Andrew Wakefield’s biggest mistake (this month)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably missed all the commotion over ex-Doctor Andrew Jeremy Wakefield’s anti-vaccine film being utterly rejected from the Tribeca Film Festival. Seriously, his 1998 case study of a handful of children which concluded that vaccines do not cause autism should have been rejected just as quickly. But beggars can’t be choosers.

 

So much for Anti-Vax Jesus.

jesus_trick

“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one.” – JB Handley

While Wakefield and his followers are almost literally crying over this hell of a setback, and crying about violations of their First Amendment right to freely express themselves as if YouTube wasn’t a thing, Andrew Jeremy has no one to blame but himself. Had he been a little more humble about the film being accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival, had he just put his ego aside and let the film be screened first before he went yelling from the mountaintop that it was accepted… Had he just kept his goddamned trap shut, he would have avoided this embarrassment of monumental proportions.

Seriously, Andy, if you’re reading this, I hope this is a lesson to you. Had you just stayed quiet, you could have been boasting today that your student AV club of a movie (with all of its lies and inconsistencies) was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. You could have had the movie seen by thousands (maybe) and then raise interest in distribution companies. You could have made a lot of cash, and it looks like you need it.

Instead, as is the case with everything that Andrew Jeremy Wakefield touches, his documentary film is now toxic. Only a fringe distribution company would pick it up at this point. (You know the kind, a distribution company that hires $1 theaters to show films to true believers.) Not only is Andrew Jeremy Wakefield not a doctor and not a film director, but he seems to be a horrible businessman as well.

Anyway, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield went and told the loonies to go and support the film. When Robert De Niro posted on Facebook that he supported the movie because, get this, he wanted a dialogue or something, the anti-vaccine weirdos showed up in force to counter the reasonable comments of scientists, skeptics, and bloggers. And, boy, did the antivaxxers make a spectacle of themselves.

There was everything in those comments. From claiming that everyone who supports vaccines and opposes Wakefield’s movie is in league with Big Bad Voodoo Pharma, to claiming that someone or some group threatened De Niro in order to get the film withdrawn. And the anti-vax bingo you can play with their comments. Jesus!

So it’s no wonder that even after talking to a US Representative for an hour (or so they claim), and after desperately trying to save his AV club film, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield failed to have the film screened. Seriously, how many more things does former doctor Wakefield need retracted for him to throw in the towel and go sell perfume at a mall in Egypt or something?

Poor Lord and Saviour Andy. He should have kept his mouth shut.

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The Delusional Mr. Lord

If you’ve been fighting anti-vaccine nonsense as long as I have, there are really few things that will impress you. (And I don’t mean “impress” in a good way.) There’s not a lie or conspiracy theory that anti-vaccine activists won’t adhere to. Their own delusions of grandeur come through when they call themselves “vaccine experts” and then display a woeful ignorance about basic biology. This is the case with one Mr. Joel Lord from Vancouver, Canada. He is the founder of the “Vaccine Resistance Movement,” a “grass roots” movement to try and bring down vaccine programs everywhere.

Mr. Joel Lord has seemingly zero background in the biological sciences. I looked everywhere to see if and when he studied biology (or any science, really), and I came up with nothing. In his own page on his own site, he doesn’t mention any formal training in any kind of science. At least Andrew Jeremy Wakefield took the time to go through medical school. What has Mr. Joel Lord done? Seemingly, nothing.

If Mr. Joel Lord is reading this, he might tell us that, indeed, he is a PhD in immunology or something. But I doubt that he is. I doubt mostly because of his style of writing, which is sloppy and confuses different scientific terms. He thinks that ethyl and methyl mean the same thing. They don’t, and I learned that in high school. (So I’m left wondering if he even went to high school.)

What Mr. Joel Lord does have is a complete lack of self-awareness. Or, rather, maybe he is aware of who he is and what he is, and he just goes with it. When he was interviewed by Canadian media, he said this:

“It’s such a deep rabbit hole,” he told CTV News. “There are so many layers to this.”

Lord is a prolific writer, having published scores of articles on the VRM’s website. His organization held an anti-vaccine summit in Vancouver last year. He promotes what he calls a vaccine-free natural approach, because he believes the chemicals in vaccines are behind severe damage to children’s developing brains.

“Look into the eyes of a child who has been seriously damaged by these early childhood shots and you have to go no further,” he said.

That really tells us nothing, Mr. Joel Lord. There is zero evidence of anything in your words. You even confuse causation with association all over the place. Most people in an outbreak of pertussis are vaccinated? Well, yes, because most people are vaccinated, period. More people are vaccinated against chickenpox, but we’re seeing more shingles than ever. Well, yes, because the demographics in North America are shifting toward an older generation who had chickenpox as children and have not been exposed in a while because of the vaccine. Luckily, we have a good shingles vaccine for that. In other words, Mr. Joel Lord just doesn’t understand the big, scary world around him.

