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HomeNewsJames Delingpole and Sally Beck on the real Andrew Wakefield MMR scandal

James Delingpole and Sally Beck on the real Andrew Wakefield MMR scandal


THE mainstream media’s loss has been TCW‘s gain. Sally Beck is a freelance journalist with 30 years of experience of writing for national newspapers and magazines. She has reported on vaccines since the controversy began with the MMR in 1998, and since April 2021 she has largely been writing for TCW on Covid vaccine and related issues. Quite simply, as she and James Delingpole discuss in a fascinating podcast recorded at the beginning of May, the MSM have blanked any of their submissions challenging the official Covid narrative. As journalists they have, as James puts it so succinctly, ‘fallen out of the Overton Window’. 

In this interview James asks Sally specifically about the Andrew Wakefield MMR vaccine story which she covered at the time. She details how it was not how it has been widely and uncritically accepted by the press and how, as she sees it, it set the stage for the anti-vaxx hysteria and demonisation of dissent that’s been used to protect the indefensible Covid ‘vaccine’ rollout. It is a fascinating account.

 You can listen to the whole podcast here. Key extracts of the interview focusing on the Wakefield story follow.

JAMES DELINGPOLE: Andrew Wakefield crossed my consciousness when my children were very small. And there was talk at the time about how the MMR vaccine, that I think was compulsory, or nearly compulsory for children, you know, you got hassled by the health services, didn’t you? If you didn’t, if your children weren’t up to date with their MMR jab. So we, like good citizens, imagined that we’d have to do it. And then Andrew Wakefield, this doctor, started suggesting that maybe the MMR was linked to cases of autism and other unusual childhood illnesses. And that part of the problem, he suggested – this is what I picked up from the ether, I mean, you can correct me when I’m wrong – that maybe it would be better to get these injections separately, because when you had them together, they did more damage. So, I – much to the annoyance of my wife – I insisted that she go to separate clinics, remote clinics, to get the jabs done separately, rather than together . . . And then, after that, I sort of read in the papers that no, Andrew Wakefield was a charlatan, he’d been roundly discredited, there was no evidence for any of his claims. And then the story sort of ended. And that was, I think, where most of us . . . most of us who took our information from the mainstream media were left with Andrew Wakefield. He’d been discredited. He was a quack. You’re going to tell me that this is nonsense?

SALLY BECK: The story ended in 2010 when he was struck off by the GMC, accused of ‘callous disregard’, [these] were the exact words. 

JD: So where was he before? 

SB: He was a paediatric gastroenterologist at the Royal Free Hospital [London] . . . Andrew Wakefield had done a study into wild measles and how it could cause Crohn’s disease [a chronic inflammatory bowel disease] because he was a gastroenterologist and that was his area of interest. But from 1996, the Royal Free began getting letters from parents. And it wasn’t just one or two letters. They had over a thousand parents contact them saying, ‘My child was fine until they had their MMR vaccination and now they have bowel disease, they can’t go to the loo, they’re very badly constipated. And they also have autism. Could you please investigate?’ They had a two-year waiting list at one point at the Royal Free. So the parents came to see Andrew Wakefield and his team and they told their story and they all had very similar stories. The clinical indications were that these children needed a colonoscopy to see what was going on with their bowel. Why weren’t they going to the loo? And did it have anything to do with their autism? 

Fast forward to the 1998 case study that was published in the Lancet. Twelve children from 11 families had biopsies at the Royal Free Hospital. And what they were looking for in these biopsies was bowel disease. And they also found that they had a sort of novel bowel disease. It wasn’t quite Crohn’s, it wasn’t IBS [irritable bowel syndrome]. It wasn’t anything they’d really seen before. 

Andrew Wakefield had done a lot of investigation into the safety studies of the MMR. Now, what you might not [know] is that two versions of that jab were withdrawn because they were causing encephalitis and inflammation of the brain, essentially, in children. So two versions were withdrawn and it was the Urabe component, which was the mumps component of the vaccination, that was causing those problems. 

We first had the measles jab in ’68. Then they added measles and rubella, and that was about ten years later. And then they added measles, mumps and rubella. We got that in 1988. But what’s really interesting, James, is that the only one of those diseases that could cause, actually, serious damage to a child is the measles. And it was very rare that that happened. 

