The Daily Mail and Mr Andrew Wakefield

May 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm (Anti-Vaccination)

Andrew Wakefield (or to give him his full medical title, Andrew Wakefield) has today been struck off by the GMC. Left Brain Right Brain has the transcript of the determination (available as a PDF here). This is the important bit:

Accordingly the Panel has determined that Dr Wakefield’s name should be erased from the medical register. The Panel concluded that it is the only sanction that is appropriate to protect patients and is in the wider public interest, including the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the profession and is proportionate to the serious and wide-ranging findings made against him.

The Daily Mail has now reported on the outcome of the Wakefield case and I thought I’d take a look at some of their reporting of Mr Wakefield and of the MMR scare.

Let’s start with Halvorsen. This article (last updated 2007) was an extract from Halvorsen’s book, The Truth About Vaccines, and contained advice on MMR vaccination. Halvorsen recommended the single measles vaccine, no mumps vaccine, and rubella for teenage girls only. I covered the relevant chapter of Halvorsen’s book here.

Hitchens, again in an article last updated in 2007, writes that measles is “a rather minor risk to a healthy child in an advanced country”. It’s worth pointing out that in Duisburg in 2006 measles had a mortality rate of 1 in 307, as two of the three people with encephalitis died. The two children who developed encephalitis and died were aged 2 months, and 2 years. The infant was too young for vaccination and would have relied upon herd immunity for protection.

Julia Carling (no date provided) went for single jabs and took advice from “a nutritionist, naturopath and trainee homeopath” (all the same person – alternative medicine therapists can certainly multi-task…). Julia told Daily Mail readers that:

It’s a medical fact that the MMR and other vaccinations place quite a toxic load and stimulus on an immature immune system…

This sounds to me like a claim of “immune overload” – something I have referred to previously on this blog in discussion of an article by Cassandra Jardine in the Daily Telegraph on single vaccines.

The World Health Organisation has a useful page on immune overload that states that “evidence to support the concept of “immune overload” is lacking” and there are links to three abstracts of papers on immune overload. According to both the Offit et al and Miller et al papers, vaccinated children in fact have fewer infections than unvaccinated children.

The Kirsty Robinson Russian roulette article (last updated in 2008) featured comment from parents who refused to vaccinate their children.

The Mail have also quoted Carole Caplin’s mum (“for a tiny child, the MMR is a ridiculous thing to do. It has definitely caused autism”), reported on unpublished research under the headline “Scientists fear MMR link to autism”, (Dr Arthur Krigsman), brought us the views of experts such as Beezy Marsh, Jackie Fletcher, and Carol Vorderman, reported on single cases as if they were proof of a link, and failed to report on published research that had findings contrary to the Wakefield-as-martyr line they have fairly consistently pushed – the news you didn’t read.

Having fanned the flames of controversy, the Daily Mail (and other newspapers) later began to distance themselves from Andrew Wakefield when reporting on events. Reporting that “confidence in the vaccine was dashed by … Andrew Wakefield”, the Independent pointed the finger of blame at Wakefield. The Daily Mail, despite their role in the affair, also seemed to blame one man for the media’s mmr hoax:

The doctor who sparked a worldwide health scare over the MMR jab charged £150 an hour to a law firm that planned to sue the vaccine’s manufacturer, an enquiry heard today.

It may have been Wakefield who sparked the health scare – but the Mail played a prominent role in hyping the scare. They chose (dishonourably, if unsurprisingly) to ignore their part in the controversy and swim with the tide that would see Wakefield scapegoated by the media.

Finally, I bring you this gem, in which the Daily Mail refers to their readership as “morons”, “refuseniks”, and “middle class twits” for failing to vaccinate. I’m not sure how the Mail can justify referring to its own readers as morons for not immunising their children against measles, mumps, and rubella when the Mail ran such a vociferous campaign against the vaccine.

Surely the real morons are the editorial staff at the Mail who commissioned all those stories comparing vaccination to Russian roulette or quoting anti-vaccine alternative therapists like Carole Caplin’s mum (or Julia Carling’s trainee homeopath)?

If the paper’s readers are morons for failing to vaccinate, what term is reserved for those who ran sensationalist stories about unpublished research and ignored reliable evidence?

22 Comments

  1. draust said,

    “If the paper’s readers are “morons” for failing to vaccinate, what term is reserved for those who ran sensationalist stories about unpublished research and ignored reliable evidence?”

    Err… “journalists?”

    Or “editors?”

    PS Nice round-up. I shall be waiting with bated breath to see if ShabbyTabby will be by to give you the benefit of his point of view.

