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Dr. Andrew Wakefield on the Autism Vaccine Controversy

Posted by ObeMike Wednesday, June 2, 2010

source: rightsidenews.com
by: The Daily Bell

The Daily Bell is pleased to present an exclusive interview with Dr. Andrew Wakefield (left).

Introduction: Dr Andrew Wakefield, MB, BS, FRCS, FRCPath, is an academic gastroenterologist. He received his medical degree from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School (part of the University of London) in 1981, one of the third generation of his family to have studied medicine at that teaching hospital.

He pursued a career in gastrointestinal surgery with a particular interest in inflammatory bowel disease. He qualified as Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1985 and in 1996 was awarded a Wellcome Trust Traveling Fellowship to study small-intestinal transplantation in Toronto, Canada. He was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in 2001. He has published over 130 original scientific articles, book chapters, and invited scientific commentaries. In the pursuit of possible links between childhood vaccines, intestinal inflammation, and neurologic injury in children, Dr. Wakefield lost his job in the Department of Medicine at London's Royal Free Hospital, his country, his career, and his medical license.

Daily Bell: Can you fill our readers in on the controversy that has cost you so dearly?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Certainly. Let me give you a bit of background as to who I am. I am a gastroenterologist and an entirely conventional physician. I trained at St. Mary's Hospital in London, qualifying in 1981 and then went on to study surgery and became a fellow at the Royal College of Surgeons. I had a particular interest in Crones Disease, Bowel disease, Osteo Colitis and pursued an academic career. I published about 130 papers in bowel disease prior to becoming involved in Autism in 1995.

Daily Bell: How did that happen?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: A mother called me and said a child is developing perfectly normally and then had their MR vaccine. The child became extremely unwell, high fever for days and upon recovery was never the same. The child deteriorated into Autism - lost speech, communication, language, inter-action. I said, I'm terribly sorry, I'm a gastroenterologist, you must have rang the wrong number. I knew nothing about Autism; when I was in medical school, it was so rare - we were not even taught about it. And she said, No, you don't understand my child has terrible bowel problems; he's having diarrhea 12 times a day he's lost continence; I know he's in pain but he can't tell me he's in pain. He's hitting himself, banging his head, biting himself and attacking people and I know this is because he is in pain.

Daily Bell: Did you believe her?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: The first and most fundamental rule of clinical medicine, the kind of medicine I was trained to practice and my parents and grandparents were trained to practice, is to listen to the patient or the patient's parents and they will tell you the problem. Now here is a mother who is not anti-vaccine, who took her child to be vaccinated, did all the right things and lo-and-behold this is what happened to her child. We eventually had a series of children whose mothers told exactly the same story. We decided, a team of us, at the Royal Free Hospital - including some of the most eminent pediatric gastroenterologists in the world such as Professor John Walker-Smith - to take a closer look at these children because they were clearly suffering. The children underwent a series of tests, colonoscopy and biopsy and we discovered they had bowel disease.

We treated the bowel disease, the inflammation, just as you might treat Crones disease or Colitis with anti-inflammatory and diet and the children got better, not only from the bowel disease perspective; their diarrhea improved and also their behavior improved. That was very, very interesting. So we decided to pursue this.

Daily Bell: How did you pursue it exactly?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: By the time I left the Royal Free in 2001, nearly 200 hundred children with this condition had been seen and diagnosed. The problem came of course, when the parent said, my child regressed after the vaccine. If the child had regressed after, let's say natural chicken pox, we would not be having this conversation right now. There would have been no controversy, it would have been, "that's extremely interesting, let's have a look at it." There would have been no problem, but because it happened after a vaccine, all hell broke loose.

Daily Bell: And you are still living with the results.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: My job is not to pander to the whims of the pharmaceutical industry or to government policy. My job is to answer the question that the parent presents to me when they call me or confront me at a meeting. That is my job and my duty as a doctor. So one came to a crossroads ... well, if the parents are right about the bowel disease, are they right about the vaccine? We decided to look into that in more detail. And that's where the controversy began. I am not in any way anti-vaccine, by the way, and my own children were vaccinated. But I had to understand the background. I put together a 250-page report on these safety studies and they were appalling, they were totally unsatisfactory.

