Dr. Wakefield & Autism Link?
By: Dr. Damien Downing
Alliance For Natural Health
Millions of parents every year face a grave
dilemma; should we give our child the usual
vaccines and risk autism, or refuse them and
risk meningitis and other complications, plus
increasing pressure to vaccinate from the
authorities? How to evaluate the evidence?
Who can we trust?
Government policy, in the UK and USA, is clear; all your children should have
all the vaccines. If they don't you may be prosecuted (New York), and they
may be barred from school (UK).
Some countries may refuse immigration of unvaccinated children (Australia).
And year-by-year the list of vaccines just grows.
Because vaccines are the new Pharma. While most of the big-earning drugs
are nearing the end of their profit cycles, vaccines are just selling more and
more; over $10 billion per annum worldwide, not a profit center any company
wants to abandon.
The pharmaceutical multinationals not only have preferential access to
government circles via lobbyists and other less transparent links; they are the
'jewel in the crown' of industry, so successful that governments dare not
threaten them lest they take their jobs and taxes elsewhere.
Do I – don't I? What should you do? Should you give your child the MMR?
Should your daughter have the cervical cancer jab? Should you have the flu
The first principle is that, in a democracy, it should be your choice. Most of us
in Europe used to be a democracy until recently, but now, where the Lisbon
Treaty is still being pushed through despite a 100% rejection rate by any
citizens (France, Holland, Ireland) asked for their opinion, they talk about post-
Post-democracy is a system where most policies and laws are made not by
elected representatives voting according to the wishes of the electorate, but
by regulations, establishing quangos, and presidential-style decrees that
largely bypass any democratic process.
Where countries go to war despite the will of the people; where indeed the
elections are not representative. And where compulsory vaccination,
alongside compulsory medication of our children for their putative ADHD
(attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), is imposed against our will.
And where nutrients that can provide cheap, safe and effective treatments for
many problems are being outlawed on the basis of manipulated and flawed
The second is that you should be provided with the information necessary to
make an informed decision. But you won't get the truth from the government
or from the manufacturers.
You certainly don't get the truth from your broadcasters, as those of us in the
UK have found out to our chagrin now that dear Old Aunty (the BBC) seems to
be towing the pro-pharma pro-vaccine health line.
You won't even necessarily get the truth from your doctors; although there are
many excellent doctors who acknowledge and stand up for their patients'
rights, there are many who are, as some of them will admit, afraid to put their
heads above the parapet.
They have learnt what not to say in order to get on, to have a career. This
couldn't be truer of the UK's National Health Service (NHS).
How do you decide when you don't know who to trust? You do your own
research and make up your own mind. You know that when people or
websites are selling something they may not be offering completely unbiased
information – and that goes for governments and companies as well as
individuals of course.
You know that medical research isn't always pure and unbiased on how
pharmaceutical advertising biases what journals publish. You know that you
have to form your own judgment even about what we say – and we wouldn't
have it otherwise.
So listen to what we say, then look at some of the links we provide, then
exercise your vaccine choice.
The Official Line: "Vaccine-Autism Link Disproved".
The frequently repeated assertion at the heart of autism-denial is that research
has proved that there is no link between vaccines and autism.
Much of the time this refers back to one paper by a Danish group in 2003 – a
group with a vested interest, working as they did for the state-run vaccine
The paper considered children diagnosed with autism between 1971 and
2000; Thimerosal was removed from vaccines in Denmark in 1992, and the
paper argued that because they found that autism cases continued to rise
after that date, Thimerosal could not have been a causative factor.
But regressive autism typically manifests in the second year of life, but is not
diagnosed for some years; 75% of affected children in Denmark are thought to
be diagnosed and reported between the ages of 5 and 19 years, so the
reporting rate would not be expected to fall significantly in the 8 years from the
removal of Thimerosal to the end of the study.
This is not the most glaring problem in the study, however; that would be the
fact that the authors moved the goalposts from 1995 onwards by including
children diagnosed as outpatients; prior to that date only inpatients were
Naturally, outpatients made up the vast majority – 93% of all cases in the
analysis, guaranteeing a rise in numbers whatever the mechanism.
The next favorite paper is by Andrews, Miller and others in the UK in 2004;
again there are questions about both the ethical probity and the
methodological soundness of the study.
Ethical questions arose because the two main authors worked for the Health
Protection Agency – so they were partly responsible for the vaccination policy
which they were reviewing – and because they did not declare in the paper
that they had received money from several vaccine manufacturers; multiple
conflicts of interest in fact.
The methodological issues included inadequacies in the UK General
Practitioner Research database on which the study was based, and the fact
that the authors, despite their affiliations, even got the dose of thimerosal
wrong, throwing out their calculations. This came to light subsequently, but
the study has never been withdrawn, and continues to be cited as valid.
Since then there have been a number of other studies claiming to demonstrate
that there is no vaccine-autism link. Most of them have been reviews of other
studies, which allows media to quote them as "new research shows that...."
when it is nothing of the sort, but the latest is a study from Italy, which is
actual, not warmed-over research.
