What a wonderful choice of words. There are frauds, and there are elaborate frauds. A few days ago, the distinguished British Medical Journal announced that it will soon publish three articles and editorials confirming that the 1998 Wakefield “study” linking autism and the MMR vaccine, published by Lancet, was not only junk science, but an elaborate fraud involving falsified medical records, grossly-misrepresented facts, and unethical treatments.
All medical providers in the primary care trenches have been dealing with this autism-MMR vaccine crap for over twelve years now, and it is hoped that these new publications will finally put this damaging controversy to rest, once and for all. Medical providers have spent countless, precious hours trying to debunk rumors, Internet claims, and anti-vaccine zealots who were out to destroy the entire foundation of preventative medicine, namely vaccines. The repercussions not only involved the MMR vaccine, but all vaccines.
This global fright campaign caused parental panic and irrefutable harm that will likely continue for many more years to come. Parents delayed or stopped vaccinating children against known killer diseases. Research funds were diverted to study this so-called link; none of which, incidentally, found a speck of evidence to support Wakefield’s claims. No one will really know how many people contracted vaccine-preventable diseases or developed serious complications due to this worldwide scare.
Vaccines are purported to be “not natural”, but I guess real diseases are. What better way to combat or prevent a disease than to trick the body into thinking they had it, or at least, were exposed to it. Vaccines unleash the most powerful, immunological defense mechanisms known to mankind – our own. This is about a natural as you can get. However, in a world of rapidly-changing pathogens, even our own immune systems are not good enough.
Personally, my life was blessed by vaccines. Growing up in the 1950’s subjected me to diseases that younger people and younger clinicians, have never seen. Why? Because they have been prevented. Diseases like polio, that crippled my cousin, diphtheria and whooping cough (which is making a deadly comeback), and of course, measles. I had measles as a child but did not have any complications, such as deafness. I also had uncomplicated mumps and chicken pox. Throughout my adult life, I have been routinely immunized against pneumonia, influenza, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, and whooping cough. I am not old enough for the new shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine, but I will certainly get it. I can’t claim that I have ever had any adverse effects from all of these vaccines, but perhaps I can blame my white hair, bad back, tinnitus, and intolerance to bull. Could there be a link?
Sensational stories sell newspapers, magazines, and television advertising. People clamor for more and more information, regardless of the source; all actively fueling the charlatans and self-declared experts of the world. The public is not particularly interested in retractions or corrections. People will choose to believe what they choose to believe.
Years ago, I remember seeing a breaking news story of a well-respected physician, arrested and hauled through his crowded waiting room in handcuffs; accused of fondling a patient during an examination. For weeks, all we saw on the local news were stories about this case, complete with footage of him be arranged before a judge. If it was the Middle Ages, people would have been lining the steps of courthouse, throwing rotten cabbage and tomatoes at him, perhaps calling for his head.
A year later, after an exhaustive investigation; after tens of thousands of dollars spent in his defense, this doctor was found to be completely innocent of the charges. A one-inch column announcing his vindication of those charges was published at the bottom of page eight, next to an advertisement for an oil change special. His reputation and private practice were ruined. It has been over a decade now, and I still hear people talking about it like he was convicted and incarcerated.
It has been several years now since the MMR vaccine was vindicated, but I still must I continually defend it. Parents have a responsibility to read and learn the truth. They cannot dictate their lives and the lives of their children simply by what they read in the rags or heavily publicized books, watch on Oprah, or hear from friends, neighbors, strangers, chiropractors, or checkers at the health food store. If the truth can truly set you free, please leave vaccines alone. Vaccines have saved countless lives on this small, contaminated planet. It is always okay to question, but it is never okay to convict without conclusive, scientific evidence.