The year that they brought in the MMR, there were 35 deaths from measles that year. And the deaths from measles had dropped from, about the back of the 1800s, over a thousand deaths a year, down to double figures. So they’d reduced by about 98 per cent, and they’d been consistently that low for quite a long time.

It wasn’t particularly the single measles jab that made any difference. Doctors say what made the difference was better food, better housing, clean water and better health care. And also our immune systems learnt how to deal with measles. So if you were budgeting to spend your money, you would have been better off spending your money not on the MMR, but on a road safety campaign; that would have saved more children’s lives in a year. 

And to put it in context, you get about 1,500 deaths a year from asthma. There’s no outcry about asthma, is there? No one says, ‘Oh, my God, asthma’s so appalling. We must do something about asthma.’ We just accept that people die from asthma, 1,500 deaths a year. Measles? We were getting 35 and that was a bad year. It had actually been 16 deaths the year before.

Wakefield and his team would have been negligent had they not investigated. What they did was they looked at the safety studies . . .  [and] thought these safety studies [were] not really worth the paper they’re written on . . . The Dean of the Royal Free agreed they should have this press conference to announce their findings. They knew that a journalist would ask them, ‘Is the MMR causing autism?’ And the answer to that was, ‘We don’t know, but we would like the government to suspend the MMR and reintroduce a single vaccine so that we could do some more research into it.’

All very sensible. But the government, presumably, thought ‘What if the MMR isn’t what we say it is? What’s that going to cost us in compensation?’ . . . That’s going to be huge. So let’s not suspend the MMR. Let’s increase confidence in the MMR vaccine and all this will go away.’ And it didn’t go away. Then a journalist called Brian Deer wrote a story for the Sunday Times, essentially accusing Andrew Wakefield of misleading the country over the MMR. And that’s how it all began to unfold. 

JD: What do we know about Brian Deer? I mean, was he a regular news writer or was he unusual? 

SB: He was a freelance. He was a loner . . . When we were at the General Medical Council to listen to the hearing, the press room was packed. And Brian Deer was in that press room. And there was not a single journalist who met his eyes. No one. You know, he had just succeeded in getting this terrible doctor struck off, and no one wanted to engage with him. And I remember sitting there thinking, ‘That’s interesting.’ You know, ‘Why are they kind of almost giving him the cold shoulder?’ I didn’t really understand . . .

Obviously, it was a huge story. It was the longest and most expensive GMC hearing in British history. Andrew Wakefield and John Walker-Smith – so there were three doctors on trial there – two of them were struck off, one was cleared. 

John Walker-Smith appealed later on. I wrote down some words that Mr Justice Mitting used to describe the way that Professor John Walker-Smith had been struck off. [When] he cleared him he said, ‘There were universal inadequacies, insufficient evidence.’ ‘Laconic’ was a word used, ‘fundamental errors’, ‘inadequate, distorted summary of evidence’. ‘Factually unsound’, ‘flawed’, ‘perverse’. 

JD: So what was [Walker-Smith’s] role in the hearing? 

SB: There were 13 authors for this paper that was published in the Lancet. All 13 authors were asked to retract the interpretation that their paper had said the MMR could cause autism. They’d never said that, it wasn’t in the paper. It was an interpretation that the media had made but, rightly, you know, they’d asked the right question: can the MMR cause autism? Wakefield and cohorts suspected it could, but they didn’t have the evidence. So they were cautious, they said, ‘We didn’t conclusively prove that the MMR could cause autism. But we would like to investigate further.’ 

So they were asked to retract that interpretation. They said, ‘Well, we never made that interpretation. We are not going to retract it.’ So the three of them found themselves in front of the GMC. Professor John Walker-Smith was the most senior and the lead author, I think on the paper. Either Wakefield or Walker-Smith were the lead authors. And they said, ‘No, we’re not going to because we never said that.’ [Wakefield and Harvey refused to retract and Linnell couldn’t be contacted]. And they found themselves up in front of the GMC . . . Mr Justice Mitting was the QC who heard Professor John Walker-Smith’s appeal . . . Wakefield didn’t have the money for an appeal and his insurance would not cover him, and they weren’t prepared to put the family home on the line for half a million quid, so he never got his day in court and he never got to appeal. But Walker-Smith did and he was reinstated. And so he’s no longer struck off and no longer a blemish on his record. 

