to treat.

You know what I'd like, that I think would be way more effective and efficient? If the last page on my tax return had a short (20-30 item) list of various discretionary federal government expenditures. Although it is a small portion of the overall budget, I like the fact that a few of my tax dollars directly fund cancer research, for example. If there were a list of worthies, and I had the option of ticking a box and paying an extra $10 in tax to this or that extra program - understanding that I get zero direct benefit from doing so - I would tick a few of them, and I bet most people would. As an alternative, a line at the top saying '99% of the tax monies you pay are allocated to various government spending programs, by law. You can see the full details at www.irs.gov/WTFareyouspendingmydollarson.htm. How would you like us to spend the remaining 1%? The 25 items on this page were the most popular among taxpayers last year. Tick one, or write in a program code from IRS leaflet 1234, 'Obscure Things People Choose To Spend Taxes For.''
posted by anigbrowl at 1:51 PM on January 7, 2011


I have been sick with a terrible hacking breathless cough for 4 weeks. At times I have coughed so long and so hard that I have vomited. My sleep is compromised and I have difficulty doing my story times at the library, since it's really hard to read, or sing or jump around when you are trying not to enter another bout of coughing. OTC meds haven't helped, prescription meds haven't helped and now finally I'm on steroids, of all things, to try and get this taken care of.

I have a son on the Spectrum, and I've been reading this latest bit of news with interest. (we vaccinate) I was reading about the increase in Whooping Cough when I joked "maybe that's what I have!" And then I looked at the symptoms and it sounds exactly like what I've got, which started a week or so after I flew internationally, so who knows who I came into contact with. So now I have to call my doctor back and say " hey, is it possible I have Pertussis?" And then I will have to go in for a blood test, and then I will have to wait, and if I have it I will have to go back in to get a booster and an antibiotic. And then, THEN, I will have to call each and every family I've come into contact with at the library and tell them I could have infected them or their little ones.

I probably don't have Whooping Cough, but the fact that I even have to consider it, as a vaccinated adult, is mind boggling. I don't think we realize how much even healthy immunized adults are protected by herd immunity. It's a shame we've gotten to this point, and I'm not sure what will turn it around.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go stick my head in a pot of steam.
posted by Biblio at 2:08 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


The awesomeness level of both addressing parents head-on about the importance of vaccinating AND of quoting Ben Franklin on the topic made me feel very good about their practice.

So how hard exactly do you facepalm when people point out that Smallpox isn't around anymore?
posted by Talez at 2:19 PM on January 7, 2011


Talez, I'm not getting your tone, but the letter, which is fairly long, talks about smallpox having since been eradicated.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:27 PM on January 7, 2011


Smallpox isn't around any more because widespread vaccination helped eradicate it.
posted by KathrynT at 2:28 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exactly. I'm talking about the irony of stupid people that would no doubt attempt to dismiss your point simply because the disease doesn't exist anymore mostly due to mass vaccination.
posted by Talez at 2:35 PM on January 7, 2011


Gotcha. Yeah, it talks about smallpox being gone due to vaccination, as well as other diseases that have become very uncommon, and things like that. But yes, my doctor did say it was always a "relief" to talk to parents who weren't vaccine-resistant and full of misinformation, so I'm sure she's heard it!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:42 PM on January 7, 2011


What might bring the anti-vaccine crowd around is a genuine epidemic, I'm talking babies dying in Oprah's arms. Unfortunately because of the lack of herd immunity everyone kid could be at risk.

Sadly, this is about what I think will have to happen. It's been remarked before that vaccines are a victim of their own success. For example, we're now several generations away from the 1920s when there were up to 200,000 cases of diphtheria a year and about 15,000 deaths, the vast majority of them children. (Since 1980, there have been about 50 reported cases in the U.S.)

