Wakefield Was Wrong About Vaccine Safety And Dr. Harrison Proves It
Since I first began contributing to Shot of Prevention I’ve had many opportunities to realize that people who support immunizations are genuinely concerned about the welfare of others. Everyone from healthcare providers to public health professionals, and immunization coalition members to epidemiologists all commit themselves to educating others about the importance of timely immunizations. They also play a key role in refuting the misinformation and negative accusations that continuously cause people to question the value and safety of vaccines.
When we look at immunization education challenges, there is no doubt that some of the most prevalent misconceptions about vaccines are the result of the work of one man – Andrew Wakefield. Many people would agree that Andrew Wakefield’s “callous disregard” for scientific integrity has had ripple effects on immunization rates and disease outbreaks. Not only have his professional dealings been questionable and heavily criticized, Wakefield has also been stripped of his medical license. Yet, as an author of a book entitled Callous Disregard, Wakefield continues to promote his misguided agenda in an effort to defend himself and persuade others to question the benefits of vaccines.
Fortunately, organizations like Every Child By Two, work hard to dispel the myths that he has helped create. And fortunately, Every Child By Two has the support of many devoted immunization advocates – people like Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH.
As a retired epidemiologist, Dr. Harrison has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. After reading Callous Disregard, he felt compelled to refute each and every point that Andrew Wakefield attempted to make about vaccine safety and his article was ultimately published in a peer-reviewed online open-source medical journal.
I am a retired epidemiologist who has been following the so-called “vaccine controversy.” Outbreaks of totally unnecessary vaccine-preventable diseases as a consequence of misinformation and disinformation from anti-vaccine advocates who don’t understand science, don’t apply critical thinking; but fall back on conspiracy theories and ad hominem attacks. A leading figure is Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Despite his original article being retracted by the Lancet because of serious problems, loss of his medical license, etc. all of the anti-vaccine groups continue to support him and refer to his “research”. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Wakefield continuously pushed his book “Callous Disregard” saying that if people wanted the truth they should read his book. Cooper finally responded that if everything else he said was a lie, then his book would be one as well. Jenny McCarthy wrote the introduction to his book.
In his book Wakefield claims that Sweden vaccinated their children with no concern for safety and the UK not only showed no concern for safety, but implemented a program with a “dangerous vaccine”, one that had the potential to kill over 14,000 kids. I found it and still find it incredible that people who praise the book didn’t even hesitate to believe that two modern technologically advanced Western democracies would be capable of such callous insane behaviors. Reminds me of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” except Wakefield wasn’t writing his book as a satire. I guess if his supporters lived four centuries ago they would have been lining up at their local butcher shops for delectable juicy morsels of Irish babies???
As a life-long proponent of public health and vaccines I decided to write a review of his book which entailed a lot of time and effort. It was recently published in a peer-reviewed online open-source medical journal. I believe my paper will contribute to undermining the credibility of the anti-vaccinationists; but only if people are aware of it and read it. So, I am contacting you as vaccine advocates, hoping you will read my paper, like it, and post it on your website. A retired Swedish vaccine researcher, Dr. Brith Christenson, written about in Wakefield’s book and in my paper, read my paper and wrote a supporting letter to the journal which they published. You can find my paper and the supporting letter at:
by Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, The Open Vaccine Journal, Vol. 6, 2013, p. 9-25.
“This paper systematically examines the claims in Wakefield’s book as an example of similar erroneous claims being made within the anti-vaccination movement, contrasting these approaches to scientific foundations of vaccine risk and benefit. It is hoped that this review will be used by doctors and public health personnel to encourage parents hesitating to have their children vaccinated to question anti-vaccination claims in general, given that many proponents often refer to Wakefield as an authority and display in their writings and pronouncements similar examples of erroneous claims. The public health risks from decreased vaccination are significant. Based on the old adage “trust but verify,” readers should examine the references and, where possible (URLs to many documents are included), obtain and read the original papers rather than rely on the “interpretations” of others.”
by Brith Christenson, MD, PhD, The Open Vaccine Journal, Vol. 6, 2013, p. 26.
Please consider sharing this document and asking others to read it and distribute it widely. We must continue to encourage people like Dr. Harrison, who refute the misinformation that is continually shared by people like Andrew Wakefield and other vaccine critics. In a recent media analysis it was noted that various media networks “nourished anti-vaccine hysteria with 171 stories on the debunked autism link“. Hopefully our efforts can swing the pendulum and help the media to address concerns about current outbreaks and the true and scientifically verifiable value of vaccines in reducing the preventable spread of disease.