JD: Right. So the others, out of the 13 authors, ten decided that discretion was the better part of valour, just to save their skins, even though they had to admit to doing something they’d never said in the first place. And three of them held out. So, Wakefield – and who was the third? 

SB: So Dr Simon Murch, he was the most junior. And he was cleared by the GMC during that hearing. So he walked away without a stain on his character. Walker-Smith and Wakefield were struck off.  

JD: And when you’re struck off the medical register, that’s the end of your career, isn’t it? There’s no coming back from that?

SB: Well, they can’t erase the fact that you’ve done your medical training. They can’t stop you from practising. But . . . obviously, no NHS is going to employ a struck-off doctor . . . You also have to remember, there were 1,300 families who were bringing a case against the MMR manufacturer . . . And the day before that case was due to be heard, the judge in that case pulled their legal aid so that case could not go ahead. So those parents have never had their day in court. The MMR vaccine has never been cleared or found guilty as a wrongful medicine. Andrew Wakefield, who’s been accused of scientific fraud by the BMJ, has never been tried for scientific fraud. And Fiona Godlee, who was the editor of the BMJ, has tried very hard to make that happen twice and it’s never happened. 

So you know what you see, basically, when people start writing about Andrew Wakefield, they say, ‘Oh, he committed fraud, he’s discredited, he was struck off.’ Well, no one’s discredited his paper – ever. I mean, it’s been withdrawn, but it hasn’t been discredited. The science still holds on that paper. 

JD: So much of what you’re describing has been repeated, or at least rhymed with, the last two years over Covid, hasn’t it? 

SB: Yes. And this is why I got in touch with you, actually, because all those doctors that we know who are really awake when it comes to the Covid vaccine and Covid, they all dismiss Andrew Wakefield. They all think, ‘Oh yes, well he was struck off,’ but it had an effect on their psyche and it had an effect on all doctors’ psyche. And so many doctors would not speak out over various vaccines. We know about the swine flu, we know about the HPV vaccine. They’ve all come under scrutiny and have been proved to cause harm to recipients. But doctors didn’t want to speak out, because they saw what happened to Andrew Wakefield. [Wakefield himself] says, ‘What has happened to me has taught other scientists that it is safer not to rock the boat. Doctors are scared to speak out for fear that what happened to me may happen to them. And that can’t be good for science.’ And never a truer word. 

But what was really interesting, James, is that he was struck off in January, 2010. In August [the same year], a very rare case of the vaccine damage payment scheme was a payment of £80,000 awarded to a boy who was 18 who had been damaged by the MMR. And the only reason that award was made is because they weren’t claiming for autism, but they were claiming for autism-like symptoms, but not actually autism. 

So, eight months after Wakefield was struck off, we essentially admitted, ‘Well, this vaccine has harmed this kid so badly, we’re paying him £80,000.’ But what was even more interesting, that was the front page of the Mail on Sunday, that story, and I wrote the comment for that. And on the Monday, the Guardian headline was ‘The vaccine myth that will not die.’ 

JD: Yes. 

SB: Like, come on! It’s no longer a myth. We’ve admitted, we’ve paid this kid. He was damaged. We’ve paid him £80,000 out of the public purse . . . 

JD: I remember the kind of bullying narrative that you constantly heard about, even then, the concept of anti-vaxxers was being thrown around. And these ‘selfish anti-vaxxers’, you know, experts were worried that the selfishness of anti-vaxxers believing their conspiracy theories was resulting in a huge escalation of measles, and they probably gave a percentage, because they’d never have printed the raw figures, because people would have gone, ‘What, 35 has now gone up to . . . whatever.’ 

SB: About 18, I think . . .  

JD: So, actually, they were flat-out lying to us. 

SB: Yeah. Yes, they were. Yes. Measles was no longer a problem. 

JD: People sort of wonder why it took people like you and me so long to wake up. And after all, most of our MSM colleagues are . . . still promoting this kind of mendacious paradigm. And we like the editors that we work with, they’re very agreeable, but at the same time, you’re thinking, ‘They are propping up a really corrupt system’ . . .

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngell
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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