Daily Bell: You're saying those who make and regulate vaccines - both - were not properly vetting the effects of vaccines? That's a strong statement to make.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: They did not look at the outcomes of the vaccine beyond the short-term. To put this in context, we are dealing with viruses that can cause disease many years later. Thus, you do not confine your safety studies to 3 - 6 weeks. As a result of this understanding, it became my clear conviction that parents deserved access to the option to access single vaccines - the way it was done before, which was perfectly effective.

Daily Bell: Sounds reasonable.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: In fact, Measles, Mumps and Rubella had separate vaccines. The combined risk of three viruses in a vaccine, MMR, is a way in which nature has never seen them before. Never. And to subject those to inadequate safety studies is in my opinion, not acceptable. That was the essence of the controversy and what has happened ever since has been in essence what medicine and science have done perhaps for all time - crush dissent by discrediting the messenger ... me.

It is simply an effort to silence me because of the egregious errors that have been made in vaccination safety studies. But this has happened since time immemorial. One of the classic cases has to do with the drug Thalidomide. The doctor who first described abnormalities following mothers taking Thalidomide during pregnancy was strongly attacked.

Daily Bell: Let's back up to be clear. Exactly what did you suggest parents do as a result of your famous study published in the Lancet Journal in 1988?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: The Autism study was a simple case series of 12 children and all it did was to tell the parents story of what they told us. It was to document the pinnacle findings in the children. Further research was needed into causes of autism.

Daily Bell: As we understand it, the paper suggested further research specifically regarding linkage between the MMR vaccine and autism, and thus you have been held responsible for the plunge in children getting vaccinated with MMR. However, it also seems to us that in thousands of articles written about all this recently that you've been constantly accused of making a direct link between vaccines and autism in that now-retracted paper.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Never before in the history of human endeavor has so much been said about a paper that has been read or understood by so few. It is quite extraordinary. The fact that we published 19 papers on the subject after that one is irrelevant. It's never mentioned. Critics dwell only upon that one paper. I listened to the parents' story and acted according to my professional and moral obligations to determine what was happening with these children.

Daily Bell: Did you pursue the logical ramifications of your work at The Thoughtful House in Texas - a clinic from where you have just recently resigned?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Did I continue the work that I started in England? Yes. Certainly. We continued to investigate the bowel disease; we looked for evidence of the measles virus from the vaccine being involved. Most importantly, what we did was a seven-year study looking at monkeys, infant primates, exposed to the vaccine schedule. It was something that had never been done before, but it should have been done and that is to ask what happens in the real world. Not test vaccines in isolation but test the schedule that children actually get.

This is a study that we did in primates because vaccines are tested on primates in pre-clinical studies. What we found, even with just the Hepatitis B vaccine containing mercury preservatives, even on the first day of life, even just after that vaccine, there was evidence of neurological damage. What was alarming to me, again, is that there had never been any safety studies that I could find of giving the Hepatitis B vaccine on day-one of life. That again is not acceptable.

Safety first. This must be the priority, particularly when you are dealing with the health of children who are well, who don't have a disease, perfectly healthy and you are extending this policy to every child in the world. All these issues are now covered in my new book, Callous Disregard, just published.

Daily Bell: Did you see cures? Improvement? Give us details of the treatment.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Did we do trials for medical improvement? Yes, we endeavored to do several trials. What we see at an anecdotal level in individual patients, is a substantial improvement in symptoms following treatment of the bowel disease. And the treatment of the bowel disease is through the use of anti-inflammatory medications and diet. We found benefits from using exclusion diets for children who were sensitive to various foods such as wheat and gluten. We went on to do a clinical trial of hydro-therapy, which some people had suggested could benefit children with Autism. We did not find any benefit in our trial, publishing those results accordingly. So part of my role at Thoughtful House was to put the anecdotal observations into a scientific context to determine whether there were benefits or not.

