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British doctor who inspired worldwide vaccine scare banned

Andrew Wakefield began his career in the 1980s as a gastric surgeon from Bath, England, who followed his parents, a neurologist and general practitioner, into the field.

Now he is one of the most vilified, and perhaps most influential, doctors in the world.

Wakefield published a blockbuster report in The Lancet in 1998 claiming evidence of a link between autism and early-childhood vaccination. The findings sparked a worldwide debate over the safety of inoculating children against diseases like the measles and inspired a health scare that persists to this day — including among medical professionals.

Just as recently as last week, a doctor at a panel event in Lake Delton, Wisconsin advised parents there against vaccinating their children.

“I think there is a direct link between autism and vaccines,” said the doctor, Mayer Eisenstein, who has been sued by parents claiming his policies harmed their children. “The bottom line is all vaccines cause neurological damage.”

The source of that information, Wakefield’s study, has since been disproved by the wider medical community. Wakefield, too, has been discredited.

And now he has been banned.

On Monday Britain’s medical council stripped Wakefield of his license, saying he had “abused his position of trust” and “brought the medical profession into disrepute,” according to The Telegraph. The council called Wakefield “dishonest,” “misleading,” and “irresponsible.”

The move came just as yet another study, this time in the journal Pediatrics, found no evidence to support the claim that immunization affects a child’s development. Where Wakefield’s study examined just 12 children, the report in Pediatrics followed more than 1,000 children who had received the recommended vaccinations on time, received them late or never received them at all.

The authors found no discernable difference between children who received vaccinations and those who did not. In a forward to their report, they wrote that their findings “should be comforting to many parents with vaccine safety concerns: Children can receive their immunizations on time and expect to have the same neurodevelopmental outcomes as children with any other pattern of vaccine receipt.”

And yet, Wakefield has promised to continue his advocacy in exile. The ruling by the British government will only impact his ability to practice medicine in the United Kingdom. And his work has been endorsed by several celebrities, including Jenny McCarthy, whose son has been diagnosed with autism, and her partner, Jim Carrey.

As Wakefield told the TODAY show on Monday, “This is a little bump on the road.”



  • barb

    Wakefield’s study was flawed… it wasn’t the MMR vaccine that causes autism, it is ALL vaccines cause autism. That has been the problem with all the vaccine/autism studies they have singled out one vaccine.

    The fat woman who eats chocolates, ice cream, and cookies all day long has proven over and over again that her diet does not cause her obesity. Every six weeks she gives up a different food and her weight stays the same. This last six weeks she gave up blueberry ice cream and she didn’t lose an ounce. – It’s the same with the vaccine studies.

    The so-called peer-reviewed scientific studies are a form of brainwashing. First, by insisting that ONLY peer-reviewed studies be given credence, you eliminate all of the studies that have not been financed directly or indirectly by Big Pharma. There are many articles on the web about the sad state of published research. The studies that are done that show the dangers of drugs are either never published or twisted to imply the opposite.

    The autism rate climbed substantially when the pharmaceutical firms got freedom from any liability, created the combination vaccines, lowered the ages of children getting vaccinated, and increased the number of recommended vaccines for children from 10 to almost 60 now.

    As the number of recommended vaccines climbed, our children became sicker and sicker. Food allergies are now potentially fatal. Highly refined peanut oil is GRAS and can be used by pharmaceutical firms without being listed on the package insert. There is a trace amount of peanut protein in the oil and when injected with an adjuvant = fatal food allergy. There is a new book on the topic “The History of the Peanut Allergy Epidemic” by Heather Fraser. Luckily, Heather is a historian so the Medical Mafia can’t take away her credentials.

  • Dana

    Thank you Barb. This is the same scenario we are seeing now with vaccines that we saw with cigarettes. I am praying the tides are turning at a much faster rate for the veil to be pulled on Big Pharma. I encourage everyone to get a copy of each vaccine with all ingredients listed from your local health department. When did it become safe to inject formaldehyde into infants? Why can’t we have an orally administered single vaccine without mercury, aluminum and other toxic ingredients?

