If You Know Anything About Autism, You’ve Heard About Andrew Wakefield

In an earlier post today, I wrote about why the topic of autism and vaccines is not going to go away. I wrote about why, despite more and more scientific evidence that disputes any link between vaccines or something in vaccines and autism, people still entertain such an idea. One such person who continues to promote this discredited theory is David Kirby, the author of a 2005 book, Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy, and also of numerous articles claiming a link between vaccines or something in vaccines or something in the environment and autism.


In a February 11th Huffington Post piece, Kirby writes as if the 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield that set off a global public health scare about vaccines had never been retracted by the journal that originally published it, the Lancet. He also makes a very puzzling statement about Wakefield’s study, a statement that has the potential to discredit all that he has written about this topic.

Saying that he has spoken to ‘young parents in my neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn lately about vaccines and autism,’ Kirby then says, in noting that many of these parents are still suspicious of a link between vaccines and autism:

Not very many had heard of Wakefield until recently.

Kirby makes this surprising point while emphasizing how informed and educated these young parents are. They are people, he writes, who ‘actually keep up with the science, including a new review of autism studies in the Journal of Immunotoxicology.’ In addition, these parents all know (says Kirby) someone whose child ‘had an adverse vaccine reaction, got sick, stopped talking and never recovered.’

Kirby does not, though, say that these parents know someone whose child is on the autism spectrum. He is writing about children who had ‘adverse vaccine reactions’—and having such a reaction is not the same as being autistic.

Perhaps many parents have not actually read the actual text of Wakefield’s retracted and discredited 1998 Lancet study. But since that study came out over a decade ago, it has been impossible not to hear about it and about Wakefield in any discussion about the causes of autism.

My husband, Jim Fisher, and I were living in St. Paul, Minnesota, when it became apparent that our toddler son, Charlie, had ‘something.’ That was in the winter and spring of 1999; Charlie was formally diagnosed with autism in July of 1999. Since we had an inkling that ‘something was not right’ with Charlie, we had begun to scout libraries, bookstores, and the Internet. Indeed, finding out about ‘autism’ was the reason that Jim and I started to use the Internet extensively.

Already in 1999, we found all kinds of webpages about treatments, ‘cures,’ and, yes, causes of autism. The topic of vaccines kept coming up: What? Jim and I thought. What do vaccines have to do with autism? Charlie had had all of his vaccinations; he had never had any reaction. None of his symptoms of autism—his not developing speech or communication skills, his repetitive play, his tantrums that seemed excessive even for a child in the ‘terrible two’s’—had appeared ‘overnight,’ but had arisen gradually.

Nonetheless, caught up in the need to figure out what was going on with our little boy, Jim and I read the studies (including Wakefield’s), went to hear speakers who championed Wakefield’s theories, and took Charlie to a couple of practitioners of ‘alternative’ medicine and, yes, tried some biomedical treatments. More than a few of our friends with autistic children were staunch proponents of alternative treatments for autism and of the vaccine-autism theory, and remain so to this day.

And everyone knew about Wakefield. I recall an autism mother support group meeting in Minneapolis where some of my friends, having recently attending a Defeat Autism Now! conference, spoke in glowing terms about hearing Wakefield; about how they were planning to try various alternative treatments such as chelation, a treatment used for heavy metal poisoning that was used on autistic children due to the now idea that autism is caused by poisoning by mercury or ‘heavy metals.’

Everyone who knew anything about autism then knew about Wakefield.  And, like it or not, everyone who knows anything about autism today has heard about Wakefield and, for the past year, about the debunking of his theory.

Kirby’s statement in the February 11th Huffington Post that ‘Not very many’ of these parents ‘had heard of Wakefield until recently’ is, again, very puzzling, and undermines all that he says about autism. If the parents whom Kirby has been talking with do not know who Andrew Wakefield is, they very likely know little about autism and the past decade of controversy about the causes of autism.

