Spoiler alert: This story does not have a happy ending.
Back in 1932, the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) decided that it would be a good idea to understand the natural history of syphilis infections. They wanted to know what happened to a human body when the infection took place, from beginning to tragic end. To that end, they “enrolled” 600 African-American men from Tuskegee, Alabama, into a study where the men would be given free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance.
Over the course of the next 40 years or so, this would become one of the most shameful episodes in the history of my profession. It was shameful for several reasons. First, the men in the study were not fully told what the study was about. They were not told that scientists would observe their bodies succumb to a disease. Second, when penicillin became widely available in the 1940’s (especially after World War II), the very effective antibiotic treatment that penicillin offered against syphilis was withheld from the study participants. Third, by the time the “study” was concluded in 1972, an untold number of men had died or been hurt by syphilis unnecessarily. Their wives were infected as well.
Some good did come from this, however. Because of this embarrassment, this abomination to science that was eclipsed only by the Nazi human experiments during the Holocaust, protections of human subjects in research studies (private and public) was finally codified into law. Today, you cannot have someone participate in a research study without their complete and fully informed consent, without the study benefiting the subject in some way, and without doing all that is possible to keep the subject from any harm. If you do something that violates these principles, the consequences can be very grave.
The story did not end with the class-action lawsuit that the Tuskegee participants launched against the US Government. It didn’t end when President Clinton apologized on behalf of the nation for that horrible crime. Oh, no. Thanks to the wild imaginations of people like Brian Hooker and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, the story continues today. Although, today, the perpetrators of the lies and deceit of the African-American community are not in the employ of the US Government. Today, it’s the anti-vaccine groups that are lying through their teeth so that Hooker wins his court case (and the sweet, sweet cash that comes with it), and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield gets some sweet cash donations for his next film.
After all, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield is now a filmmaker, don’t you know?
Yes, these two sorry excuses for human beings are telling the African-American community that the so-called “CDC Whistleblower” has “revealed” that a study by staff from the Immunization Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearly shows that there is an association between the MMR vaccine and autism, and that this association is more pronounced in African-American male children than in any other group.
In their long-winded speeches about what the “whistleblower” may or may not have said, neither BS Hooker nor Andrew Jeremy Wakefield mention how much money they stand to make from the whole thing. They don’t mention the mountains of evidence against them, either. Andrew Jeremy Wakefield never mentions how he is no longer a licensed physician anywhere in the world because of his elaborate fraud to try and link the MMR vaccine to autism when he was getting paid by lawyers to find that link (by any means necessary?) and how he was planning to patent a vaccine of his own to compete with the vaccine he was trying to destroy.
BS Hooker doesn’t tell people about his current case in the Vaccine Court and how he stands to get money if he wins it. It even seems that he goes one step further and not tell even the people he’s suckered into working with him about this, citing no conflicts of interests in his papers and being an “independent” researcher according to hack reporters he’s using to spread the “whistleblower” mythos. But, somehow, a study of children in Georgia done with full institutional review, adhering to the Belmont Principles, and whose results are clear and verifiable, somehow that study is the big lie being told to the African-American community?
Brian S. Hooker and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield (and RFK Jr. and company) must think that African-Americans are stupid in general. There’s no other explanation for why they are proudly and openly lying about the “whistleblower.” If you look at the documents that the “whistleblower” passed on to Congress at the behest of Hooker and Wakefield (in the expectation that Congressional hearings would be called and someone would have a Perry Mason moment on the stand) there is nothing of substance in any of those documents. Even Ben Swann, the orange-colored not-so-super reporter who was fooled into making a YouTube video about this, kind of put out his video and then walked away.
But you know what is really the worst part of this? Hooker and Wakefield and friends do not tell African-Americans the very real consequences of not getting vaccinated. They are two fat, happy White men who have the resources available to get care if they get sick who are going around to communities of people whose access to care is less-than-appropriate telling people in those communities to forgo one of the most important ways of staying healthy. And, should it come to pass that any of those unvaccinated children are harmed by a vaccine-preventable disease, I bet you good money that both of these very privileged men will wash their hands of the whole thing.
Heck, I’ll even go one step further and predict that they will distance themselves from the Nation of Islam and other African-American-centric groups the minute they feel that they are not getting their money’s worth. Andrew Jeremy Wakefield already did it with the Somali community in Minnesota. He went up there and scared them away from the MMR vaccine, triggering a measles outbreak, and has not been back since. He might as well have mooned them when he heard there was a measles outbreak.
Yes, I’m blaming you, Andrew Jeremy, for the measles outbreak that hurt African-American children in Minnesota. And I’m not the only one. And now, I’m blaming you and your friend, BS Hooker, of scaring away an even wider audience of African-Americans from the one public health intervention that has not failed them, of trying to break the trust that we in public health have been trying to rebuild since Tuskegee, and of me, personally, being physically threatened over something that happened before my time and that you two despicable jerks are bringing up as if it is happening again.
Remember how I wrote up there that this story doesn’t have a happy ending? It really doesn’t. We all lose when lies and greed seed so much doubt and fear that people, even one person, gets hurt. Last time there was this much mistrust toward my profession was for a very good reason. This time, it’s because BS Hooker and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield seem to can’t do without that sweet, sweet, motherf*cking cash.
I hope they’re happy.