MMR: the facts in the case of Dr Andrew Wakefield

Format: Turkish
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Language/s: 3-4 - How certain is the evidence?
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Resource Link: View the Cartoon
Short Description:

This 15-page cartoon explains the events surrounding the MMR controversy, and provides links to the relevant evidence.

Key Concepts addressed:

Details

WakefieldThis is a wonderful 15-page cartoon by Darryl Cunningham explaining the events that led to the disastrous loss of confidence in the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) combined vaccine.

It focuses on the fraud perpetrated by Dr Andrew Wakefield and the failure of the media to investigate the conflict of interest that lay behind his claims.

The cartoon covers:

  • recent trends in anti-science sentiment
  • Wakefield’s unsubstantiated theory that the MMR vaccine causes autism
  • his misrepresentation of the findings of his own research to undermine confidence in MMR
  • the global health scare around MMR and autism
  • subsequent outbreaks of measles in several countries.

Daily Mail

The whole thing would have been avoided had the media not given equal credence to Wakefield’s unsubstantiated claims as they did to unanimous evidence from multiple scientific studies involving millions of patients [1]

It also looks at how Wakefield became personally involved:

  • he was initially hired by a medical negligence lawyer to find evidence that the MMR vaccine was harmful
  • he filed a patent for a single measles vaccine in direct competition with MMR
  • he conducted unethical research on children
  • he was eventually struck off by the General Medical Council.

The role of the media in this story is also dealt with:

  • their unquestioning acceptance of Wakefield’s claims
  • sensationalising the story
  • failure to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence from high quality studies that contradicted his theory
  • their use of writers with little knowledge of science and medical research.

The cartoonist, who blogs as Tall Guy Investigates, also cites the sources he used to write the story.

Reference

  1. Demicheli V, Rivetti A, Debalini MG, Di Pietrantonj C. Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD004407. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004407.pub3
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