Vaccines & Autism: How the Media Lie about the 1998 Lancet Study

The mainstream media's treatment of the retracted 1998 Lancet study hypothesizing a link between the MMR vaccine and autism illustrates how they systematically misinform the public and refuse to take parents' legitimate concerns about vaccines seriously.

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We are constantly told by the mainstream media that vaccines do not cause autism. The belief that they can, we are told, stems from a study by a guy named Andrew Wakefield that was published in 1998 in The Lancet medical journal, which study claimed to have established a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, but which was found to be fraudulent and therefore retracted.

This is a perfect illustration of how the mainstream media keep the public completely misinformed about the subject of vaccines.

The UK’s Independent newspaper just last week published a typical hit piece titled “Andrew Wakefield: How a disgraced UK doctor has remade himself in anti-vaxxer Trump’s America“.

“Anti-vaxxer”, of course, is the media’s derogatory label for anyone who dares to question public vaccine policy. To question public policy is to commit the crime of heresy against the vaccine religion. That is what Andrew Wakefield did, unrepentantly. And so he had to be punished for his heresy.

Here is the lead paragraph of the Independent‘s mindless propaganda (emphasis added):

It has been 20 years since the gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield co-authored a now notorious and debunked medical paper that claimed to have found a link between autism and the use of a common children’s vaccine.

We can stop right there. There is no point in reading any further than that first paragraph. We can determine just from the lede that this article is garbage. It is, like practically all articles on the subject one reads in the mainstream media, worthless trash. Actually, it is less than worthless because rather than educating people about the vaccine issue, all the Independent is doing is misinforming the public.

You’ve no doubt heard that claim before, that Wakefield’s study claimed to have found a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The less-than-worthless Independent piece goes on to say (emphasis added):

Wakefield remains defiant, even though the editor of The Lancet said statements contained in his 1998 study claiming a link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, were “utterly false” and 10 co-authors issued a statement saying there was insufficient evidence to draw the conclusion the vaccine was not safe.

We hear this constantly. It is a mantra. It is dogma.

But here’s what we can determine right now, just from reading the lead paragraph: the author of this piece, Andrew Buncombe, has either (a) never actually read the Lancet study he purports to be educating readers about, or (b) he is a liar.

There are no other possibilities. Either Buncombe has never read the study, or he’s a liar.

And Andrew Buncombe isn’t alone. It is virtually obligatory for mainstream journalists, when writing about anything related to vaccine safety, to claim that science has proven vaccines don’t cause autism, but parents go on believing it anyway because of a retracted 1998 study that claimed to have found a link.

And so we can say the same thing about practically every mainstream journalist: either they have never read the study, or they are liars.

So now let me show you how I can say that. All we have to do to see that this is true is to look at what the study actually said.

So here is what the study actually said with respect to the hypothesis of an association between the MMR vaccine and autism (all emphasis added):

In eight children, the onset of behavioural problems had been linked, either by the parents or by the child’s physician, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination. Five had had an early adverse reaction to immunisation (rash, fever, delirium; and, in three cases, convulsions).

We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described. Virological studies are underway that may help to resolve this issue.

If there is a causal link between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and this syndrome, a rising incidence might be anticipated after the introduction of this vaccine in the UK in 1988. Published evidence is inadequate to show whether there is a change in incidence or a link with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. A genetic predisposition to autisic-spectrum disorders is suggested by over-representation in boys and a greater concordance rate in monozygotic than in dizybotic twins.

So there you have it: what virtually every lazy-ass mainstream journalist tells us the Lancet study said versus what it actually said.

And as you can see, the Independent‘s claim that the study “claimed to have found a link between autism” and the MMR vaccine is absolutely false. On the contrary, the study explicitly stated that it had not established an association and suggested that further studies were needed to determine whether there was a link.

The whole premise of what is practically the entire mainstream media’s key argument against “anti-vaxxers” is a lie. Virtually every lazy-ass mainstream journalist cannot be bothered to actually look up the study and read it.

Instead, they just write what they themselves have heard a million times, and since they’ve heard every other lazy-ass journalist repeat it a million times, they just accept it as true. No need to verify it!

It is dogma.

The only alternative possibility is that they did read it, but then just choose to regurgitate the bald-faced lie about it anyway.

Faithful adherence to the vaccine religion.

Take your pick.

But wait! There’s more!

You want to start going down the rabbit hole? Let’s go back to the Independent says about the study, and how ten of Andrew Wakefield’s co-authors on the study “issued a statement saying there was insufficient evidence to draw the conclusion the vaccine was not safe”.

