As if there were any doubt about the cult of personality around Andrew Wakefield

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I just don’t understand it.

I just don’t understand how anyone can take the charlatan Andrew Wakefield seriously anymore.

If anyone had any doubt that there is a cult of personality around this discredited vaccine fear-monger, whose shoddy science and undisclosed conflicts of interest managed to ignite a false hysteria over the MMR vaccine, wonder no more. Observe the support that he still commands from parents as he is finally called to account for his misdeeds:

Waving placards and chanting support for Dr Andrew Wakefield, parents from across the country gathered outside the General Medical Council to support the controversial doctor – each with a story to tell about how their child or grandchild had changed after the MMR jab.

Dr Wakefield and two other doctors stand today before the GMC’s Fitness to Practise Panel, accused of serious professional misconduct. The GMC will hear allegations that Dr Wakefield, who now works in the US, and Professors John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch failed in their duty to act in the best interests of children.

The trio, who face being struck off, published a paper in The Lancet in February 1998 suggesting there could be a link between the triple jab – against measles, mumps and rubella – and bowel disease and autism. It led to falling numbers of parents immunising their children and a row over whether the then prime minister, Tony Blair, had vaccinated his son, Leo.

The accusations relate to investigations for the study on 12 youngsters with bowel disorders carried out between 1996 and 1998. The GMC charge sheet covers several allegations, including that Dr Wakefield took blood samples from children at a birthday party after offering them money.

All three are accused of performing colonoscopies and lumbar punctures on children without proper approval and contrary to the children’s clinical interests. At the time, all three doctors were employed at the Royal Free Hospital’s medical school in London.

That’s right; Wakefield performed unnecessary and invasive procedures on autistic children as well. Moreover, the British press is complicit in lionizing Wakefied, who should have his license to practice stripped for what he did. Indeed, over the weekend, The Independent and The Daily Express each published utterly credulous articles that parroted the same myths about the MMR causing autism as though they had equal credibility with the scientists citing studies that fail to find a link between vaccines and autism.

Arthur Allen and I have both written about why the myth that vaccines cause autism will probably never die, no matter how many wooden stakes of scientific studies are plunged into its dark heart. No matter what the result of this hearing, which could take several months, you can be sure that it will continue. If Wakefield is stripped of his license to practice and forced to face sanctions, he will be portrayed as a martyr to the cause, a veritable mini-Galileo, and the same activist groups will continue to claim that MMR causes autism. If, on the other hand, no sanctions are imposed, he will be portrayed as having been vindicated, and the same activist groups will continue to claim that MMR causes autism.

And so it goes.