Everyone loses their mind!

If you don’t know by now who Dr. Paul A. Offit is, then you live under a rock and need to read more. That, or you are new to the “vaccine wars.” If these were actually “wars,” then Dr. Offit would be one of the top generals. He is bright, well-qualified, an excellent speaker, and knows what he’s talking about. He co-developed a vaccine against rotavirus, a nasty intestinal bug that has been responsible for the deaths of children worldwide.

Imagine for a moment a hot day in the summer with, say, 100% humidity and temperatures in the low 100’s. Do you remember how thirsty you were on a day like that? Now, imagine being that hot, that thirsty, and having all the liquid in your body be exiting you through your rectum at an accelerated rate. Pretty bad, huh? We’ll come back to this in a moment.

Dr. Offit and his colleagues developed a vaccine against rotavirus. Of course, he made some money from that vaccine. My uncle rebuilds classic cars. It takes him forever to rebuild them, and then he sells them for a profit. It took years for Dr. Offit to co-develop the vaccine, and it took more years to bring it to market and out to the world. Of course he made money from it. But we’ll come back to that in a moment.

If you don’t know by now who Mr. Andrew Jeremy Wakefield is, then you live under a rock and need to read more. That, or you are new to the “vaccine wars.” If these were actually “wars,” then Mr. Wakefield would be one of the top generals on the anti-vaccine side. He is cunning, good with words, and it seems that he is yet to meet a camera he didn’t like. He co-wrote a paper back in 1998 where it was concluded that the MMR vaccine did not cause autism. However, because the conclusions did not meet his expectations (or something), he decided to tell the world that it was his feeling that the MMR did cause autism. All this time, we’ve been fighting this battle based on his feelings.

What not everyone knows, and the anti-vaccine activists won’t tell you, is that Mr. Wakefield was developing a vaccine of his own. It was a single-jab measles vaccine. Had the MMR taken a hit, guess which vaccine was ready to fill the void? It appears that Mr. Wakefield “felt” that the measles component of the MMR was the cause of the autism “epidemic,” but he was pretty comfortable in offering up his own measles vaccine. If that makes no sense to you, you are not alone.

Back to the deaths from diarrhea.

There are people out there who will defend Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and say that he is a saint because of his tireless work for autistic people. His “work,” it seems, consists of misleading the public about the risks of the MMR vaccine. Most recently, he said this:

“Now this question has been answered not by me, but by the courts, by the vaccine courts in Italy and in the United States of America where it appears that many children over the last thirty years have been awarded millions of dollars for the fact that they have been brain-damaged by MMR vaccine and other vaccines and that brain damage has led to autism. That is a fact.”

In other words, the courts cannot be wrong, but science is. Or something. Anyway, the people who defend Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and attack Dr. Paul A. Offit are quick to dismiss both measles and rotavirus diarrhea as a source of concern. They claim that both disease are easily treatable and that no one dies from it. Many will ask you to point to the number of children in the US who die from diarrhea. The number is low. It is low because we have a reasonably good access to emergency medicine and IV rehydration for kids who are emptying their bowels because of rotavirus. But we don’t live in a bubble, and having the disease is in itself bad.

We don’t live in a bubble, and children in other parts of the world die from rotavirus infection because they don’t have the access to healthcare that we do. It is them who stand to benefit the most from the rotavirus vaccine. To that end, Dr. Paul A. Offit has done away with receiving royalties from the sale of the rotavirus vaccine that he co-developed. He said:

“Just for the record: I no longer financially benefit from the sales of RotaTeq. My financial interests in that vaccine have been sold out by either The Wistar Institute, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or me. I will, however, continue to stand up for the science of vaccines because unfounded fears about vaccines have hurt children. That is why I do what I do and why I have always done it. And I will continue to closely follow the distribution of rotavirus vaccines because these vaccines have the potential to save as many as 2,000 children a day, which is why I joined the research team at Children’s Hospital.”

That doesn’t stop anti-vaccine activists from trying to create myths about Dr. Paul A. Offit, myths that have been thoroughly debunked. Not only that, but he is an expert in vaccines. He co-developed one, for God’s sake. Yet people with no science background or education (of any kind) want to condemn his statements about vaccines because, you know, autism. It’s like someone going to my uncle and telling him that he knows nothing about cars and that he should not be telling people to ride cars (of any brand) because he himself rebuilds cars.

It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

So here we have two big players in the “vaccine wars.” One is a world-renowned physician who co-developed a vaccine and is well-published in his peer-reviewed papers and in books and op-ed pieces. He no longer takes profits from the life-saving vaccine that he co-developed, a vaccine credited with saving thousands of lives (sparing children in the developing world a horrible death and children in the developed nations a life-threatening situation). No one has found any fault in his statements or his writings.

On the other hand we have a man who went to medical school in the UK and decided to conduct a fraudulent study of 12 children to see if maybe the MMR vaccine they received had anything to do with their diagnosis of autism. At the same time, he was filing a patent for a single-jab measles vaccine. When the paper was published and the results section thereof concluded that there was no association between the MMR vaccine and the autism, he decided to tell the press anyway that it was his feeling that, based on this case series of 12 children (now revealed to be a fraud), that those children developed autism because of the MMR vaccine.

Who would you trust?

Of course, I’m probably preaching to the choir. Those who want to believe with all their hearts in a fantasy whereby something out of their control caused their children’s autism will not vilify the villain who conducted a fraudulent study and poisoned the well of public opinion about MMR and other vaccines by stating his scientifically-unfounded opinion. These people will vilify the hero who has worked for many years on co-developing a vaccine that has saved lives, who has not wavered in the face of threats to his person because, you know, autism, and who has continued to do the good work of promoting a safe and effective means of controlling some horrible diseases.

The reasonable people will see what the evidence is about these two people and decide, like I did, who should be honored with the title of “Doctor” and who shall always remain nothing more than “Mister,” even if he did go to medical school in the UK.

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7 thoughts on “Everyone loses their mind!

  1. It’s a poignant comparison. Mr. Wakefield uses a distressed autistic boy and his mother to gain money, filming the boy in vulnerable positions, a film later used to try and justify his murder; he makes money on unsupported treatments; Dr. Offit works 25 years to develop a vaccine that can save thousands or even millions of lives, gives up his continuing interest, and keeps fighting for children in the face of endless abuse. And to the anti-vaxers, he’s satan and Wakefield is St. Andy. Topsy turvy world indeed.

  2. One of my most vivid early memories was my baby brother being hospitalized for (probably) rotavirus. He wasn’t a newborn, he was a lively, healthy two-year-old. I remember him lying limp as a rag doll in my mother’s arms as we went to the hospital, I remember him screaming with three people holding him down as they tried to start an IV line. And I remember how he woke up singing a few hours later, as the fluids took effect. (I must say, the pediatric ED personnel were so gentle and compassionate that, even as they made him cry, I never doubted that they were trying to help.)

    Without the hospital, I know he very easily could have died. Even though he was fine, I am so glad that we have the vaccine, and other babies don’t have to suffer through what he went through. That pediatrician who apologized to my brother as he saved his life, that kind of compassion is the same thing that drives people to make vaccines in the first place. What a pity some cannot see it.

  3. Hello, I want to say that this one of the best articles on the subject. Of course, someone would complain that I am biased because I stand firmly in pro-vaccination camp. But I relly appreciate how clearly you presented the problem. So far I have read many articles about these issues and I find your style very good. English is not my first language so sometimes reading really extented and complicated texts can be a bit problematic and discouraging. Have a nice day.

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