Is Wakefield's end that of the anti-vaccine movement?

The formal striking of Andrew Wakefield from Great Britain's medical register may end his career, but it likely will not end the anti-vaccine movement he did so much to create.

The formal striking of Andrew Wakefield (right) from Great Britain's medical register may end his career, but it likely will not end the anti-vaccine movement he did so much to create.

Wakefield had a study published in The Lancet, since discredited and retracted, that tied the standard Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine to a rise in autism. Now not only did the article never really happen, but Wakefield is no longer considered a doctor.

While he says he's "not going away" Wakefield was quietly removed from the staff of Thoughtful House, an Austin, Tex. clinic he founded, a few months ago. The clinic's Web site now makes no mention of him, although he was once featured prominently.

Since Wakefield published his "study," millions of parents have refused the vaccine. As a result measles cases are on the rise and four children have died of it in Great Britain alone.

The last time I mentioned Wakefield at ZDNet Healthcare, in February, I speculated toxins may indeed have something to do with the rise of autism cases, even if vaccines are not the source. In 2009 the "Vaccine Court" ruled conclusively there is no link between MMR vaccines and autism, but I noted then that Wakefield's supporters were not giving up.

Indeed the pro-Wakefield group Cry Shame held a demonstration at the General Medical Council's meeting today, where the decision to strip him of his right to practice was taken, and issued a statement accusing the medical establishment of dark conspiracies against him. It continues to insist he and his colleagues were framed.

At ScienceBlogs, P.Z. Myers now calls Wakefield a medical fraud and blogger Orac has offered some dark conspiracy theories of his own, centered on drug companies and the plaintiff's bar.

I think opposition to the MMR vaccine is now approaching the status of birtherism, the nonsense about President Obama not being an American. Facts no longer matter. This is politics and in politics you can make up your own facts.

But in science you can't. If you put your child at risk of death over nonsense, and the child later dies of a preventable disease, you will take that guilt to your grave and I personally won't take any pity on you.

Yet someone will. That, sadly, is the real story. Ludd lives.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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