The paper, by Dr Alberto Tozzi, has been publicized as demonstrating yet
again that Thimerosal does not contribute to autism or neurodevelopmental
But guess what; it also turns out to have ethical and methodological issues.
The ethical one is that the author does not declare any conflict of interest,
despite having received grants in the past from Wyeth, GlaxoSmithKline and
from Novartis – all major vaccine manufacturers.
The methodological one is that there was no real control group; the study
compared subjects who had received two different doses of Thimerosal in a
whooping-cough vaccine in 1992-3.
The authors themselves have admitted that: "comparing children with no
exposure to Thimerosal could have improved the study" which didn't prevent it
being hyped as further proof of the safety of thimerosal.
The other curiosity about the study is that in 1700 students they found only
one case of autism; hardly a useful group to compare to primary school
children in the UK or USA, where the same number would have more than 20
There may be good reasons why Italian children are different to American
ones – chiefly to do with their exposure to other toxins such as pesticides.
The other standard assertion is that there is no research to link autism to
mercury, as contained in the Thimerosal preservative; but as Bernard Rimland
pointed out time and again, you can only make that assertion by ignoring the
evidence – which is what usually happens.
The next step is to muddy the waters by recommending that pregnant mothers
should avoid eating fish due to its mercury content – although mercury in
vaccines, or in your teeth, is perfectly safe. As is the tap water, food and the
air we breathe; the pesticides, flame retardants and other toxins we can't
avoid are all harmless, we're told.
Let's be clear on this. Mercury, wherever it comes from, is poisonous to some
degree. The younger you are, the more toxic it is; developing brains are much
more vulnerable to mercury and to all the other toxins than our adult brains.
The mercury in vaccines is in addition to exposure from incinerator fumes,
from the mother's dental fillings, from all the background exposures we all
And in addition to the pesticides, flame-retardants and so on that pervade our
ecosystem. Polar bears, otters, fish, humans, we are all being poisoned. Just
removing mercury from vaccines won't solve that; it will only remove the
One team of doctors then came up with some possible evidence for an MMR-
autism link. The study was published in one of the world's most prestigious
medical journals, The Lancet in 1998.
Dr Andrew Wakefield and colleagues from the Royal Free Hospital in London
reported specific bowel symptoms in a prospective case series of twelve
consecutive vaccinated children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders
and other disabilities, and alleged a possible connection with the MMR
In the wake of the paper's publication, the doctors faced a massive assault
from the media, the vaccine manufacturers, the government, the UK's General
Medical Council (GMC) and a large clutch of doctors.
They were accused of professional misconduct, booted from their jobs and in
March 2004 the GMC announced it was going to instigate an inquiry.
Last month, the GMC resumed its hearing in the case of Andrew Wakefield,
along with colleagues Dr Simon Murch and Professor John Walker-Smith.
This hearing has now been running intermittently for 18 months, has cost the
taxpayer millions, has kept good doctors from helping autistic and other
children, and incredibly, still manages to control mainstream public opinion.
Where are the dissenting views? Where is the news about events in this field
in the USA? Well it is all on the web, most notably perhaps at Cry Shame (see
also ANH feature, 10 July 2008), an apt name for the site that spearheads the
news on this travesty of justice and its role in controlling us all; read Martin
Walker's fascinating account there of the entire hearing, and read also what is
happening with regard to autism in real life.
Our position on Andrew Wakefield and his co-defendants is clear and
unchanging; ethically they had no choice, back in 1998, but to report on their
identification of what may still be an important finding in a minority of children
The Lancet saw this at the time and published without hesitation; the editor,
Richard Horton, must have come under severe pressure thereafter, which led
him to change his tune, and to allege a conflict of interest on the part of
Nevertheless, in the GMC hearing (last year) Horton asserted that the science
of the paper "still stands" and that he "wished, wished, wished" that the clock
could be turned back and the paper be considered again in the light in which it
was first presented. So say we all.
A Fashionable Diagnosis
I couldn't quite believe my ears last week when I heard everybody's "favorite"
media doctor-cum-scientist, Ben Goldacre, on London's BBC Radio 4
suggesting that autism is a fashionable diagnosis.
I thought this one had been put to death long ago – if not by Bernard Rimland
writing in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine in 2000, and
elsewhere, then by Gillian Baird's Lancet paper in 2006.
In 2000 Rimland said:
"While there are a few Flat-Earthers who insist that there is no real epidemic of
autism, only an increased awareness, it is obvious to everyone else that the
number of young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has risen, and
continues to rise, dramatically." And went on to substantiate this by reference
to a number of studies in several countries.
In 2006 Baird et al said:
"Prevalence of autism and related ASDs is substantially greater than
And reported that, of 56,000 children aged 9 or 10 they surveyed in the South
Thames area, 1 in 86 had autism or ASD. Since then, further doubt has been
left in the air by a report in the Observer in 2007 (since removed from the
newspaper's website) that the Autism Research Center in Cambridge had
conducted their own studies, and found an incidence of one child in 58. All
attempts to get this confirmed or denied have been unsuccessful.