The “Retraction” of an “Interpretation”

So let’s have a look at the actual statement that those 10 co-authors attached their names to (all emphasis added; read it carefully!):

The main thrust of this paper was the first description of an unexpected intestinal lesion in the children reported. Further evidence has been forthcoming in studies from the Royal Free Centre for Paediatric Gastroenterology and other groups to support and extend these findings. While much uncertainty remains about the nature of these changes, we believe it important that such work continues, as autistic children can potentially be helped by recognition and treatment of gastrointestinal problems.

We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient. However, the possibility of such a link was raised and consequent events have had major implications for public health. In view of this, we consider now is the appropriate time that we should together formally retract the interpretation placed upon these findings in the paper, according to the precedent.

As you can see, their actual statement did not retract anything they had actually written in the study they coauthored with Andrew Wakefield.

Instead, they stood by their findings, emphasized that the study did not claim to find a link, and emphasized that such research as they had undertaken should continue.

But by merely proposing the hypothesis that there might be a link, these researchers had crossed a line.

They had committed heresy against the vaccine religion. They therefore had to repent. That preposterously meaningless retraction of “the interpretation placed upon” their study’s findings was their penance, their expression of their steadfast faith in the vaccine religion.

They didn’t actually withdraw anything they’d written in the article. On the contrary, they reaffirmed the main thrust of the paper. Their “retraction” had nothing to do with their findings. It had only to do with the “implications for public health”, which term they used euphemistically to mean public policy. The suggestion of a possible link had undermined the goal of public policy to maintain high vaccination rates. That was all that mattered. Proposing the hypothesis that vaccines could possibly be associated with autism threatened public vaccine policy. That was the concern. Not public health, but public policy.

Be mindful of the important distinction.

Now, there’s a lot more about that whole study that the mainstream media is just never going to tell you. I’ve just scratched the surface and shown you a tiny glimpse of the truth underlying the mainstream media’s lies, which are intended to prevent any serious discussion about the critically important subject of vaccines.

If you really want to dive into that whole story, just read this.

Wakefield’s Pioneering Research Validated

There’s also some twisted irony in the timing of this typical, shameless, lying Independent hit-piece. Just last month, a study by researchers from the UC Davis MIND Institute confirmed the key findings of the Wakefield, et al, paper that we are supposed to think was rubbish (that we are supposed to think ten authors of which withdrew the central conclusions of, etc., ad nauseum).

So let me just quote for you key excerpts from the UC Davis press release about the new study:

Immune system and gastrointestinal deregulation linked with autism

UC Davis MIND Institute research finds increased inflammation may be culprit

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) —Researchers at the UC Davis MIND Institute have found that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have reduced immune system regulation, as well as shifts in their gut microbiota. The immune deregulation appears to facilitate increased inflammation and may be linked to the gastrointestinal issues so often experienced by children with ASD….

While previous studies and clinical experience have shown that many children with ASD have gut issues, the causes have been mysterious….

The researchers analyzed blood and stool samples to assess both the immune response and microbial makeup. The children with ASD and GI issues showed a number of distinctions. They had higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-5, IL-15 and IL-17, compared to the children with ASD without GI symptoms.

The ASD/GI children also had lower levels of the protein TGFβ1, which is responsible for regulating the immune response. In addition, the group had higher levels of the protein zonulin, which regulates cell junctions in the GI tract, influencing gut permeability….

“Children with ASD with increased inflammation are often those who exhibit the most severe behaviors,” Ashwood said. This immune activation is not helping these children. It might not be causing autism – we don’t know that yet – but it’s certainly making things worse.”

“It’s a step toward understanding co-morbidities that are present in at least half of children with ASD, and working out which of these children may respond well to certain types of therapies,” said Ashwood. “Although it’s still early, this work suggests we need to find ways to ease inflammation to help these children.”

Now understand this…

The Wakefield, et al, study was a case study of 12 children all presenting with gastrointestinal disorders who had been developing normally, but then for some unexplained reason regressed, including nine who developed autism. Parents and doctors had noticed that the regression occurred after receipt off the MMR vaccine.

Wakefield, et al, hypothesized that it was not by mere chance that these 12 children with behavioral abnormalities had gut problems. They suggested that there might be a causal association between gastrointestinal disorders and autism.

They pointed out that previous study had found that 43% of children with autism have “abnormal intestinal permeability”.

Intestinal hyperpermeability is when the gut lining becomes compromised, allowing larger molecules to pass through, which then triggers an inflammatory immune response. It is frequently referred to as “leaky gut”.

They pointed out that leaky gut was a feature of inflammatory bowel disease.

They pointed out that certain children might have a genetic predisposition making them more susceptible to environmental triggers that could set off a chain of events resulting in developmental regression.

In other words, twenty years ago, in the Lancet study we are supposed to think was worthless, Andrew Wakefield was saying the exact same things this new UC Davis study has confirmed.

