The Observer covers Andrew Wakefield’s return to the UK to face the General Medical Council in an appalling article which gives far too much space to Wakefield’s implausible claims about MMR vaccine. Wakefield has the cheek to deploy a Vaclav Havel quote to support his position “Follow the man who seeks the truth; run from the man who has found it.”. He even compares himself to those who made the link between HIV and AIDS – when his staunch refusal to accept the evidence against his theory puts him more in line with AIDS denialists. Worst of all, The Observer allows him the space to make his claims again:
‘My concern is that it’s biologically plausible that the MMR vaccine causes or contributes to the disease in many children, and that nothing in the science so far dissuades me from the continued need to pursue that question’, Wakefield said. ‘The trend in autism has gone up sharply in many countries. It’s interesting that that increase coincides in many places with the introduction of the MMR vaccine. That doesn’t make it the cause. But it’s an observation that needs to be explained, because there was clearly some environmental change at that time that led to growing numbers of children becoming autistic. It’s a legitimate question if MMR is one of those factors. I fear that it may be.’
On the first point Wakefield raises on biological plausibility of the MMR vaccine-autism link, he is clearly not following the advice on the Havel quote, because work has refuted the biological link Wakefield alleged. He is not a seeker of the truth, he thinks he has it.
On the second point on the alleged temporal link between MMR vaccine’s introduction and the rise is autism, it is important to note that Wakefield has made this claim before, most notably in the Lancet in 1999. This is a subject I will return to in September, when a paper by a colleague and I is published entitled “A case study of a graphical misrepresentation: Drawing the wrong conclusions about MMR vaccine.”