The notion that vaccines cause autism may be one of the most dangerous and damaging ideas prevalent in modern society, and it can unfortunately all be traced back to a 1998 essay that started the anti-vaxx movement. Andrew Wakefield, a now-disgraced gastroenterologist, published the paper along with 12 co-authors, who have since retracted their names from the research. But not Wakefield! He’s continued to double-down on his assertions throughout the decades, continuing to push his research that has since been proven inaccurate, dishonest, and downright fraudulent.
How anti-vaxx started is a sad enough tale, but the story of how it has continued to grow, despite all the evidence to the contrary, is even more depressing. Through the promotion of celebrity anti-vaxxers like Jenny McCarthy and her former husband, Jim Carrey, the movement against vaccinating children has exploded and is now having a demonstrable effect on the health of children. The paper came out nearly two decades ago, and was debunked almost immediately, but that doesn't seem to matter to those who have already made up their minds. Nor does the laundry list of things that vaccines have saved us from.
Andrew Wakefield Was A Gastroenterologist With A History Of Falsely Linking Vaccines To Illnesses
Andrew Wakefield is a formerly respected – but now disgraced – doctor who "specializes" in gastroenterology; or, he did until he had his medical license revoked in 2010. He was born in 1957 in the United Kingdom, but he didn't rise to worldwide infamy until after his 40th birthday with the publication of his 1998 essay on the link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
However, even before that scientifically dubious act, Wakefield was trying to connect vaccines to various diseases. In 1993, the gastroenterologist became convinced that measles, and subsequently, the measles vaccine, caused Crohn’s disease. By 1998, this hypothesis had been thoroughly disproved.
A Random Mother Of A Child With Autism Tipped Him Off On The Whole Idea
In 1995, after failing to link the measles vaccine and Crohn’s disease, Wakefield was approached by Rosemary Kessick, whose son had both bowel issues and autism. Kessick was the leader of a group called Allergy Induced Autism, and she inspired Wakefield to begin researching the possibility of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.
Wakefield soon sought out children for a study on the dangers of vaccination.
His 1998 Paper Claimed To Have Evidence Of A Link Between The MMR Vaccine, Gastrointestinal Illness, And Autism – Sort Of
By 1998, Wakefield and 12 collaborators were ready to publish a paper in the medical journal The Lancet, in which they announced their discovery of something called autistic enterocolitis. The study, which only consisted of 12 children (11 of whom were male) – a fairly small and restricted sample size – suggested that as many as eight of the children had developed autism and gastrointestinal disease in a timeframe that made their MMR vaccinations a possible culprit.
The study claimed to have found no proof of a causal link, but the abstract of the article made it sound like they had. The paper was a major bombshell and soon became the subject of a major scientific controversy.
Wakefield Went To The Press Asking For A MMR Vaccine Ban As Though His "Research" Was Conclusive
Wakefield and his co-writers’ assertions were instantly called into question by the medical community – but not before they became a source of wide public interest. That’s because Wakefield himself decided to hold a press conference in February 1998 to promote his findings. He also sent a video of himself to various news channels, in which he called for the suspension of the MMR vaccine until its possible links to autism could be studied further. He also advocated for the triplicate vaccine to be replaced with single injections spread over several years.
This obviously incited a public panic, and many noted that an alarmist press conference is generally not how scientific information should be disseminated.