But I bet that Mr. Joel Lord knows a sucker when he sees one. Check this out from his Facebook page:

Joel_Lord_Speaking

“Pay for my vacay, and I’ll tell you some lies,” I think he said.

He wants to speak in our community! How cute. We have to make it happen, though. How? By paying for him to fly in, stay a couple of nights, pay him a “reasonable honorarium” and then get him back to Canada. Not only that, but the “reasonable” honorarium is “well below average for doctors in the field”. Fantastic! Could it because Mr. Joel Lord is not a doctor? Could it be cheaper for him to talk about vaccines because he is ignorant about basic science?

Sorry, Mr. Joel Lord, but I would probably get better information on science in general and vaccines in particular if I asked a high school student taking biology to come talk to my community. Seriously, Mr. Joel Lord, you’re embarrassing yourself. And that “study” you hope to conduct? I would be shocked in the most extreme if you could mention and discuss just ONE potential source of bias and how you plan to address it in your analysis. Just one.

Mr. Joel Lord, do you think your followers are idiots? No, don’t answer that. It was a rhetorical question.

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, Litigious Bully

You remember Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, don’t you? He’s the British physician who conducted a case review of autistic children and, despite what his “study” had to say on the matter, he told the world that it was his gut feeling that the MMR vaccine caused autism. Here we are, more than 15 years later after that case series was published, still having an argument about vaccines and autism. This in spite of the fact that there have been no credible, repeatable, peer-reviewed studies confirming Wakefield’s findings, or the conspiracy theories of others about thimerosal in vaccines leading to autism. (The MMR never had thimerosal in it, nor did any of the live-virus vaccines.) If anything, the science is moving more and more toward confirming the theory that autism is a manifestation of our neurobiology. That is, we’re all normal, and autistics are on one end of the spectrum of normal. Or, better stated, we’re all autistic, and those of us who don’t exhibit autistic behaviors are on one end of the spectrum of autism.

Despite years and years and years of research and spent resources on trying to confirm Andrew Wakefield’s study, there has been nothing moving the theory that vaccines cause autism. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Then along came Brian Deer, an investigative journalist who uncovered fraud in the Wakefield study. “Fraud”… That’s such a strong word. What does it mean? According to the dictionary, “Fraud is a deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain (adjectival form fraudulent; to defraud is the verb).” What was Wakefield’s gain in stating that the MMR vaccine caused autism? (And, let me be absolutely clear, he did say it, no matter how much anti-vaccine activists say he didn’t.) For starters, he was hired by a law firm in Britain that was attempting to bring suit against vaccine manufacturers. And he was also trying to patent his own measles vaccine. (Read all about it here.) Continue reading

I’ll admit it: Wakefield’s research has been replicated over and over again

Calm down, will you? As long as you’ve been reading this blog and you think that I’m about to absolve Andrew Jeremy Wakefield? Not at all. I’m about to nail the (by my count) 145,345,364th nail in the coffin of his “MMR causes Autism” theory. See, the anti-vaccine “Wakefieldites” have been claiming that his “research” has been duplicated by other scientists. I put “research” in quotes because his paper is no research at all, from an epidemiological and even medical point-of-view. It was a fraud, but we’ll leave that for later.

Wakefield’s retracted paper has the following conclusion:

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.”

My emphasis in bold.

That’s it. That’s their conclusion. Later on, the authors state that there is inadequate evidence to link the vaccine, that the onset of symptoms occurred after the vaccine, and that (as is the case in most research) further studies were necessary.

So, yes, further studies were done, and they all replicated Wakefield’s findings of no association. If you remember, it was Wakefield’s opinion that the MMR vaccine caused autism. Perhaps encouraged by the pay day coming with his patent for the single measles shot, or some other incentive altogether, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield decided to inject his opinion into this, even after the facts didn’t support his findings:

“Again, this was very contentious and you would not get consensus from all members of the group on this, but that is my feeling, that the, the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.”

My emphasis in bold, again.

Read that last quote again, ladies and gentlemen. The anti-vaccine activists, all the harm they’ve done to herd immunity, all the anti-science and hate they spew, the cheering of murders in Pakistan of vaccine workers, all of that… All of that came from how Andrew Jeremy Wakefield felt, not from fact, not from evidence, not from anything tangible… Just how he felt.