Daily Bell: Guess that's why it was called Thoughtful House. Obviously, this has attracted antipathy in some quarters.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Well, I think when you are in a field where there is so much vested interest in current beliefs, and where you are challenging public health policy and pharmaceutical industry profits, then you are inevitably going to invite huge controversy.

That is a matter of fact and it happened with Vioxx; it happened with Thalidomide and will happen every time a popular and profitable drug or treatment is challenged. It happened with smoking. You will remember we went through a period for at least 15-20 years where papers were published in medical literature saying how good smoking was for you. Well we now know that not to be true. But it was a challenge then to industrial interests and just as it is now to pharmaceutical interests. That is undoubtedly going to bring on controversy.

Daily Bell: Are you angry over your treatment?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: When I went into it, I knew to some extent what it was going to involve. I am a student of medical history and I realized that there was going to be fallout from this. So, anger on my part, what has happened to me ... not really, no. Frustration and sadness because I went into medicine believing it to be one thing - a discipline that puts the patients well-being, the patient's welfare, above all other considerations. No compromise. So to find that many colleagues have departed from that ideology is sad to me, but nonetheless we have to deal with the real world.

What I think frustrates me and perhaps even angers me more is the way in which the children have been discarded. The children with this condition represent an uncomfortable truth and there has been an effort to erase them from the realm. Commit, if you like, editorial genocide to get rid of these children because they put at risk government policy, World Health organization policy and also drug company profits, but to me that is not acceptable. I find this very difficult to deal with.

Daily Bell: You have many supporters.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Without them I don't think it would be possible to continue. They are absolutely extraordinary. I mean, there's never been a complaint against me from a parent or an infected child. There's only been support. I have only ever acted in their best interests and the parents instinctively know that. Mothers know their children, they know when they are well, they know when they are ill and they know when people are acting in their best interest. So, parental support has been absolutely marvelous. There are now more and more scientists and doctors who have realized what is going on and realized that the emperor has no clothes and that they must act in a way that their duty demands.

There are a very large number of people who are joining in with this now. I have just come back from China where they estimate there are some 4-5 million children with autism. One home has 3,000 children in it and has no idea how to treat them. I met with doctors and scientists in Hong Kong who were of a similar opinion that there is a major problem with the vaccination program in the context of childhood mental disorder. So that kind of support makes it possible to continue and do this kind of work.

Daily Bell: Would you pursue your autism/vaccine study if you had it to do over?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Yes, I think I would. I have no regrets about anything that has happened other than what has happened to the children or what hasn't happened for them as a consequence of the controversy. I would like to think that I would follow exactly the same course even knowing what the consequences were, if presented with the same challenges again. It's very difficult to look back and predict what one might have done then but I would like to think that I would have had the courage knowing what I know now.

Daily Bell: We've already touched on it, but explain please in detail why the initial paper was disavowed by the Lancet?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: In the first instance, the Editor of the Lancet asked us to retract an interpretation of the paper. And that interpretation was that MMR vaccine was the cause of autism.

Daily Bell: But you didn't make this claim did you?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: No, the paper did not make that claim. It did not provide the interpretation that MMR vaccine is the cause of autism. However, it did raise the possibility that vaccines may be associated with autism. But you cannot retract a possibility. A possibility exists. It remains a possibility and therefore to retract it is illogical and was done purely as a political expedient.

Daily Bell: So you weren't prepared to retract a possibility?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: My two colleagues and I were not prepared to get involved in that kind of illogical, political process. The other reason that we were asked to withdraw the paper or retract that part of the paper is because I had not told the Editor of the Lancet that I was funded to do a study, a quite separate study, to investigate whether vaccines could cause this bowel disease at all.