  • sarah

    PBS – can you PLEASE have fair reporting for once. If you truly consider yourself to be ‘for the public’ then do your research.

  • Miriam Rotman MD

    This is the result of false information being disseminated to the public. One physician with a false study and now 2 generations have grown up with his misinformation. The scientific community can continue to show and prove in studies with thousands of children that vaccines have no connection to autism but parents still will not believe the medical community. It is very tough for a parent with an affected child not to be able to blame something or someone for this unfortunate turn of events but maybe instead of blaming vaccinations which have saved millions of children from life-threatening disease and death we should strive to find the real medical cause of autism!

  • Jessica

    I can’t believe the comments on this piece. PBS is reporting about a doctor being banned from practice due to unethical practices. Wakefield’s study has been disproven time and time again by innumerable other studies, including studies of far larger populations.

    Rather than putting other people’s children (and anyone immunocompromised) at risk by not vaccinating your kids, how about we put some more time, money, and energy into finding out what REALLY causes Autism? Because we’ve already proven that it’s not vaccines.

  • Kristin

    I have an autistic brother, and was terrified that I had an increased chance of having an autistic child. I have two lovely daughters and have willingly and happily had them vaccinated. I understand the flaws in this doctor’s research and give no credence to the vaccines-cause-autism hysteria.

    While vaccine rates have risen, and autism rates have risen, this is coincidence and not causal. More children are being diagnosed with autism who would not have been so diagnosed thirty years ago. The category of “autistic spectrum” has been expanded — I’ve even heard some people claim ADHD is on it. When the label “autism” gets services that would otherwise not be available, it is very understandable why the label has been applied to more and more of the “spectrum”.

    Since many parents now have video cameras, the behavior of young children can be observed from a time before they were diagnosed with autism. Autistic behaviours can be seen well before these vaccines are given. A key indicator is failure by the child to respond to his or her name by the age of 12 months.

    A lot of money is being wasted chasing the vaccine phantom. I can understand people want someone or something to blame. Forty years ago, “bad mothering” was the scapegoat. What about the increased amounts of organochlorines and estrogen mimicers in our environment. Would you forgo the use of all chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and COSMETICS and PERFUMES, if I told you that was as likely a culprit as vaccines? There are thousands of chemical compounds that affect our health and millions happily apply directly to their persons every day. What if it was the perfume in your favorite laundry soap that laid the path to autism? or the increased use of plastics? Seems to me that the use of these substances has increased at the same time rates of autism have increased.

    Blame big Pharma if you wish, but to prove a connection between vaccines and autism will require more than one flawed study by a man with a conflict of interest and a peculiar way of conducting his research. Really . . . paying your children’s friends at a birthday party for samples? You can more clearly blame this doctor for the near epidemic of measles than you can can blame autism on vaccines.

  • Kim

    Like most problems, the cause is generally not one thing alone. The problem, in my opinion, is that no study has tried to look at the connection between vaccines and some other variable. We seem to be constantly looking to see if this or that is it, rather than gathering enough general data and looking for the common threads. The way we do it now we will never find it unless we guess the cause first. Common sense tells me to gather data and let it tell you where the problem is.

    Also, my mom had vaccinations, and who knew what were in those, I had vaccinations, my daughter got vaccinations. She’s healthy, but who knows what will be the outcome when her children get vaccinated? I’m older than Jenny McCarthy, maybe her family had one more generation of vaccinations or a different mix, I’m not a doctor but it seems to me that there are many other variables that we have not looked into.

    One last thought, I have yet to see the data that says out of 100,000 children, half of which did not receive any vaccines, the autism rate was exactly the same as those who did receive vaccines. For all the studies they claim to have done, where is this statistic?