It is high time that Kirby let go of his obsessive focus on discredited theories of autism causation. If he would like to support individuals on the autism spectrum and those who care for them, I exhort him to learn about life as an autistic person, and life raising an autistic child—to take the time to learn about autism.


Previous Care2 Coverage

Autism and Vaccines: Why This Topic Won’t Go Away

Wakefield’s Study Linking Vaccines to Autism was ‘Deliberate Fraud’

The Sad Truth About the Tiger Mother

Yet Another Study Refutes Vaccine-Autism Link

Today Show Poll: People Don’t Believe Vaccines Are Related to Autism

Autism, Vaccines, and the Damage Wrought by Andrew Wakefield

Photo by stevendepolo.


April L.
April L7 years ago

@Kristina Chew

You state:

"...despite more and more scientific evidence that disputes any link between vaccines or something in vaccines and autism..."

It would be most helpful if you could provide links to the studies which are the "scientific evidence" you speak of.

But I would imagine that you can't, because there arent any, Kristina. You see, simply disproving someone ELSE'S study, or finding ways to discredit them (Wakefield), doesn't constitute "scientific evidence." This is not proof that vaccines don't cause damage for some children.

The pharmaceutical industry doesn't do any studies to prove vaccines don't cause neurological damage. They don't have to. They just wait and pay someone to discredit studies done by others. You call this scientific evidence? Speaking of Wakefield, are you even serious? If there was ANY proof that vaccines don't cause damage, the Wakefield study being retracted from the Lancet ISN'T it.

Please provide links for your readers to witness the scientific studies which prove that vaccines do not cause neurological damage.

I imagine I will grow old waiting.

To me, this is yet another instance of sheep mentality. People believing whatever is in the headlines today. Interestingly, we only hear what Brian Deer has created, and pay no attention to what Wakefield has to say. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear Wakefield's side of the story?


Manuela C.
Manuela C7 years ago

It probably is something in the environment plus genetics, but it's not the vaccines!

Rick K.
Rick K.7 years ago

Were they convinced, Laraine? Convinced like Jenny McCarthy who made no connection at all to her son's autism symptoms, attributing it to his being a "Crystal Child", and unable to consistently say when his symptoms appeared relative to his vaccines. Or perhaps convinced like Katie Wright whose son showed symptoms 20 MONTHS after his MMR. Or like Theresa Cedillo who finally admitted, when she honestly viewed family movies, that her daughter showed symptoms before the vaccines that she claimed triggered them.

Of course these people are convinced it's the vaccines. It MUST be something doctors did to their babies, right? These parents are in terrible pain, they need SOMETHING to blame, and what better target than a huge impersonal government-sponsored vaccination program. It is emotionally satisfying to go to a rally, cry with other suffering parents, and scream at the big drug companies.

Much more satisfying than considering that your child's autism is probably mostly due to the genes you passed on to him.

Laraine A.
Laraine A.7 years ago

At the first DAN (Defeat Autism Now) conference in Cherry Hill, NJ, famed autism researcher, Dr. Bernard Rimland, asked an audience of over 1000 parents of autistic children how many of them had thought there was a relationship between their child's receipt of a vaccination and their child's development of autism. Virtually the entire audience raised their hands! He then asked the question in a slightly different way now saying "how many of you are CONVINCED your child's autism was related to the receipt of vaccine. While some hands did not go up this time––the overwhelming majority still did.
Throughout that day we heard story after story of how a normal, happy, babbling child went to the pediatrician for a routine vaccination came home and had from that time forward was never the same again. Parent after parent told of how their child stopped smiling, lost speech, developed a variety of odd symptoms which did not go away. Some told us of the death of their children in proximity to vaccination. Time and time again they shared that any correlations they reported to their pediatricians were dismissed as unrelated or co-incident to vaccines. Their claims of vaccine relationships were dismissed and sometimes not even connected by themselves, until some of them had the misfortune to have the same type of damage to a second child following vaccination.
I trust the parents observations. Such stories are legion, which science and medicine will, one of these days,

Ken R.
Ken R.7 years ago

It's not like Wakefield was ever given the Galileo Award at Autism One or anything. What's that? He was?


