It’s been a very bad day for Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced UK gastroenterologist famous for birthing the latest wave of vaccine rejectionism. First, the General Medical Council stripped Wakefield of his license to practice medicine. Then, in an ill-advised effort to salvage his public image, Wakefield sat down for an interview with an irritable Matt Lauer on The Today Show.
“Is this the final blow to your credibility?” asked Lauer, checking off a partial list of blows: the multiple studies that disprove Wakefield’s fraudulent 1998 study, The Lancet retraction, and the twin losses of job and medical license.
“Is that it?” asked Lauer again, like he needed permission to stop booking this guy.
Wakefield was ready with two old, discredited talking points.
“The findings that we made originally have been replicated in five different countries of the world, so the bowel disease in these children exists,” said Wakefield. He’s talking about an unpublished abstract of a five-year-old meeting; two case studies of GI disease in one and two autistic adults, respectively; a Venezuelan study that specifically failed to support Wakefield’s hypothesis; and a “study” in a journal that Wakefield himself edits. Lauer, still unclear whether it’s OK to ignore Wakefield, tried to move one.
Wakefield, speaking over Lauer as he tried to ask another question, said that the US government has been “secretly” conceding a link between vaccines and autism since 1991. As Sullivan at LBRB points out today, this “bombshell” was first dropped by anti-vaccine publicist David Kirby last summer:
And, more than 1,300 vaccine court cases were already paid out for encephalopathy and seizure disorders. We will soon learn how many of those children also have an ASD, though I can confirm now that it appears to be far, far higher than the1-in-150 rate reported by CDC.
Published VICP decisions include at least nine instances in which compensation was awarded for the lifelong care of children and young adults who were diagnosed with autism or related conditions after they sustained documented, verifiable vaccine injuries.
Wakefield was right on one important point: we haven’t heard the last of him. As long as news outlets book first and ask questions later, the public will be exposed to all manner of pseudoscience and medical quackery.