Although Dr. Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license years ago and allegedly committed numerous ethical violations, the father of the anti-vaccine movement’s message remains.
Wakefield argues there is a link between vaccinations and the development of autism. His anti-vaccine message resonates among those with distrust in government and pharmaceutical companies.
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“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” J.B. Handley, co-founder of an organization that debates vaccine safety, told The New York Times
. “He is a symbol of how all of us feel.”
The doctor started his research by announcing Crohn’s disease was the result of the measles virus, according to The Washington Post
. Later in 1995, he claimed the measles virus was linked to ulcerative colitis.
“He is not a pathologist but a surgeon,” Belgian pathologist Karel Geboes told Slate in 2010
. “His claim was too rigorous, and there was no real proof for the hypothesis.”
Wakefield later partnered with U.K. lawyer Richard Barr, who was working on litigation against measles-mumps-rubella vaccine makers. He studied 12 children, and it shed a light on concerns involved with MMR, including bowel disorders and autism, according to The Post. Nine of the children were autistic.
“If there is a causal link between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and this syndrome, a rising incidence might be anticipated after the introduction of this vaccine in the UK in 1988,” Wakefield wrote, according to The Post.
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Following the announcement, a 2002 BBC survey showed almost 50 percent of doctors
saw parents that were less willing to get their kids vaccinated.
Wakefield, however, had conflicts of interest. He applied for measles-related patents during the research, was paid $600,000 by anti-vaccine lawyers, and was accused of manipulating numbers, The Post reported.
The doctor’s paper was retracted in 2010, more than a dozen years after it was first published. A few months later, British regulators revoked his medical license because of “serious professional misconduct,” according to The Post.
Nonetheless, Wakefield remains prominent and obstinate that vaccines cause autism.
Most recently, Wakefield has been an outspoken voice against SB 277, a bill that would not allow parents to choose whether or not to vaccine their child, even if it is due to religious beliefs, KPCC reported
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