Award-winning journalist talks about vaccine-autism controversy

Investigative journalist Brian Deer is a newspaper man to the core. He broke the vaccine-autism scandal. Parents of autistic children have wrongly blamed themselves for having their kids vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella, said Deer at Ryerson yesterday.

The Lancet, a respected British medical journal, published a report claiming a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism in children. Seven years ago, an investigation led by Sunday Times journalist, Brian Deer, started out as routine assignment.

Deer discovered that the lead author of the article, former physician Andrew Wakefield, had several hidden conflicts of interest. Wakefield’s report proved fraudulent. Originally about 12 developmentally challenged children, The Lancet retracted the article last year, saying that many components were wrong. The General Medical Council found Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck him off the Medical Register, meaning he couldn’t practice as a doctor in the UK anymore.

Newspapers across the UK accepted Wakefield’s research as verified facts and accordingly published his findings as true. Journalists ask: why hadn’t anyone else picked up this case? Fear and pity—these were the two elements kept this overhyped fib in the media.

A lawyer hired Wakefield to make a case against MMR developers. By doing so, Wakefield was paid around $330 per hour. His sole purpose was to fabricate a link between MMR and negative side-effects, and continue to perpetrate this lie.

After Deer published newspaper articles criticizing Wakefield, he faced a libel lawsuit conducted by Wakefield.

“My happiest moment was at the end of 2005 when the judge said that Wakefield couldn’t end his litigation,” said Deer at Ryerson yesterday. He describes winning the British Press Award as a prime moment in his life.

Andrew Wakefield never admitted to fabricating data and maintains his claim today.

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