The Vaccine Fraud

Last week, The British Medical Journal came out forcefully against the doctor who had pinned the autism tail on the vaccine donkey. I never subscribed to the vaccine hysteria, or other obsessions of causality (dairy-free, or gluten-free diets) “cure” movements. It never was important to me “why” Nate had autism. My primary focus was making the best of his situation, getting him the support he needed and devoting as much time to him as possible, a mission that led us to move to Cooperstown and led me to give up my career. Therapy and hard work were my solutions to Nate’s problem.

While devoting time to curing autism is a worthy endeavor, it’s best left to scientists, not parents or Jenny McCarthy. (Yes, I do know of the rare Lorenzo’s Oil story). Scientists, not charlatans. I truly understand the need of mothers and fathers to have an “answer” to the tragic question, “Why has this happened to my child?” So, when Dr. Andrew Wakefield published his study in 1998, linking vaccination to autism, it came as welcome news to parents searching for a reason.

Last year, The Lancet, which published the original article, retracted the discredited report. Last week, The British Medical Journal came out with its own analysis and conclusions that disproved Wakefield’s assertions. The good doctor was not just pushing misguided science, but out and out purposeful fraud. Not only was Wakefield’s study based on a tiny pool of autistic children, but the data was manipulated to force the connection between autism and vaccination.

Who knows how many parents chose to not vaccinate their children, putting them in the way of other dangers? My heart goes out to them. Where I lose my sympathy is when I hear pro-vaccine advocates leap to the defense of Wakefield’s study. There’s even a “We Support Andy Wakefield” website. Why is it important to be so right, to come to the aid of a scientifically rejected theory? When research proved that illness were not caused by evil spirits or ill humours, who defended those myths? When leeches went out of fashion, who, beside lucrative leech breeders, vehemently defending the practice?

And, ultimately, what is the fight for? Isn’t it for the afflicted, not the purveyors of  “cures”? If the solution is proven wrong, why fight for that? It makes no sense to me and is not my process at all.

So, if you believed that vaccines caused autism, do you still believe? If so, why? And if you don’t believe in that anymore, do you now cling to another theory that has no scientific basis? Why? I am genuinely puzzled by all this furor.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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