  2. noodlemaz said,

    Lovely news to come home to, this.
    You’re absolutely right though. Wakefield may be a nasty piece of work, his actions are dispicable and he’s finally got his comeuppance, BUT the media jumped on this bandwagon with gusto, they propagated the fear and encouraged it.
    The Fail is hypocritical on this one (again) and showing its colours, for those sensible enough to check their record.

  3. Oliver Dowding said,

    What sad news.

    http://www.naturalnews.com/vaccines.html has some interesting takes.

    I wonder if the doctor where my son had a vaccination but reacted badly immediately (and luckily had no lasting effects) will ever report the reaction? Makes for shabby “evidence” in the whole story if not reported. But then again, it would be hassle to report it and the vaccination reaction can be put down to something inconclusive!

  4. Denouement for the MMR scare – updated « Dr Aust’s Spleen said,

    […] back in the Bad Science blogosphere, jdc325 has been noting the Daily Fail’s remarkable selective amnesia on their ex-hero Andrew Wakefield. They seem […]

  5. Cybertiger said,

    Read this drivel and ‘useless tosser’ comes to mind.

  6. Cybertiger said,

    I see Herr Draust was first to dribble his approval of useless tossers like jdc352.

  7. pv said,

    Cybertiger wrote:
    some infantile stuff, as usual.

    Fuck off and grow up Struthers, just for once in your life. Not everything is about you.

    What do you have to say about Wakefield’s study subject whose bowel was perforated as a result of an unwarranted and unapproved invasive procedure? In the absence of anything but abuse I presume you approve.
    I presume you approve also of Wakefield’s falsification of his study conclusions, his lying and conniving throughout, and the medical abuse of children? What a base and scummy arse you are, utterly lacking in either humanity or dignity.

  8. dt said,

    Cybertiger: “Read this drivel and ‘useless tosser’ comes to mind.”

    Always thinking about yourself as usual, hey Cyberkitty?

  9. BSA SciComms Conference 2010 (Part 1) « Purely a figment of your imagination said,

    […] example is Brian Deer, who managed to expose Andrew Wakefield (finally struck off today! See jdc325, Dr Aust, Guardian and elsewhere for coverage) without any science background at […]

  10. Cybertiger said,

    They’re mad as a zillion fishes: I do a little light trolling and look what foul creatures come on line, snippering and snappering like demented demons from the deep.

  11. Teek said,

    Great round-up – you should go to the Mail School for Journalism (which, to paraphrase Gandhi talking about Western civilisation, is a good idea – someone should start it…) and teach this post as a lecture, as it’s an object lesson in crappy reportage.

    The key, now that Wakefield has been thoroughly disgraced and his ‘research’ overwhelmingly discredited as wrong at best and fraudulent at worst, is that academic clinical science, the media and the government all learn from this sorry episode and ensure that the failings are never repeated.

  12. Neuroskeptic said,

    “They’re mad as a zillion fishes” – What does that even mean?

  13. Cybertiger said,

    One fish, one synapse, one nut rubbing its head. A zillion fish, a zillion synapses, a zillion snappering nutters.

  14. Neuroskeptic said,

    You’re a marine moron.

  15. Cybertiger said,

    And Neuroseptic, the synaptic flickerer, is not the brightest synapse in the underworld …

  16. Cybertiger said,

    We also have the joy of DeeTee (aka dt) over at the BMJ I see.

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/340/apr15_2/c1127#236196

    Tosser!

  17. Cybertiger said,

    I see some ‘admin worker from Bradford’ has written some specious crap defending the odious Evan Harris over at the BMJ.

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/340/may26_2/c2829#236344

    You really can’t make this sort of stuff up. Asshole!

  18. The BMJ: Rabid Responses and Competing Interests « Stuff And Nonsense said,

    […] by Andrew Wakefield and inflamed by the press, and have seen unethical behaviour that merited Mr Andrew Wakefield being struck off by the GMC. These issues are far more important and more interesting than the ever […]

  19. jdc325 said,

    Thanks for the insightful comment cybertiger. I hope you will enjoy reading my latest blogpost…

  20. Cybertiger said,

    It’s you who do inciteful comment, thank you Mr Cole.

  21. The Year In Nonsense. And Stuff. « Stuff And Nonsense said,

    […] the day that Andrew Wakefield was struck off by the GMC, I looked at the Daily Mail’s coverage of Andrew Wakefield and the MMR scare. You won’t […]

  22. Andrew Wakefield’s Legacy « Stuff And Nonsense said,

    […] media have moved on too. Some tried to blame everyone except themselves for the MMR scare but then, astonishingly, moved on to scaremongering about other […]

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