Andrew Wakefield, the godfather of the modern anti-vaccine movement, is spreading disinformation about the COVID vaccine, falsely claiming that the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna are a form of genetic engineering. Like all good liars, he mixes a tiny bit of truth into a sea of lies.
Andrew Wakefield is the disgraced former doctor who was kicked off the UK's medical register following his fraudulent research that claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. He is, in many ways, the godfather of the modern anti-vaccine movement.
As if he hasn't done enough damage already, he's back, this time spreading blatant disinformation about the COVID vaccines that utilize mRNA. (As a reminder, here's how an mRNA vaccine works.) A video of an interview with him on NewTube was circulating on Twitter. Let's dissect the lies. Like all good liars, he starts off well enough:
"Messenger RNA is an intermediary between the gene and the product, the protein. It's the protein that ultimately elicits the immune response."
So far, so good. Wakefield demonstrates a baseline understanding of Biology 101, namely that genes encode proteins via messenger RNA. But he quickly goes off the rails.
"By definition, an RNA vaccine isn't a vaccine at all because it doesn't elicit an immune response. It has to be turned into protein, and it's the protein in turn that creates the immune response."
Huh? Wakefield just said (correctly) that the RNA vaccine makes the cell produce a protein that elicits an immune response. Now, he says that the RNA vaccine isn't a real vaccine because it elicits an immune response indirectly rather than directly. This is nonsensical and self-contradictory. Regardless of mechanism, anything that intentionally elicits an immune response can be thought of as a vaccine.
"A messenger RNA vaccine is actually genetic engineering. That's what it is."
No, it's not. This is a gigantic lie. Wakefield is purposefully misusing the term "genetic engineering," which involves the permanent alteration of an organism's genetic material. That is accomplished by changing the DNA. Messenger RNA vaccines do not do that. Furthermore, there is no biologically plausible way for them to do that.
"What could possibly go wrong? You have cells in your own body that are producing protein to which your immune system is going to mount an immune response. That's called an autoimmune disease."
NO. This is another monumental lie. An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system attacks your own body. The mRNA vaccines elicit an immune response that attacks the coronavirus, not your body. Wakefield is again misusing a well-understood term.
"The potential for this to go horribly wrong is enormous."
That's true for any vaccine. It's also why we do clinical trials. Each approved vaccine so far has undergone Phase III trials that involved well over 30,000 people. (Compare that to the 12 volunteers used in Wakefield's fraudulent vaccine-autism paper.)
"We're already seeing some major problems occurring... there have been deaths that have just been reported."
Another incredible lie. Yes, deaths occurred, but they had nothing to do with the vaccines. Four of the deaths were in the placebo group and only two were in the vaccine group. Why did the volunteers die? Because sometimes people die. These clinical trials involve 30,000+ people, so obviously some of them will die during the course of the experiment, especially if they enroll elderly people.
Imagine following a group of people who attended a Major League Baseball game. Very likely, a few of the people who attended will be dead within months of the game. Why? Because everybody attends baseball games, including elderly people, and sometimes people die. It had nothing to do with the baseball game. The same is true of large clinical trials.
"If it causes a problem -- a year, two years, five years down the line -- and it's already been given to billions of people worldwide, it's too late. You can't take it out. You can't switch it off. You can't stop it. It's in there."
Wrong again. Messenger RNA degrades very quickly, around 600 minutes (10 hours) in human cells. If it didn't, our cells would crank out too much protein. So, our cells get rid of mRNA molecules after they're no longer needed. The same is true of the mRNA used in the COVID vaccine.
"It's rather like Jurassic Park that is about to escape the island."
I'm done. I'm not even four minutes into this 10-minute video, and I risk suffering brain damage if I continue watching. Wakefield's commentary is right in line with his abhorrent behavior in regard to vaccines in the 1990s.