Since the anti-vaxxers have no personal experience of what it is like to routinely lose children to measles, diptheria, polio, etc. -- precisely because vaccines and herd immunity work so well -- they are unable to meaningfully comprehend the actual social, medical, and personal value of vaccines. It is, once again, the apotheosis of belief over fact. I fear it's going to take a generation at least to undo the terrible harm that Wakefield has caused, and it's going to have to come with a much higher body count.
posted by scody at 4:20 PM on January 7, 2011


the anti-vaxxers have no personal experience of what it is like to routinely lose children to measles, diptheria, polio, etc.

I've daydreamed about organizing tours of old cemeteries, focusing on headstones of children killed by vaccine-preventable diseases, for precisely this reason.
posted by epersonae at 4:36 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since when is it a fault to be ignorant, or fearful, or fearfully ignorant when you are not the expert and the "experts" all seem to be telling you different things about a very serious issue?

As a friend put it to me recently, I wonder how many of the anti-vaxers espousing exactly the same position you're articulating here turn into raving abusive cock-monkeys every time someone suggests they can ignore evidence of global warming for exactly the same reason?

Like my friend, I think the correlation is remarkably high.
posted by rodgerd at 4:45 PM on January 7, 2011


I've daydreamed about organizing tours of old cemeteries, focusing on headstones of children killed by vaccine-preventable diseases, for precisely this reason.

A few years ago we walked around the cemetery in my wife's home town, which is really just a wide spot in the road in rural Alabama. One thing I noticed, along with the confederate markers and the rocks with just a name scrawled on them as if by a five year old, was a wave of people who died around a couple years in the 1870s. After some research I discovered that cholera epidemics went through central Alabama a couple times in the 1870s.

So, it's easy to find this sort of clustering if you know what to look for in your neighborhood cemetery.
posted by dw at 5:09 PM on January 7, 2011


"I had a certain sympathy for the parents when the Wakefield study first came out. But it isn't just now being discredited. The Lancet paper came out in 1998. But wakefield's coauthors began retracting their support in 2004, which is the same year that the Sunday Times revealed significant conflict of interest in Wakefield's study. That was also the year that Vaccine did a meta-review of studies concerning the vaccine, and, based on 120, found any connection between vaccines and autism to be unlikely. And, from there, study after study has determined that there is no connection. That's seven years now that anti-vaccers have been decidedly in the anti-science camp, arguing, without evidence, that every single peer-reviewed study on connections between vaccines and autism are the product of an undemonstrated conspiracy between big pharma and science. In the meanwhile, the original study, which has fallen apart under peer review and actually has a proven conflict of interest, is the only piece of science that ever purported to show the connection."

He has been demonstrably and incontrovertibly wrong since 2002, you can't really argue with the p-values generated from a half million children.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:08 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


So for example my friend firmly believes that Hep B is a useless vaccine. That Hep B is only for those who are drug users and her son will never be a drug user.

Ask them who they think blood borne pathogens training is for.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:51 PM on January 7, 2011


epersonae: I've daydreamed about organizing tours of old cemeteries, focusing on headstones of children killed by vaccine-preventable diseases, for precisely this reason.

I was surprised at how moved I was by Why We Immunize over at Making Light.
posted by kristi at 1:57 PM on January 8, 2011


These parents would never have even heard of Wakefield's study if it weren't for the tabloids putting it front and centre. I'd be interested to know which 'journalists' were responsible for creating the frenzy. Were they also approached by the lawyer who was trying to get the vaccine case going?
posted by harriet vane at 9:36 PM on January 8, 2011


Since it hasn't been mentioned, a grave disservice was done to children with autism and their families.

How much time, money, energy wasted to debunk this study? How many treatments sold to parents based on curing vaccine injury?

Behavioral therapy for autism works, but it needs to be done as quickly and frequently as possible. The younger the child, the better. How many children were robbed of that opportunity by Wakefield and the rest of the quack autism industry?

On the point of vaccinations--if you choose not to vaccinate your child, you are telling the children with cancer, the children with allergies, the children for whom the vaccine fails, the babies who are too young to be vaccinated, the pregnant women: I don't care if you die, I don't care if you become sterile, I don't care if your health never fully recovers, I don't care if your newborn baby dies, I don't care if your child is born deaf, I don't care if you lose your job or income because you get sick.