John B.
John B7 years ago

Part 2

And we brought you a heart-crushing video from Cryshame which shows the cost in human suffering from the damage the vaccines cause in children:

It has been a remarkable week of vaccine truth information, and the vaccine defenders are absolutely reeling from all this. They've been caught red-handed and now the eye of scrutiny is turned upon them. The BMJ, in particular, has now revealed itself to be a "quack science rag" with zero credibility. It is nothing more than the political mouthpiece of the vaccine industry and has become the laughing stock of intelligent thinkers everywhere.

Evaluate the information for yourself do not listen to idiots who prate their own agendas in their disgusting pleas for sympathy.

John B.
John B7 years ago

The two posts here are about recent articles posted through Natural News dealing specifically with vaccines. Read the data and decide for yourself. There is also a 3 hour radio interview with the fellow who "debunked" Wakefield's work which is extremely interesting.

Here are the highlights of the week in case you missed one or more:

On Tuesday, we launched the Vaccines: Get the Full Story report put out by the Vaccination Council. Download it now at:

On Wednesday, we posted an interview with Dr Suzanne Humphries who offered a fantastic interview on the dangers of vaccines:

Thursday, we posted an interview with Dr Sherri Tenpenny with even more details about vaccines, healthy living, and the truth behind the quack science of the vaccine industry:

Friday (today), we posted an amazing interview with Dr Andrew Wakefield who accuses the British Medical Journal of being "hijacked" by false journalism and printing blatantly false allegations about his own work with autistic children:

During all this, we also posted a 3-hour audio show created by Dr Gary Null who completely deconstructs the BMJ's lies surrounding Dr Wakefield's scientific investigations:

Rick K.
Rick K.7 years ago

Alastair L said: "So you admit in the years 1952-56 — before a national vaccination program — the disease was in decline. "

I said no such thing. Why do you find it so easy to claim I said something that I obviously didn't say? I really try to state the truth and to have solid evidence for the things I say.

Why don't you?

The polio rate fell 90% with the introduction of nationwide vaccination, and fell even further with the introduction of safer, more effective vaccines. This is a fact that you cannot change no matter how hard you squeeze your eyes shut and strain.

If we stop vaccinating, like you suggest, then polio will come back. This is what has happened in Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Nothing is 100% safe. But we have to make decisions on what is best for the most people. Every year some people die because their seatbelts prevent them from escaping a burning car. So seatbelts are not 100% safe. By your logic, we should therefore stop mandating the use of seatbelts even though they save hundreds of lives every year.

Your logic makes no sense whatsoever.

I think we can always make vaccines safer, but I think that many people I know and love would not be alive if the diseases of the early 1900s were still around today.

I've met people who test drugs and work in drug companies. Some people at my church work in drug companies. They're just like everybody else, and they love their children too.

So what are you so afraid of?

Rick K.
Rick K.7 years ago

Robert P. said: "Wakefield was obviously a victim of our corrupt media, government and and medical cartel."

No, he was a criminal who planned and orchestrated the panic over the MMR vaccine so people would rush to buy his alternative vaccine. The business plan is now available in the public record where you can read it yourself. So is his patent for his alternative vaccine. So is the transcript of his press conference where he openly disagrees with the conclusion of the other authors in the paper. You can also find where he was paid by lawyers for his anti-MMR work before publishing his paper. And he never declared this conflict of interest.

This is all a matter of public record now. Go look it up. Stop reacting emotionally, put your brain in gear, and find out the truth. Like any court case, truth is determined through evidence. Go look at the evidence.

The evidence is all there. You are defending one of the most thoroughly documented acts of intentional evil against children that we've seen in many years.

How does that feel?

Rick K.
Rick K.7 years ago

Mike P said: "What is the percentage of mercury in vaccines like MMR? It's about 47% isn't it? Disgusting."

LOL! I thought you were serious. But this shows that you're just a Poe trying to act like an anti-vax crusader. But this statement is so obviously false that nobody would seriously state such nonsense.