When fear of the disease overtakes fear of the vaccine:

Phil Plait knows who to blame for the current deadly outbreak of measles in Wales:

Wales has had low Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccination rates for some time … since about 1998, in fact, when Andrew Wakefield published his bogus study in the Lancet falsely linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

It’s easy to lay all this misery at Wakefield’s feet, but there’s plenty to go around. The Lancet should never have published it (many of the co-authors later withdrew their names from the paper). Tony Blair, then prime minister of Britain, declined to reveal whether his own son had gotten the MMR vaccine, prompting rumors it wasn’t safe. (Bizarrely, years later, Cherie Blair, Tony’s wife, said they had given their son the vaccine; how many people would’ve been spared misery had they simply stated the truth?) Newspapers printed ghastly articles linking vaccines and autism. And groups like the Australian Vaccination Network spread—and continue to spread—outright falsehoods about vaccines. Many of these groups actively support Wakefield.


Plait doesn’t hold back:

That’s why I always talk about keeping my own vaccinations up to date, and how my daughter, now a teenager, had all her childhood vaccines, as well asthe Gardasil HPV vaccination. My own personal story is one of love for my family, care for my community, and the desire to do what is right based on the best evidence available.

But the fear people have keeping them away from vaccinations, and the epidemic in Wales that is the product of that fear, that is the legacy of Wakefield in spirit or in deed. As we can see from the personal testimony of people in Swansea and the doctors who are desperately trying to help, what’s happening there is a direct descendant of his unethical actions 15 years ago.


Read more from Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog here.