B.C. group push anti-vaccine agenda despite discreditation

A B.C.-based group opposed to childhood vaccinations says it will continue its crusade – even though the study on which it has based its stance, linking vaccinations to autism, has been discredited.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who linked a common children’s vaccine with autism, was disbarred by the British medical society on May 24. His 1998 study published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, caused widespread alarm and more than a decade of controversy.

Now, the Vaccination Risk Awareness Network (VRAN), based in Winlaw, says it will not change its policy regarding Wakefield and his research.

Edda West, spokeswoman for VRAN said that striking Wakefield’s name of the British medical registry was a “nasty political game that changes nothing for families of autistic children.

“The General Medical Council [in Britain] has shot themselves in the foot, because they’ve made a martyr of him,” West said.

“And we know what happens with martyrs: this strengthens the cause, draws attention to it and brings in more publicity.”

Wakefield’s study claimed to find a causal relationship between autism and the children’s MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. The result was a worldwide slump in vaccination rates.

But in B.C., there was neither a dramatic drop in vaccination rates nor a large resurgence in measles, mumps or rubella.

In February 2010, The Lancet retracted the publication of Wakefield’s findings and the British medical society disbarred him following an inquiry into allegations of misconduct.

Dr. Monika Naus at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said the decision was “about time.”

“His publications and communications have served the purpose of damaging the public trust in vaccines and specifically embedded in the public mind that there is a relationship between measles vaccines and autism, and that has done irreparable damage that will not be completely undone by these retractions,” she told The Province.

Dr. Naus also said that significant research money was spent on disproving Wakefield’s results – money, that could have been spent on finding the true causes of autism.

The Autism Society of Canada, and its provincial branch in B.C., said they were not in a position to comment on the recent events.

“The whole project has been fraught with controversy,” said society president Michael Lewis. “But in the absence of certainty, we can only recommend that people continue to look at studies and make informed decisions.”

Wakefield intends to appeal the decision of the British General Medical Council and his supporters, such as VRAN continue to back him.

“This is not going away,” West said. “What we are seeing is that the medical society wants to protects its vaccines and will go to any length including discrediting and destroying a very honourable person.”

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