Wakefield made headlines back in 1998 when he published a paper in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet demonstrating a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. In 2010, the article was retracted by the Lancet in the light of evidence that Wakefield had fabricated data for his article and that he had “financial conflicts of interest” associated with his claims. His medical license was revoked in the UK, but Wakefield has remained a hero to the anti-vaccination movement.
While Wakefield alone isn’t to blame for the spread of the autism-vaccine myth (hat tip to Jenny McCarthy for doing her bit, too), Wakefield’s singular contribution to the death of children worldwide should not be underestimated. Whooping cough (pertussis), for example, is back on the rise after being nearly wiped out due to the widespread refusal by parents to have their children vaccinated.
According to the CDC, “during 2012, 48,277 cases of pertussis were reported to CDC, including 20 pertussis-related deaths. This was the most reported cases since 1955.” The graph at right shows the rise in whooping cough cases following Wakefield’s Lancet article.
Vaxxed was produced by Del Bigtree, formerly a producer of Doctors, a daytime US talk show, of which the British Medical Journal warned: “Consumers should be skeptical about any recommendations provided … as details are limited and only a third to one half of recommendations are based on believable or somewhat believable evidence.”
As Sarah Gill of The Age notes, “It’s not a stretch to say that the title of this new film could well describe the shenanigans of Wakefield himself in the late `90s – the cover-up being the secret contract with lawyers who paid him to construct a case against the MMR, and the catastrophe, of course, the worldwide slump in vaccination… There is something profoundly ironic about Wakefield pointing to the commercial interests of the pharmaceutical industry or accusing the CDC of data manipulation when you consider his own undisclosed financial interests behind the 1998 Lancet study and his role in what has been called one of the most flagrant frauds in medical history.”
Variety magazine describes it as a “slickly produced but scientifically dubious hodgepodge of free-floating paranoia,” so grab some popcorn and a surgical mask and head on over to the Landmark for some close quarters time with a vaccine-free audience.
(Thanks to Michele for the tip, though it did not lead to the article she perhaps hoped for.)