Andrew Wakefield, the British scientist and former physician whose discredited research linking autism and immunizations helped launch a worldwide anti-vaccination movement, encouraged Californians Friday to fight back against a state Senate bill that would make childhood vaccinations mandatory.
Speaking at Life Chiropractic College West in Hayward, Wakefield told hundreds of students packed into two or three classrooms that they needed to be the “pitchforks and torches” in Sacramento demanding that state legislators reject SB277.
“Your rights are being ripped from you,” Wakefield said. “Parents are no longer going to be in charge of their own children. This is the fight that has to be taken to Sacramento.”
“Andrew Wakefield is a discredited physician from another country who has come here, and now he’s meddling in our politics and our policies and jeopardizing the health of our children,” said Leah Russin, a Palo Alto mother who founded Vaccinate California, which promotes efforts to make childhood immunizations mandatory.
Russin said she knows of an infant, too young to be immunized, who got measles during this year’s outbreak and may have long-term vision problems now. “That’s crazy,” she said. “And that is Andrew Wakefield’s fault.”
Dr. Art Reingold, a UC Berkeley epidemiologist who helped create national childhood immunization policy, said Wakefield has been a “hero of sorts” to the anti-vaccine community for so long that it’s going to be difficult to break that bond.
“At this point he goes around being a hero to those who are opposed to vaccination,” Reingold said. “Once something is stuck in people’s minds or makes an impression, the subsequent scientific work may not give them the proof they need. You can have a lingering effect that continues to really cause public health harm.”