Daily Bell: Was that somehow unethical?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: This is very important, and it may be a little complex, but in 1997 when the paper was submitted, the rules of that disclosure said that the author (that is me) had to decide whether something constituted a conflict or not. It was in the active voice. It was up to me to decide and I thought very hard about it. Those were the rules then. The rules now are very different. The rules now require that you put yourself in the third person and ask what might be perceived to be a conflict of interest. That is very much more onerous. But those were not the rules at the time. This is covered in my book.

Daily Bell: Do you believe in your paper despite the Lancet retraction?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Do I believe in what was in the paper? Absolutely. The bowel disease has now been confirmed in five separate countries. Papers have been published from Italy, Venezuela, the United States, from Canada and the UK confirming the presence of bowel disease. So that discovery stands absolutely. A vaccine issue - well, we will see. As yet we don't know but we are continuing to investigate.

Daily Bell: Why did your co-writers disavow the study? Or did they?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: This is a very good question and probably one for them - but they wanted to make it clear, I think, that they didn't believe MMR caused autism. But in fact, that really is not what happened. Because as I say, the paper did not make that claim and we cannot retract a possibility so why they retracted is really a question for them.

Daily Bell: Was it fair of them?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: I think they were frightened, I think they were very, very frightened at the time. And there were misunderstandings. Pressure was brought on them and me. I resisted.

Daily Bell: Are you surprised by the antipathy and inaccuracy of mainstream media - generally or specifically?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Yes I am. I am most disappointed by it. I think a lot of the problem has been the original Sunday Times article on this whole affair was grossly, factually inaccurate but that was the lead story that people have followed. Certain things became imbedded as part of the truth and people came to believe them simply because they were repeated time and time again. So, the media, I don't think, for the most part has taken the trouble to examine the background of this and part of the reason for writing the book I've just written [Ed. Note: see information below] is to provide the media with some insight into what actually happened and the accuracies of the original report.

Daily Bell: Do you feel big pharmaceutical companies have targeted you and your research?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Do I feel that it is my impression that they have, absolutely.

Daily Bell: Is Big Pharma acting ethically regarding continued pressure for mandatory use of more and more vaccines?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: No absolutely not. Firstly there is no ethical basis for mandatory vaccination at all. Ethics, the fundamental core of ethics, is fully informed consent; you cannot provide fully informed consent if your information is derelict; if your information is inadequate; and if the information you are providing is wrong. And in the case of the vaccines all three of those pertain.

I will give you a very recent example of this kind of problem. It was recently reported that a vaccine was found to contain two pig viruses, fragments of two pig viruses, one which caused a wasting-disease in pigs. This vaccine should have been withdrawn from the market immediately and indefinitely until the problem had been resolved. That the vaccine was allowed to be used on the market is absolutely unacceptable because the consequences are unknown. I am afraid that is the kind of extraordinary attitude towards safety that pervades the vaccine policy makers in this country at the moment.

Daily Bell: Are vaccines effective in your opinion, or could immunity occur in other ways?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Well certainly immunity can occur in other ways, through natural exposure. Vaccines are effective and I am in no way anti-vaccine. Again, I reiterate that I am for a safety-first vaccination policy.

There are certain vaccines which I see no use for whatsoever. They are purely there for commercial reasons, and in fact they have done more harm than good. We are in a state of some confusion because the safety studies have not been done properly from the onset. And by safely, what I mean is whether vaccines can be given in combination with the rest of the vaccine schedule - or whether they interact with or potentiate the reactions of those vaccines.

Daily Bell: Are vaccines bad for a certain number of children?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: I think there are a certain number of children who simply cannot tolerate vaccines the same way as the majority of the population. Who those children are or why that should be I don't know. But I can give you some observations from a clinical standpoint - and that is to say that children who are given multiple vaccines on the same day seem to be particularly at risk. So it is a matter of policy now for some children, they may have missed an appointment with the doctor so they get nine shots on the same day. They come out with a Band-Aid on each arm and each leg; that is unacceptable. It has never been tested for safety ever, ever, ever.

