ABOUT THE DIRECTOR:
Andrew Wakefield, MB.BS., is an academic gastroenterologist who practiced medicine at the Royal Free in the U.K. publishing over 140 scientific papers. In 1995, he was contacted by parents of autistic children with stomach issues; he learned that these conditions often occurred immediately following an MMR vaccine. In pursuit of this possible link, Dr. Wakefield led an initial study of twelve children with both stomach and developmental issues.
Since moving to Austin, Texas, he co-founded the Autism Media Channel with Polly Tommey with the goal of countering the pharmaceutical marketing and advertising juggernaut and the biased corporate-owned media with their own media. Together they produced the award-winning documentary, "Who Killed Alex Spourdalkis?," which was Wakefield's directorial debut. VaxXed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe is his second film.
However, with the paper's publication, the Dean of the medical school held a press briefing with some of the co-authors in attendance. Wakefield was called upon to answer a question as to what parents should do in light of concerns about MMR vaccine safety. He responded that in his mind there was enough doubt about MMR vaccine safety that parents should opt for the single measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines given at yearly intervals. His response: "It's a moral issue for me. I can't support the continued use of these three vaccines, given in combination, until this issue has been resolved." Wakefield advocated for the use of single vaccines. He did not say to stop vaccinations altogether as many have been led to believe. The report, published in The Lancet Journal, would catapult Wakefield into becoming one of the most controversial figures in the history of medicine. Nonetheless, this minted Wakefield as the "Father of the Anti-Vaccine Movement."
These statements were echoed around the U.K. and the U.S., and parents chose the single vaccines in preference to MMR. The official response was to withdraw the option of single vaccines making the return of measles inevitable. Growing anti-MMR sentiment and lower vaccination rates threatened the bottom lines of manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline and Merck. In the U.S. Merck holds the sole patent for the MMR vaccine.
In 2004, the same year the CDC published its MMR/Autism study, freelance journalist, Brian Deer, published an investigation into Wakefield et al. findings in the Lancet Journal claiming that Wakefield et al. had falsified data and committed fraud. More recently, on appeal, the English High Court overturned the allegations made against the senior authors of the Lancet paper and Wakefield's colleague Professor John Walker-Smith was reinstated and exonerated.
Wakefield is the only one of the 13 co-authors of the Lancet Journal findings barred from practicing medicine. He lost his country, his career, and his medical license. This report would catapult Wakefield into becoming one of the most controversial figures in the history of medicine. He considers these losses a small price to pay for the privilege of working with affected families.