The Independent should be ashamed of itself for giving Andrew Wakefield a soapbox

Andrew Wakefield and his wife, Carmel, at the General Medical Council
Andrew Wakefield and his wife, Carmel, at the General Medical Council. (Photo: Getty)

As the largest measles outbreak in more than 10 years rages in Swansea, with dozens of people hospitalised, what the hell is The Independent doing giving a platform to the man who started the scare which led to that outbreak?

The newspaper has, inexplicably, given its front page over to a piece by Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced former gastric surgeon who first proposed a link between MMR and autism, giving him an opportunity to say (with brazen chutzpah) that the Swansea outbreak proves he was right.

Wakefield blames the outbreak on the Government’s refusal to give single jabs instead of the MMR triple jab when the unfounded fears first arose. But, as he surely knows perfectly well, there are good medical reasons not to divide up the vaccination programme – it leaves children open to infection for longer, and makes it three times as likely that an inoculation will be missed. And, of course, it would have immediately been seen as an admission that the MMR jab was dangerous. What actually caused the drop in vaccination uptake which led to Swansea was the autism scare, started and repeatedly stoked by Wakefield, abetted (it must be admitted) by the media.

For the record, MMR isn’t dangerous. It’s as safe as any medical intervention can be; see here for more details. But we all know that now. The question is: why has The Independent stirred up this stupid scare all over again? He first made his idiotic claims on the website Age of Autism, which, we can safely guess, would have been ignored by all but the usual anti-vax crowd. Now he’s back on front pages.

This is a man who has been struck off the medical register for unethical behaviour and whose hypothesis of a link between MMR and autism has long been proved utterly wrong. He is not a serious or important voice. Let him stew among his dwindling band of acolytes. Don’t splash his bizarre views all over your newspaper, and risk scaring more people out of getting an important, potentially life-saving vaccine.

And, of course, all the while this is going on, more people are getting ill in Swansea, and as doctors there are saying, it’s probably only a matter of time before someone gets some really nasty complications. Bravo, The Independent, well done.

Read more by Tom Chivers on Telegraph Blogs
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