Anti-vaxxers are a strange bunch.
By strange, I mean dangerously and wilfully uninformed, and by bunch, I mean that there are a depressingly large amount of people who just won’t accept the facts.
In this, the age of misinformation, it never helps when prominent people spread what are obviously lies, which is why it’s sad that Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of JFK, can’t seem to get it together.
Here’s VICE with where we’re at:
Since 2005, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., once a well-respected environmental activist, has become better known as a vaccine “skeptic,” making a series of increasingly lurid and unfounded claims about the supposed health risks of vaccines…
On Monday, he stretched that claim to its breaking point, when he published an Instagram post explicitly supporting Andrew Wakefield, the ex-gastroenterologist whose false claims about the MMR vaccine and autism sparked the modern anti-vaccine movement…
In his Instagram post, Kennedy chose to align himself with Wakefield, calling him “among the most unjustly vilified figures of modern history” and suggesting that he had been the target of “a global smear campaign orchestrated by Rupert Murdoch’s media empire,” intent on taking him down.
Alright, Robert, you’re really besmirching your family’s good name here.
Wakefield’s study has been discredited countless times over the years and denounced by anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of these things, perhaps most famously by investigative journalist Brian Deer.
Rather than sift through that in-depth analysis, though, Cape Town-based paediatrician Alastair McAlpine has made things really simple in a Twitter thread.
You may recognise McAlpine’s name from the life lessons he learnt from the dying wishes of his terminally ill patients. Be warned – that story tugs on the heartstrings.
Rather than embed McAlpine’s entire Twitter thread, we’ll just take the information in the order he presents it:
The bizarre attempts by some, like @RobertKennedyJr, to rehabilitate the image of the MMR fraud perpetrator, Andrew Wakefield, cannot go unanswered. So here’s a thread about his fraudulent study and why he is no ‘misunderstood’ hero.
In 1998, Wakefield and 12 colleagues published a small study in @TheLancet (a v prestigious medical journal) in which he claimed to have discovered a new syndrome – developmental regression and bowel problems in children.
He noted that 8 of the 12 had recently had the MMR vaccine and the study hypothesized that the cause for these issues could be ‘environmental’ (ie- the vaccine).
When large epidemiological studies showed no link whatsoever, attention turned to Wakefield’s study, and some issues were immediately apparent.
1) At least 2 of the kids had been diagnosed with autism BEFORE the study & before the vaccine. This info was omitted by Wakefield.
2) A large number of the children diagnosed as ‘autistic’ did not meet criteria for the diagnosis.
3) The patients were reported as being a ‘series’ when, in fact, they were carefully chosen (or ‘cherry-picked’) beforehand.
4) No controls (normal children for comparison)
5) Wakefield was executive director of a company which was developing its own measles-only vaccine, which would have benefitted from the MMR being discredited. This strong conflict of interest was never declared.
As a result of the above, 10 of the 12 authors disowned the study and walked away. But more was to come. The study was revealed not just to be flawed, but fraudulent and unethical.
It was unethical because he subjected children to unnecessarily invasive tests (colonoscopies, lumbar punctures) which their parents had not consented to.
It was fraudulent because data was changed after it was collected to match a preconceived outcome. This was extensively documented by journalist Brian Deer from The Sunday Times.
As a result, Britain’s General Medical Council, after an extensive hearing, stripped Wakefield of his license to practice. The Lancet retracted the study in 2010. But the damage was done. And we still bear the consequences today.
Andrew Wakefield is no misunderstood hero. He conducted an unethical and fraudulent study with far-reaching consequences. He has never apologised or expressed contrition for hurting children.
PS – Wakefield now lives in a mansion in Texas and is the partner of ex-supermodel, Elle McPherson. He makes a fortune directing anti-vaxx documentaries. Which goes to show, there is no justice but what we make it.
The only thing that is incorrect in the thread above is that it’s actually Elle Macpherson, and I think we can all agree that’s not the real issue here.
An entire movement, that has threatened to bring back diseases that had previously been all but eradicated, based off one thoroughly debunked study.
Of course, McAlpine has also had to battle in the replies section to his thread:
In case you’re wondering, Blaze On America is a big fan of Trump.
An account called ETweeetz also disagreed. The hashtags on this one…
I’m not saying there is a direct correlation between supporting Trump and being stupid enough to believe the fraud that vaccines cause autism, except I am.
Still, in the year 2019, they walk among us.
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