Recently, I wrote about the zombie Daily Mail article on MMR. I made a complaint to the PCC about the article in question, and have now received notice of their decision. Read the rest of this entry »
A guest blog post from a UK Doctor
New revelations and implications about Andrew Wakefield’s research work.
For anyone who doesn’t know about the ramifications of the Andrew Wakefield saga, here is a brief recap. In 1998 he published a paper in the Lancet journal along with 11 colleagues, detailing bowel changes found in a sequence of children supposedly consecutively referred to his department of Gastroenterology at the Royal Free Hospital in London. The suggestion was that these children’s parents had noticed behavioural or gastrointestinal abnormalities within a very short interval following MMR vaccination. The inference drawn was that MMR might damage the bowel, leading to neurological changes of autism. In a press conference called after the paper was published, Wakefield expressed no faith in the MMR vaccine, and called for single measles vaccines to be used as an alternative. Read the rest of this entry »
The GMC have today found that the man who began what became known to some as the media’s MMR hoax was “misleading and irresponsible in the way he described research later published in The Lancet.” Read the rest of this entry »
The BBC has reported that “there were 1,217 cases of measles from January to November 2008, the highest figure for over a decade.” Report. The HPA press release is here and includes Read the rest of this entry »
Very brief post, just to say that I’ve been following the JABS reaction to the new study replicating Wakefield’s original study and showing that the MMR jab is not linked to autism. Their reaction is to call people ‘prick’ and ‘puff’. Very grown-up, very sensitive and not at all homophobic or intolerant. Read the rest of this entry »
Actually there’s no point me telling you any more about the media’s MMR hoax, as the definitive account has already been written – it’s in Ben Goldacre’s book and you can read an edited extract here: badscience.net. What I am going to point you to is a new study Read the rest of this entry »
A BBC Report on the MMR vaccine has no link to JABS and no quote from any JABS spokesperson. Good. The piece also accurately reports that the study which raised the possibility that MMR could be linked to autism has since been dismissed and points out that measles can be fatal – i.e., failing to immunise leaves children at actual risk of serious illness as opposed to the hypothetical risk proposed by Andrew Wakefield’s research that turned out not to be a risk at all (partly because Wakefield’s results were false positives, as shown by Chadwick, known by Wakefield and ignored by the media).
An epidemic of measles – which can be fatal – could potentially affect up to 100,000 young people in England alone. The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Experts say it is perfectly safe, but vaccination rates dipped following controversy about its safety. A study which raised the possibility that MMR was linked to autism has since been dismissed by the vast majority of research, but levels of public confidence in the jab have still not fully recovered.
Why is this such an important story? Two reasons, really. As reported on the BBC’s website, in 2006 and 2007 there were 1,726 confirmed cases in England and Wales (more than the previous 10 years put together – from 1996 to 2005 there was a total of 1,621 confirmed cases), and the Department of Health says around 10% of measles cases require hospital admission and one in 5,000 are fatal. As the BBC point out: An epidemic of measles – which can be fatal – could potentially affect up to 100,000 young people in England alone. I reckon that could mean around 10,000 hospitalisations and 20 deaths going by the DoH figures. This shit is important – which is why the media really should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating this ridiculous hoax, why Wakefield should think long and hard about his part in all this, and why the public should stop and think before reacting to health news stories. Nothing is 100% guaranteed safe for all people in any situation, but providing your children with the MMR jab was always safer than denying it to them. Ben Goldacre and the others who tried to explain the safety of MMR and the flaws in Wakefield’s study were always right on MMR and JABS, Wakefield, the panicking public and the stupid, irresponsible lifestyle journalists were always wrong. Wonder if any of them will admit to being wrong? Don’t hold your breath.
The report has a comments form at the end, so anyone who wishes to make their views known can do so – whether they are from JABS, from another organisation or an individual. So the BBC have not linked to or quoted one particular group of parents (JABS), but are inviting comment from any parent. I think this is a reasonable way to provide balance – rather than censoring JABS, the BBC have actually opened an avenue whereby a larger section of the public can have their say and this section of the public can include JABS members. This is possibly the fairest outcome the BBC could have managed and I think strikes a better balance between responsibility and free speech than was managed in the past.
H/T Gimpy and Superburger for posting the BBC story.
Dr John Briffa is involved in an interesting discussion on his blog. In a response to a comment I made that included a link to MMR – The Facts he wrote “In the link you supplied under ‘How do we know that MMR is safe?’, we are informed that…” and went on to paste several bullet points. Which weren’t on the page I’d linked to. This is the page: http://www.mmrthefacts.nhs.uk/library/sideeffects.php and it contains data on the number of children suffering from the effects of contracting measles compared with the number of children suffering from the side-effects of the MMR vaccine. Having quoted from a different page than the one I had linked to, Briffa then used this quote to back up this statement:
The first three bullet points tell us how widely and for how long it has been used (this is no different from saying ‘billions of people have crossed roads over the past 50 years’ – it tells us NOTHING AT ALL about safety – NOTHING).
True – the first three bullet points he copied and pasted told us nothing about safety. The page I actually linked to, however, did tell us something about safety and it used scientific evidence to do so. To paste information from a different link to the one I was using to demonstrate my point is fundamentally dishonest and I think it tells us something about the way Briffa argues. I’m not the only person who has picked up on Briffa constructing ‘straw men’ – here is another example. Here’s more of Briffa’s responses to my comments:
I always thought that Dr John Briffa was like a more grown-up version of Patrick Holford. He was just a doctor writing diet books and a magazine column – as far as I knew, he was not employed by supplement companies, recommended no inappropriate allergy tests and generally sounded fairly sensible. He’s blown it now though.
Now, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that those of the pro-vaccine lobby will want to claim that this blog is scaremongering by making out that MMR vaccination causes autism. So, just to be clear, I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying though is that there’s a huge pile of anecdotal evidence and some experimental evidence too which supports the idea that MMR vaccination might cause autism
Uh, John – that is scaremongering. You have claimed there is experimental evidence which supports the idea that MMR vaccination might cause autism. Are you talking about the discredited paper, published in the Lancet and written by discredited scientist Andrew Wakefield? So, a discredited paper (retracted by most of its authors) and some anecdotes from parents justify a claim that MMR vaccination might cause autism. You know how that will be taken by readers of your blog – and please don’t pretend that you don’t. Suggesting that MMR vaccination might cause autism is reckless and stupid. I expected better from you Dr Briffa.
I might blog this properly later on today. I didn’t want to waste time on another daft, hypocritical and scaremongering nutritionist who casts doubt on the significance of scientific findings (except when they suit his purpose), pontificates on MMR-autism and uses different standards for evaluating scientific evidence depending on whether it is a product he already approves of or not. But I think he needs to be challenged. In case you are interested in reading a bit more about Briffa, I have included some handy links below:
Me on aspartame! (Heh – nearly forgot to include this one. It’s an early, primitive example of my work – please don’t laugh).