Journalist Brian Deer spoke to Claire Byrne on Tuesday about his book, The Doctor Who Fooled the World. The doctor in question is Andrew Wakefield and Claire put it to him that said doctor is still fooling some of the world. Wakefield is the doctor who published a paper from the Royal Free Medical School & Hospital in London, concluding that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination was responsible for autism in children, leading to widespread fears among parents and a drastic fall in the numbers being vaccinated.
“It was a preposterous suggestion at the time that two out of three parents would be blaming the MMR vaccine for autism, but that’s what took off from that paper and immediately there was a huge amount of media coverage and it really rolled out from that hospital in North London all around the world.”
The claim and the resultant publicity had a huge effect on vaccination rates:
“In the UK they dropped down from, like, the absolute maximum they ever got was 95% of children vaccinated, and they slumped down to 71% in parts of London, down to the 60%.”
What motivates Wakefield? Claire wanted to know. Brian’s book has some startling revelations that go some way to explaining that:
“He’d been hired by a firm of lawyers to make his allegations two years before this paper was published, which was an absolutely remarkable disclosure that we came up with.”
In 2010, the UK’s General Medical Council ruled that Wakefield’s research was a scam.
“The General Medical Council held the longest investigation in its history. It held a public hearing which went on for 217 days, which is longer than the trial of OJ Simpson and they found him guilty of fraud, of dishonesty in his research.”
Brian told Claire that he found out that Wakefield had patented his own single measles vaccine at a time when he was telling anyone who’d listen that the combined MMR vaccine caused autism. And that’s not all:
“Later we discovered that actually he’d changed – he’d gone into the children’s histories and records and changed the diagnoses to make it appear that they had some kind of special constellation of symptoms which he blamed on MMR.”
Despite the fact that his research has been discredited, Wakefield is still active, most recently suggesting that Covid-19 – which he’s calling “Wu-flu” – was engineered in a lab and deliberately released into the world. He lives in the US now, where he’s apparently being looked after by some wealthy benefactors who believe his claims about MMR are right. Wakefield has, unsurprisingly, claimed that Brian Deer works for the drugs industry and has been paid to discredit him. Brian has also been sued by Wakefield, who, when his lawsuits failed, claimed that the judiciary was corrupt and influenced by “some dark forces”.
You can hear Claire’s full chat with Brian Deer here.
The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception and the War on Vaccines by Brian Deer is published by Johns Hopkins University Press.
Niall Ó Sioradáin
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