SKEPTICAL ABOUT WAKEFIELD
In Connie Howard's article, ("Well, Well, Well: Wakefield Questions", Mar 11-17, 2010) Ms Howard tries to explain the facts as she sees them concerning the retraction of the study published in the the Lancet by Andrew Wakefield. We at the Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS) for the Centre for Inquiry feel she fails to make a convincing argument of a persecuted scientist being silenced by a conspiracy of big business interests. Instead, she sets up a series of straw men arguments that reflect poorly the true harm done by Mr. Wakefield, the media who reported the study, and the many, misguided anti-vaccination groups that have sprung up since then.
What is most distressing is Ms Howard's argument that measles is not all that bad and her implication that vaccines are not necessary. Her data concerning measles mortality contradicts actual scientific studies on the topic. The World Health Organization stated that in 2008, 164 000 children died from a measles infection, and they estimated that up to 10 percent of children with measles will die in communities with poor nutrition or health care. It can lead to dangerous encephalopathy, or brain swelling, and can leave the child deaf and cause life-threatening pneumonias.
The idea that the Lancet retracted the paper due to pressure from big business does not hold any water either. I will take Ms. Howard at her word when she makes connections between the CEO of The Lancet and the board of directors for GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of the vaccine in Europe. However, if the company had wanted to quash the publication of the paper due to some threat to its business, you would think they would have never allowed the paper to be published in the first place!
The storm of controversy over the MMR and other vaccines was put to the test by other labs and researchers and there was found to be no link between this or any other vaccine and autism or IBD. Vaccines are among the most-tested and safest therapies for disease prevention known to human kind, and manufacturing and perpetuating the fallacy that vaccines are dangerous has a cost: it harms children. That should be a sobering message for us all.
co-chair, the Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism – CFI Canada
I want to thank you for writing your piece on Dr Wakefield. I cried reading it because someone finally wrote the truth. I am a mom with a son who has autism. You must already know the fight we are fighting and the powers we are up against. I know Dr Wakefield personally and I can honestly say that he is the most admirable man I have ever met. He has sacrificed so much for our children. Thank you for restoring my faith back in journalism. In this autism journey I have been heartbroken by the realization of what this country is all about. Or I should say our government! Money sure is more powerful than I ever imagined!