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The Facts In The Case Of Dr. Andrew Wakefield
diversion sign
A fifteen page story about the MMR vaccination controversy. As ever, I'm sure a few spelling errors have slipped past me. Feel free to point any out so I can correct them.

The reference links for the strip are in the next blog entry.

Now! Let's have a heated debate!

2013 update. Since I wrote this blog entry, this cartoon strip as well as many others on such subjects as homeopathy, chiropratic, evolution, and the supposed NASA Moon hoax landings, have been published in a book: Science Tales in the UK (Myriad Edtions) and How To Fake A Moon Landing in the US and Canada (Abrams). Here's the link to my main blog.

1 MMR Vaccination Scandal Story

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Great post. I am a science writer and recently reported on a second paper of Wakefield's in which he putatively found molecular evidence of measles virus in the gut of children with autism. In fact, he had performed a crucial experiment wrong, failing to convert RNA to DNA before he amplified it, so what he found couldn't possibly have been measles virus. This second paper boosted Wakefield's reputation and gave his theory added credibility. You can't fault science writers for overlooking this mistake, as the reviewers and the scientific community overlooked it. Although many science writers have poor science backgrounds and are possibly not qualified to write some of the stories they write, the truth is that we must depend on the experts we interview for our analysis. Still and all, there were plenty of clues that this whole thing was baloney from the beginning, starting with the fact that it was such a tiny study.

Here via Respectful Insolence. This is a great comic.

Here from Pharyngula - well done.

phonemonkey - are you actually from Swearword and Ethanol? My nearest is Hawthorn-Hero_Ill.

I actually watched a Frontline episode about this exact issue recently, and your addition of how Wakefield got payment to make those claims and did unethical testing on the children involved really helps compliment what I already knew. This stuff is frightening, and the amount of people who get sucked into it is terrible. Plus, being someone with aspergers (a mild form of autism), I honestly feel pretty insulted by all the "vaccines cause autism" campaigns, and how they talk about their children being "damaged". Mostly what I see in it is a lot of parents who are terrified that they don't know how to help their children and want to have something concrete to blame their pain on.

Frontline was brilliant, but even they couldn't have squeezed exactly how unethical Wakefield is and was into a single episode.

Nice synopsis, and well-presented. It might be worth noting that although we often view measles with some lightness, it is in fact one of the most devastating diseases the world has ever known. Between one and two million children in developing nations die each year as a result of measles infection. Measles itself is not a fatal disease, however, measles virus infection suppresses the human immune system, opening the host as a target for other, opportunistic infections. Measles is also one of the most virulent diseases, with infection rates of 100% among non-vaccinated people who are exposed to it.

Thank you! This is great.

Great to see further coverage of Wakefield's disaster.

I've been following this story for a while:




However readers might also like to look into the Dunning-Kruger Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect) which goes a long way to explaining how totally untrained or uninformed people have a greatly inflated view of their skills in a particular area. The celebrity syndrome (you mention Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy) is a great example of this with respect to both the celebrities and their faithful minions.

anti vaccine nut cases

Brilliant! I have been an autism therapist/consultant for fifteen years - I have been to talks by leading authorities on Autism (Dr. Roberts - head of child development at Sick Kids Hospital Toronto for one) and nobody has any scientific proof at all that there is a link betweeen vaccines and autism.
I am sick to death of these fear mongering lunatics - esp. those with $ and celebrity convincing people NOT to vaccinate their children.
Vaccines save lives!!!! All vaccines have risk associated but the risk of the return of many life threatening diseases should be more frightening.
I have been answering questions on this issue for so many years and cannot figure out WHY - there is no scientific evidence so why do people insist on the autism/vaccine link?
Thanks for this piece - fabulous

Thank you. I've got an autistic son, and the number of times I've had well-meaning, ill-informed people tell me he'd have been normal if I hadn't allowed him to have the MMR jab has been heart-breaking.

Clearly explained -- excellent comic. Though it makes me worry (again) that we're careening toward the Dark Ages again.

A related piece of trivia: Raggedy Ann was once used as the symbol of a previous anti-vaccine campaign. The creator of Raggedy Ann was against vaccines. This I read in Wikipedia, so take that for what it's worth. But I heard from the docent at the family-run Raggedy Ann and Andy museum was that his daughter died a lingering death after being given two doses of the smallpox vaccine instead of one ("Which will kill you, as you know," said the docent), and he created R.A. to amuse his daughter during her illness. You'd think he'd be against badly practiced medicine, but apparently hated vaccines too. I'm surprised the Raggedy Ann factoid hasn't been resurrected by the anti-MMR folk and her image used again.

PZ Myers just linked to this- prepare for a flood of page views from his site. It's a very nicely done comic!

Thanks for this! Excellent overview of this travesty.(Found it through PZ Myers' blog.)