You have children who are unwell when they are vaccinated; they are on antibiotics; they have an ear infection; they've got some kind of gastroenteritis. Nonetheless, because they are at the doctors, they should get their shots. NO. You do not vaccinate a child whose system is already under pressure.

The family histories with many of the children with Autism or Lupus in the mother, Multiple Sclerosis, bowel disease such as Crones Disease, a strong family history with these types of diseases, is really a red flag. So again, there is a safer way of doing things, a way that complications can be avoided but which still allows the children to be protected against serious infectious disease.

Daily Bell: Do vaccines have other side effects such as asthma, etc?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Again, a fascinating question and it is not something that I have worked in specifically, but there has been a paper from the University of Manitoba very recently, last January and it asks the question, "Is it the exposure to a vaccine per se that's the risk, or the age at which you are exposed that is a risk for asthma?"

And they looked at the DTP vaccine, and they compared children who had received the vaccine on schedule starting at two, four and six months and then children who had been delayed in receiving the schedule. It was a study with 11,500 children, a very big study.

And they found that if you delayed exposure to the first dose of the DTP by just two months, then you halved the risk of asthma, half the risk! That is huge. If you delayed the whole schedule, the three shots, then you reduced it to almost a third! So there you have a major finding where you can dramatically reduce the risk of a serious adverse reaction by simply changing the schedule to make it safer. Why would you not want to do that if you could reduce the risk of what may be a fatal disease?

Daily Bell: Do you believe you have been responsible for a diminution of children taking the measles vaccine?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: No, it's very interesting in the UK, when I suggested the single vaccine instead of the MMR, those single vaccines were available and so a lot of parents generally concerned opted for the single vaccines. Children continued to be protected and parent's could choose from MMR or single vaccines. That was in February of 1998; in August of 1998, the British government withdrew the importation license for single vaccines. In other words, when the demand for single vaccines was at its peak they withdrew the option of the single vaccines.

It is "our way" or you do it no way. Now let me ask you, if your concern is for the protection of children against these diseases would you not allow parents to do it in the way of their choosing as long as they did it? Of course you would. To me that is extraordinary.

Daily Bell: Why did you resign from The Thoughtful House? Your enemies say you were pushed.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: My enemies are saying a great number of things. The decision was taken by me in discussion with my colleague. The continued controversy was really making it difficult for my colleagues to continue in their work. It was becoming a distraction and I wanted the opportunity to write the book and get the facts out there so people could read them. That is what I have now done. So within three months of leaving Thoughtful House, the book is written and on the shelf so the people can read the truth.

Daily Bell: Fill us in on your monkey/vaccine study. You've spoken about it in the past. Is it groundbreaking in your opinion?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: The World Health Organization recommends to vaccine manufacturers that they test vaccines in primates/monkeys. And they do this for two reasons. First, because monkeys are most similar to humans. Second, certain infections like the measles, are primate infections; they don't infect sub-primate species. So you have to use monkeys.

Now, somewhat bizarrely, what the World Health Organization requires is that - with measles, for instance - you inject the vaccine virus directly into the brain and look at its effects. Well this is ridiculous. We do not inject vaccine into children's brains. We inject them into the skin.

Our first study was a study of the effects of the hepatitis B vaccine given the day of birth, the first day of life and we looked at the acquisition of reflexes, central and survival of the monkey in the wild, eating reflexes such as sucking and rooting. Grasping and clasping ... What we found was there was a similar delay in the acquisition of these reflexes in the vaccinated animals. As early as the first day of life, the vaccine was having an adverse effect on the brain development which meant that in the wild for example, many of these animals would not have survived. And that is really very alarming. I can't say much about the second paper as it is waiting to be published, but we look at a range of adverse events.

Daily Bell: Will it find a journal?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Yes it has. The first paper was published on line by a journal called Neurotoxicology. And one of the consequences of the GMC hearing was that when the announcement was made that my colleagues and I had been found guilty, the journal was retracted, not on the science, but merely because my name was attached to it.