The UC Davis researchers evidently learned the lesson we are all constantly reminded about and didn’t suggest any kind of possible link with vaccination, even though vaccination is one obvious source of inflammation that could easily be avoided — a factor that, by their own logic, is not only “not helping these children”, but “certainly making things worse”.

Now, given the actual facts, you would think that the media would, at the very least, acknowledge that Wakefield’s pioneering research into the association between gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation, and autism, has since been confirmed by other studies. One would think that his important contributions to the science would be recognized.

But lazy-ass mainstream journalists like Andrew Buncombe aren’t interested in giving you actual facts. They do just fine in their careers by instead mindlessly regurgitating the same dogmatic, lying talking points every other lazy-ass mainstream journalist ritualistically chants anytime the subject of vaccine safety is raised.

As you’ve just witnessed, they can’t even get the most basic facts about this subject straight!

And it’s not just the vaccine-autism issue. This kind of deception is routine when it comes to vaccines. The mainstream media routinely and systematically deceive the public about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. (For another incontrovertible example, witness for yourself how the New York Times deceives the public about the safety and effectiveness of the influenza vaccine by grossly mischaracterizing its own sources from the medical literature.)

‘Professional Misconduct’ or Heresy?

Here’s another tidbit for you: In the second paragraph of his unthinking hit-piece, Buncombe obligatorily writes that Andrew Wakefield “was subsequently found guilty by the British General Medical Council (GMC) of three-dozen charges, including dishonesty and abuse of children, and struck off the medical register.”

What neither Buncombe nor any other lazy-ass mainstream journalist ever tell you is that one of Wakefield’s co-authors, John Walker-Smith, was also struck off the medical register, but that he appealed and won and was reinstated because the high court found that the GMC’s charges of “professional misconduct” were “untenable” and unsupported by the evidence.

Furthermore, the whole basis for the Lancet’s retraction was the very same “untenable” and unsupported charges by the GMC of “professional misconduct”.

Here, do yourself a favor and listen to something the presstitute media don’t want you to, which is Andrew Wakefield’s side of the story (transcript here):



So remember that whenever you hear a lazy-ass mainstream journalist telling you that “anti-vaxxer” parents reject science, but believe a debunked study by one Andrew Wakefield, the truth is that the study in question did not claim to have established an association between the MMR vaccine and autism, but rather explicitly stated that it had not established such a link. It rather simply relayed the temporal association between vaccination and developmental regression reported by the parents and doctors and proposed the biologically plausible hypothesis that there might be a link — which amounted to the crime of heresy against the vaccine religion. (Suggesting hypotheses for further study is the whole point of a case study, which is the kind of study this was.) Remember also that numerous subsequent studies have since confirmed the central findings of that retracted study. Remember that Wakefield’s co-author John Walker-Smith fought the GMC’s ruling and was reinstated on the grounds that the GMC’s accusations were unsupported by the evidence. And remember that the basis for the Lancet’s official retraction was the GMC’s unsupported accusations against the authors.

In other words, just try to keep in mind how the mainstream media systematically deceive you and refuse to take the subject of vaccines seriously and do any kind of real journalism.

A few final thoughts to leave you with, from some folks whose words — given how the mainstream media treat this issue — you would think would place them firmly among the “anti-vaxxers”, but whose identities might surprise you:

“Now, we all know that vaccines can occasionally cause fevers in kids. So if a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines. And if you’re predisposed with a mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage. Some of the symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism.” — CDC Director Julie Gerberding, 2008

“There is a completely expressed concern that they [i.e., public health officials] don’t want to pursue a hypothesis [i.e., that vaccines can cause autism in genetically susceptible individuals] because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people.” — Former NIH Director Bernadine Healy, 2008

“[I]t’s a possibility [that vaccines might cause autism in genetically susceptible individuals]…. It’s hard to predict who those children might be…. More research is needed to determine if there are rare cases where underlying mitochondrial disorders are triggered by anything related to vaccines.” — CDC Director of Immunization Safety Frank DeStefano, 2015

There is a serious discussion to be had about vaccines. It’s well past time the media started having it.

Instead, we get lazy-ass journalists who don’t have the foggiest clue about the real issues, but instead manufacture controversy that only serves as a red herring that distracts from the real issues, while arrogantly purporting to tell the public what they should think, all in the service of the state and the protection not of public health, but public policy.

Enough is enough!

The government perpetually lies to the public about important issues. The mainstream media dutifully serve to manufacture consent for criminal policies.

I free people’s minds by exposing state propaganda intended to keep them in servitude to the politically and financially powerful. My writings empower readers with the knowledge to see through the deceptions and fight for a better future, for ourselves, our children, and future generations of humanity.

I’m an independent political analyst, journalist, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, and author of several books. I’m also a coach who helps writers communicate their ideas more effectively to make a greater positive impact.

Learn more about my 10-Step Formula for Effective Journalism writing coaching program.

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