  • Linda Lloyd-Jones

    Note to Kim – it is probably not possible to do a controlled study involving children who receive the vaccines vs children who don’t – simply because there are not 50,000 available kids who are alike in all other ways pretty much -and have not had the vaccines. And it would be unethical to conduct a study which deliberately withheld vaccines from children. Seems to me a study based on simply numbers of parents stating that their children did or did not receive vaccines would not yield any reliable results. And a study which was actually blind so that parents did not know whether their children had received vaccines or not would also probably be unethical. We know the benefits or vaccines – if you had lived through the last diphtheria epidemic – as my mother did – or the last polio epidemic – as I did – you would have no doubt as to the efficacy of vaccines. I am definitely not a supporter of the pharmaceuticals industry – and I am even skeptical about much that goes on in the medical profession – but I do not believe any connection between vaccines and autism has been established.

  • Flips

    If tons of studies came out indicating that one thing was not the cause of a disease versus one study that has since been discredited, I would then want to focus my efforts on looking into other causes.

    Not to defend “the man” or anything but Big Pharma is directly or indirectly as involved with the inquiry into the causes of autism as it is with other diseases– why do we trust study results for other diseases but freak out and fixate on their results regarding autism? Also, maybe people don’t understand the importance of peer reviewed articles and research but even if you don’t wouldn’t it make sense to take the word of a study that has been rigorously reviewed by other knowledgeable people in the field over something that has not been rigorously reviewed by other knowledgeable people in the field? You have to evaluate your sources of info. Just because someone’s outside of Big Pharma– that doesn’t automatically mean they know what they’re talking about.

  • donna

    I agree with finding the causes of autism.

    Not sure if the folks have considered testing impact when the immunizations are spread out vs administered at the same time. In talking with parents some believe there is a tie due to the timing of the onset of the autism. My children were sensitive as we seem to have an autoimmune situation, so my sisters and I would not allow more than 2 shots at a time (28 years ago). My sister had not read of relationships, she was a teacher of children with autism. (Not to say this is conclusive but I understand why folks may research the connection.) Check the content of the immunizations , use your motherly instincts as much as possible with your children.

    Statistical tools can do tremendous analysis yet there are so many variables… we do need to look for apparent relationships and prove or disprove in studies to get to the real casue. Dialog from teachers and folks who work with many autistic students would be a great place to develop a theory to research.

  • Patrick Crothers

    As I understand this, a total of ten researchers signed off on this report. As a 62 year old autistic I can only tell you about the cruelty that exists in the world. How bad is this physician. I have listened to him a number of times and don’t find him a revolutionary. He doesn’t even scare me. He offers other thoughts on a topic that no one seems to know a thing.

    An autistic doesn’t seem to think like straights. Not even close. We are out of the box, simply enough.
    We don’t seem to symbolize well at all as I see it. I have a total disregard for wealth although I can raise it if I see a need. No symbolism.
    An autistic needs love. I see people like myself without a place in the world. I am happy. I have a wonderful spiritual life. I can obtain anything I want easily. But we don’t have a place like we would in a tribal society.
    We are not respected.
    We have no status and that is the prim motivator of the human species.
    I have savant level intelligence with all the gaping holes that goes with it.
    Web MD has a great site which tells the caregiver how an autistic thinks. You would of thought this kind of thing would of been published and posted in every doctor’s office. I give my doctor a copy every time I see him.
    The one thing everyone has in common with an autistic is a need for love.
    There is no greater gift than love.
    Love is the only thing you can create that didn’t already exist before you were born.
    Once you create love it never dies.
    Love is the greatest gift you can give.
    Love is the greatest gift a child can ever receive.
    Giving love to a child you don’t know is the noblest act.
    Giving love to a child anonymously is even greater.
    If you have love you are never alone.
    Being alone is the human species greatest fear.

  • abutazkiyah

    vaccine is real disease

  • Malcolm

    I have found 18 peer reviewed research articles proving that there is a link between certain chemicals in the vaccinations and autism, I cannot yet find one that proved there isn’t. Please can someone point me at some of those.