It's selfish. Incredibly so. And you should be ashamed of yourself.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:20 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jenny McCarthy weighs in about Andrew Wakefield--with predictable results
posted by homunculus at 1:29 PM on January 11, 2011


if you choose not to vaccinate your child, you are telling the children with cancer, the children with allergies, the children for whom the vaccine fails, the babies who are too young to be vaccinated, the pregnant women: I don't care if you die

And not just babies, children and pregnant women -- Anyone on chemotherapy. Anyone HIV+ or with AIDS. Anyone who is immunocompromised.

Failure to vaccinate = "fuck you" to every one of them.
posted by scody at 4:54 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The second part of the series is now online; it details how Wakefield et al. expected to make money from the study.
Trading was to be fronted by Carmel Healthcare Ltd—named after Wakefield’s wife. Firmly rooted in Barr’s lawsuit, which eventually paid Wakefield £435 643, plus expenses, the business was to be launched off the back of the vaccine scare, diagnosing a purported—and still unsubstantiated—“new syndrome.” This, Wakefield claimed, comprised both brain and bowel diseases, which, after Crohn’s disease was not found in any of the Lancet children, he dubbed “autistic enterocolitis.”

“It is estimated that the initial market for the diagnostic will be litigation driven testing of patients with AE [autistic enterocolitis] from both the UK and the USA,” said a 35 page “private and confidential” prospectus, which was passed to me by a recipient. It aimed at raising an initial £700 000 from investors and forecast extraordinary revenues. “It is estimated that by year 3, income from this testing could be about £3 300 000 rising to about £28 000 000 as diagnostic testing in support of therapeutic regimes come on stream.”
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:16 AM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh my fucking god, it's worse than I thought.
posted by aramaic at 8:24 AM on January 12, 2011


kristi: I read that too when it first came out and had a similar reaction. That, along with stuff like dw's Alabama experience (did you tell me about that before?) resparked the idea.
posted by epersonae at 10:44 AM on January 12, 2011


In Australia, Meryl Dorey has been the leader of the Anti-Vaccination Network. Recently her group came under fire from the state Health Care Complaints Commission, and had it's charitable status revoked. It's good to see a strong stance being taken against her misinformation.

When the Wakefield news came out last week, Dorey was interviewed on radio station 2UE, and the announcer lost her temper with the lies, cutting off the interview and giving the facts afterwards instead.
posted by harriet vane at 5:20 AM on January 13, 2011


Part two of the series, about how the MMR crisis had financial motives, is now available.
posted by jeather at 9:09 AM on January 17, 2011


Here's part 3 of the series, which seems to be blaming the Lancet for initially carrying out a coverup.
I had assumed that when I finished Horton would say that an investigation was needed to untangle these complex matters. There were at least three strands: possible research fraud, unethical treatment of vulnerable children, and Wakefield’s conflict of interest through the lawyer. But within 48 hours, and working with the paper’s three senior authors, the journal was to publish a 5000 word avalanche of denials, in statements, unretracted to this day.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:54 PM on January 18, 2011


Make anti-vaccine parents pay higher premiums
posted by homunculus at 9:43 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Several years ago I worked in a legal clinic that helped people through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which is an interesting arrangement that encourages the manufacture of vaccines by limiting liability, while providing relatively simple access to a legal remedy for those injured by vaccines. From the wiki article:
The VICP uses a no-fault system for resolving vaccine injury claims. Compensation covers medical and legal expenses, loss of future earning capacity, and up to $250,000 for pain and suffering; a death benefit of up to $250,000 is also available. If certain minimal requirements are met, legal expenses are compensated even for unsuccessful claims. Since 1988, the program has been funded by an excise tax of 75 cents on every purchased dose of covered vaccine.
Anyway, the Wakefield study was often brought up by would-be petitioners in the Program, but was not seen as "a medical theory causally connecting the vaccination and the injury."
posted by exogenous at 12:02 PM on January 24, 2011


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