Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 06 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:c7452

Rapid Response:

Galileo and Wakefield, common themes

It seems rather odd that the latest campaign to discredit Andrew
Wakefield happened at a time he was attending an international meeting in
Montego Bay, Jamaica Jan. 3-7, 2011 to discuss current vaccine science and
policy safety concerns. Delegates from around the world included senior
scientists and physicians, editors of scientific journals, experts in
vaccine regulation, social science and health policy, consumer child
health advocates, legal experts and members of the media.

Among the scientists present was Dr Yehuda Shoenfeld, the head of the
Department of Medicine at the Tel Aviv University since 1984 (age 36). Has
founded and is heading the Center for Autoimmune Diseases since 1985 - at
the largest hospital in Israel- the Sheba Medical Center. He has published
over 1600 papers in journals such as New Eng J Med, Nature, Lancet, Proc
Nat Acad Scie, J Clin Invest, J Immunol, Blood, FASEB, J Exp Med,
Circulation, Cancer and others. His articles have had over 20,000
citations until 2009. He has authored and edited 25 books, some of which
became cornerstones in science and clinical practice, such as "The Mosaic
of Autoimmunity", "Infections and Autoimmunity", the textbook
"Autoantibodies" and "Diagnostic Criteria of Autoimmune Diseases", all of
which were published by Elsevier and sold by thousands.

He is on the editorial board of 43 journals in the field of
Rheumatology, and Autoimmunity and is the founder and the editor of the
IMAJ (Israel Medical Association Journal) the representative journal of
Science and Medicine in the English language in Israel. Shoenfeld is also
the founder and Editor of the "Autoimmunity Reviews" (Elsevier) (Impact
factor 6.2). He has written over three hundred chapters in different

Shoenfeld obviously felt that Andrew Wakefield deserved to be heard.
I wonder, what scientific credentials does Brian Deer hold that the world
should listen to him?

At a recent interview, Richard Deth, Professor of Pharmacology in the
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University, who was
also at the conference made the following statement:

"Wakefield's identification of gastrointestinal inflammation in
autism will remain an important scientific contribution. The magnitude of
the effort to discredit him betrays a strong fear that his suggestion of a
link to vaccination may be correct. It amounts to a public pillorying that
frightens others from investigating this controversial but important

I wonder, whatever happened to true science? One not driven by
dogmatic preconceptions but based on rigorous evaluation of scientific
evidence. Food for thought.

Competing interests: No competing interests

12 January 2011
Lucija Tomljenovic
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of British Columbia