A feature by Michael Hanlon on the newspaper’s website states that Wakefield’s claims are supported by ‘statistics on autism’ but are not accepted by ‘the scientific establishment’.
The Daily Mail article was published in reaction to the news that uptake of the MMR vaccine in infants has passed 90% in England for the first time since Wakefield’s 1998 paper questioning its safety.
However, uptake is still below the WHO target of 95%, which experts consider sufficient to prevent outbreaks of measles – and the Daily Mail is clearly trying to discourage further use of the vaccine.
Hanlon also claims that Wakefield was recently forced to resign his research post at the Royal Free and University College in North London because his work did not ‘fit in’ with the college’s strategy.
The feature does not mention the fact that Wakefield’s resignation followed his exposure in the British Medical Journal as a fraud.
His ‘research’ was criticised for flawed methodology within the medical research community, but it was taken up by newspapers and became a celebrated ‘scare story’, with drastic effects on the vaccine’s uptake in the UK.
In January 2012, the BMJ published a series of articles based on General Medical Council hearings, documenting how “Wakefield altered numerous facts about the patients’ medical histories in order to support his claim to have identified a new syndrome”.
The Daily Mail feature echoes the anti-vaccine conspiracy theories that are common online, reflecting a widespread fear that vaccines – a crucial area of modern-day medical science and pharmaceuticals – are ‘interfering with nature’.