THE ISSUE A British reporter said a doctor who suggested a connection between child vaccines and autism is a fraud.
OUR VIEW The attacks on the doctor are not new, but the debate over vaccinations will continue until medical science can explain why autism is so prevalent today.
Andrew Wakefield isn’t exactly a household name, but if you have a son or daughter with autism or work in the medical profession, you probably have an opinion of him, and it might not be good.
That’s certainly true in mainstream medicine, where many health professionals blame the former British doctor for the so-called autism-vaccine scare that led some fearful parents to not vaccinate their kids.
Wakefield was vilified again a couple of weeks ago by a British reporter who claimed his 1998 study on the connection between the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine and autism was a “hoax” and “an elaborate fraud” designed for the purpose of profit.
If that was his intention, it sure hasn’t worked out well. Wakefield’s research has been widely criticized by mainstream doctors, and he was stripped of his license to practice medicine in Britain. If his motive was profit, he sure has a funny way of going about it.
Wakefield, who denies the allegations, said he never intended his research to be the end of study on whether the MMR, other vaccines or other environmental factors could cause autism and/or gastrointestinal disorders, mostly through exposure to toxic metals such as mercury. Like global warming opponents who cite a cold winter as proof the planet isn’t getting hotter, it appears medical science is more interested in panning Wakefield’s assertion rather than figuring out why we have so many cases of autism.
Indeed, conservative numbers put autism-spectrum disorders in America at 1 in 150, an astounding number that affects all of us, either personally or through rapidly rising special-education costs for school districts and the need for more group homes to house kids with autism as they grow into adulthood.
The medical profession can claim there is no connection between some vaccines and autism, but you can’t convince thousands of parents who watched their normally developing children suddenly regress after some childhood shots that something isn’t going on.
Maybe it is just coincidence. Maybe some forms of autism just don’t emerge at birth. Maybe Wakeman is full of baloney. But there’s no denying something is wrong with too many of our children, and until we find out what it is, the autism-vaccine debate will rage on.