So why do we now have a media "scientist" jumping back a decade to imply
that there is no epidemic of autism, only fashionably neurotic parents, misled
by unscrupulous people (like me, I guess)?
He's entitled to his opinion, of course, so the question is more "Why do we
never hear dissenting voices to the chorus of government, industry and
academic voices declaring unanimously that vaccines are entirely safe?"
Equally, why do we never hear, unless we log on to certain, mostly American,
websites, about the constantly accruing evidence that mercury and other
toxins can cause autism? Not to mention that mercury is found in junk food.
We know that they are not right about these things, so they must be either
lying or stupid. Since "they" includes the FDA in America and New Labor over
here, it can't be the latter. Could it be that they're lying?
Information Management; The Truth And The BBC
Why do we hear no dissenting voice on the media? Why does, for instance,
the UK's BBC allow Professor David Salisbury to state, unchallenged and
repeatedly on the Radio 4 Today program, that;
Measles rates have risen as a result of the "scandal" about media scares over
MMR. Measles is a dangerous disease. The MMR-Autism link has been
disproved. To refuse the vaccine is "irrational".
The first two statements are questionable, the third is plain falsehood.
"Measles rates have risen as a result of the 'scandal' about media scares over
Unlikely. The 'scare' started in 1999, but (from a 2007 London Assembly
report) shows, vaccination rates did not fall until 2002, and not significantly
Also, DPT vaccination rates fell exactly the same as MMR at the same time.
This suggests a loss of faith in the government statements on the whole
subject of vaccine safety – just as many young people lost faith in statements
on drugs – rather than a response to the media "scare" about MMR.
Since rates for all vaccinations have always been much lower in London,
other ethnic and cultural factors must play a part as well.
"Measles is a dangerous disease". Up to a point, Minister. Since GPs seem to
retire in their 40s these days, I wonder if there are many around with
experience of managing measles?
The MMR vaccine was introduced in the UK in 1988, and there is no doubt that
it slashed measles rates, so very few GPs under 60 now will have seen much.
But as a GP in the 70s I had responsibility for seeing a number of children
through measles, and it was a relatively easy matter for the large majority, rest,
quiet, minimal television, fluids, call again if any problems arise.
The only serious risk of complications is in children with pre-existing
problems or risk factors (living with two smoker parents for example).
The real problem with measles is the possible complication of measles
encephalitis, which can be fatal, but this only happens in one in several million
As a parent, one has to weigh this against the risk of developing autism or a
disease on the autistic spectrum, which is currently at least 1 in 100 for boys,
and perhaps as high as 1 in 58; if MMR vaccination contributes to this risk,
should you have your child vaccinated with it?
"The MMR-Autism Link Has Been Disproved"
See above; all the studies that claim to disprove the link have serious
questions over their probity and methodology, which are never
A reasonable guesstimate of the truth that will no doubt eventually emerge is
that MMR is a minor factor in precipitating autism, or perhaps just a common
"last straw" but that toxins, particularly but not only mercury preservatives in
vaccines, are a major factor.
"To refuse the vaccine is irrational"
What is really irrational is to impose the multiple vaccines, such as MMR, on us
all, when there is a real doubt over a link to autism.
It is unprincipled for government to "manage" the information, and deny us the
wherewithal to make informed judgments for ourselves. It is also "irrational"
because it destroys trust in the government's statements, on vaccines or on
This is the best explanation for the drop in vaccination rates – an entirely
rational suspicion that governments and manufacturers are covering up the
The manufacturers have a simple reason to do this; profit. Profit now, from
the current vaccine program, and future profit from the increasing numbers of
vaccines that are being rolled out for other diseases.
For government it's about control; in our post-democratic surveillance state
they seek to control everything we do, without recourse to the democratic
One London pediatrician has given more than 3000 single vaccines, and
reports them to be equally as effective as MMR in achieving seroconversion,
which is notably less effective than the manufacturers and the government
claim; both MMR and single vaccines achieved 90% seroconversion for
measles, 93% for rubella and only 80% for mumps, against manufacturers'
claims of 97% for all three.
Equally important is the fact that none of the 1000 children given single
vaccines has gone on to develop autism or ASD, in a population that should
probably have contained around 17 cases. So why not make the single
vaccines available on the NHS?
"Selfish" is the latest label the pro-vaccination media now give to parents who
have thus far avoided vaccinating their children – out of concern for their most
That kind of language pulls at the heart strings and requires even more effort
on behalf of busy parents who care about making properly informed choices
that effect not only their children but more and more, also themselves.
It's not fun being a social outcast because you've apparently decided that it's
okay to let other children be vaccinated so your own unvaccinated child's risk
What to do?
You decide – it's your right.
By: Dr. Damien Downing, a practicing medical doctor and President of the
British Society for Ecological Medicine
About Dr. Downing:
Article: MMR Vaccine