Daily Bell: We hadn't heard that.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Then it turned out that it wasn't the Journal editor who retracted the paper on scientific grounds - it was the publishing house, Elsevier. It also happens that Elsevier owns the Lancet. The Chairman of Elsevier is also a non Executive Director on the board of GlaxoSmithKline. Now there is a conflict of interest that was not disclosed at the time of the retraction of our paper. Since that time, the paper has found a home in another scientific journal. For obvious reasons I won't be giving that name away, but it will be published soon. So it seems that science is available to the highest bidder at the moment.

Daily Bell: Are you being blacklisted?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: I am sure I am. Yes. I am sure I am. I am not ashamed; it's just a fact of life. I hope that people will take the time to read the book, to understand what has happened, to understand whether science has been corrupted and distorted and people have been manipulated into believing things which are not true. People can judge for themselves.

Daily Bell: How has this whole episode made you feel? Is there corruption throughout mainstream Western medicine?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Yes, undoubtedly. Let me give you another example. In the Merck trial in Australia, Merck revealed how they were determined to deal with doctors who dissented from the use of Vioxx, or considered Vioxx unsafe. And those internal memos talked about how they would discredit them and neutralize them and the last internal memo to be read out had the following line, referring to those doctors, 'We may have to seek them out and destroy them where they live."

Those are their own words. So sometimes it appears that it's corporate policy rather than conspiracy theory, but that is the environment in which doctors work and operate and the problems they face if they confront drug company policy. So in answer to your question is the corruption? Is there distortion? Is there manipulation? Absolutely.

Daily Bell: Sounds like the same tactics that were used to suppress dissent against global warming. Are you a believer generally in alternative treatments now - homeopathy, acupuncture, etc?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: I know nothing about it I am afraid; I have no experience using it. I am entirely traditional physician and what I would say is that acupuncture in contrast, is now accepted as mainstream and in fact is used by many anesthesiologists. I have had acupuncture myself with considerable benefits. So acupuncture, I wouldn't put in the same realm as alternative therapies. But with regard to alternative therapy I have no experience of them.

Daily Bell: Give us a summary perspective on vaccines. Where do you stand on them generally?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Vaccines have the potential to achieve enormous good and we have an absolute obligation as physicians and scientists to maximize that benefit and not to squander it because we have become indifferent to the possible adverse reactions to the vaccines. We have become obsessed with the idea that one size fits all. it does not. Children are different; everyone is different. We must not put policy and profit before a safety-first agenda.

Daily Bell: What is the future for vaccines?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: The future of vaccines depends entirely upon the confidence of the people. To vaccinate the population will require that the parents, for the most part, have confidence in the vaccine policy makers and the pharmaceutical industry. There is the utmost need to preserve parental confidence in what you are doing. You have to be absolutely honest with parents; you have to be honest with consumers. If you are not, you risk squandering all the good that vaccination has done.

Daily Bell: Tell us about your book Callous Disregard, just released.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Callous Disregard is a story about what happened behind the scenes, the documentary evidence that has revealed the hypocrisy, the lies, the deception, and the double dealing that has lead to the circumstances of which I find myself now. It is a story also about the introduction by the British government of an unsafe vaccine in the late 1980s, which they knew to be unsafe at the time. As a consequence, there has been a concerted effort to deny this ever happened. It is revealed in the book. It is one reason that the British government had to silence me and stop my work.

Daily Bell: Do you have any final thoughts in closing?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: Just two things and one is a practical. First, if people do want to get the book, the website is www.callous-disregard.com.

Second, to parents out there, I would say please trust your instincts. In particular, maternal instinct has been a steady hand on the tiller of evolution for many thousands of years and we wouldn't be here without it. Parents have tended to relinquish that instinct in favor of a medical community. We assume doctors know a lot when in fact they know very little. Please mothers, trust your instincts. No one knows your child like you do and no one can take that away from you, so trust that. That is my most important message.

Daily Bell: Good luck with your work and your book.

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