At least I’m not a hypocrite like Andrew Jeremy Wakefield

Andrew Wakefield is angry. He is angry because he’s being oppressed. He’s being rightfully blamed for the current measles outbreak in Wales, and he doesn’t like the truth. He hates it so much that he wheelbarrowed his balls over to a camera and recorded this video:

If you can stomach the hypocrisy, watch all the way to where he turns to the camera and demands a public debate, with an audience, to settle the score. I would laugh if it weren’t so pathetic. I mean, the about section of the video reads:

“Dr Wakefield responds to UK public health officials call for censorship on MMR vaccine safety debate, measles vaccine failure, and issues a further challenge for open debate.” Continue reading

We fight ’em. We fight ’em until we can’t.

Have you ever heard of the phrase “Beating a dead horse“? It goes a little like this:

It basically means that you keep at something that is futile, worthless, not worth doing. Unfortunately, there are people who keep beating a dead horse. Except that this “dead horse” is very serious, deadly even. The person doing the beating is Andrew Wakefield.

Yes, I know my policy is not to mention any names. But he’s just asking for it.

As it turns out, there is a new blog, Facebook group, and Twitter feed that beats the dead horse that the MMR vaccine causes autism, that Andrew Wakefield did not commit a fraud in his retracted Lancet “study” (it was a case series), and that anyone stating otherwise must be dragged to court in Texas to face the law (aka a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation“).

Warning: There is a picture of Wakefield and his wife in their posh living room. Wakefield is wearing no shoes and has a smug smile about his face. People have told me that they lost their lunch at the sight. You’ve been warned.

Anyway, I for one am glad that they are deciding to blog and post his every move. A threat to public health like the idea that the MMR vaccine should not be administered out of some fear of autism must be watched carefully, monitored. It must be countered.

And we will.

We will.

Oh, ye who have ears and yet won’t listen

There is a hilarious thread going on on Facebook right now between an anti-vaxer and a pro-vaxer. (Yes, I checked in with a few comments and explanations, but mine are just a small fraction of the comments.) Go over and check it out before it gets deleted by the anti-vaxer.

If you don’t want to go over and read, I’ll give you the long and short of it:

The anti-vaxer calls herself “Vaccine Skeptic Society” and a “non-profit organization”. Mind you, she is just one person, an at-home medical coder (per some conversations of hers on Facebook), and someone who is totally ignorant of science. Okay, maybe not totally ignorant, but she does come off as knowing nothing, absolutely nothing about science.

(She should also be careful because calling yourself a non-profit without being one is a crime, and I have been so far unable to find her registered as a non-profit anywhere.)

The anti-vaxer began claiming that the influenza season is a result of influenza vaccination. That is, she postulated that the flu vaccine — and shedding from the vaccine, which is incredibly improbable with the nasal vaccine and impossible with the injected vaccine — causes the yearly epidemics that we see in the northern and southern hemispheres. I’m not kidding. Check this out:

And Easter eggs cause Easter

Those 150 comments are her and a couple of science-oriented people, myself included, trying to set her straight. But then she just goes off on a tangent. This is a later post of hers, in which she alleges that H. influenzae (a bacteria) is what really caused the pandemic:

Because something believed in 1918 is so true today

Now, I would try to explain to her why she’s wrong and why that was just what scientists believed at the time, but it would be pointless. (Viruses as such were theorized before 1918, but it wasn’t until the invention of the scanning electron micrograph that they were visualized and later isolated. Shortly after that, we had a vaccine. In between the SEM and the vaccine, we were able to isolate antibodies. Later, we’d isolate the virus from corpses of people who died in the pandemic, but no H. influenzae.)

It would be pointless to argue because she is a germ theory denialist.

Anyway, if you want to have a good laugh at someone who is rabidly anti-vaccine and wants to come off as a scientist, go over to her page. Chuckle as you read her write over and over that she’s “just asking questions” and wants to have a “balanced” debate.

There are bigger, more important reasons why I’m pointing out her stupidity. I’m pointing out her stupidity because it is classic of most anti-science and anti-vaccine people. They know very little to nothing about the sciences of microbiology and immunology, yet they pretend that they do. They then go and google for any science article that sort of kind of confirms their beliefs and post it on their own echo chambers to show to their followers how smart they are. (Their followers are just as clueless about science as they are, by the way.)

This brings to the forefront the need for better science education at the elementary and secondary school levels. We really can’t get more people like the idiot above get out into the public, create Facebook pages alleging to be non-profit organizations (a crime) and “just ask questions” that lie and deceive unknowing people out of a safe and effective way to prevent deadly communicable diseases. Because, soon enough, some poor new parent is going to stumble onto her rants and get the wrong idea about vaccines, refuse to vaccinate their child, and lose or have that child injured by a vaccine-preventable disease.

Oh, yes, it’s that important to learn science early and often.