Offit said he doubted Britain's decision to strip the 53-year-old Wakefield of his medical license would convince many parents that vaccines are safe.
"He's become almost like a Christ-like figure and it doesn't matter that science has proven him wrong," Offit said. "He is a hero for parents who think no one else is listening to them."
Wakefield told The Associated Press Monday's decision was a sad day for British medicine. "None of this alters the fact that vaccines can cause autism," he said.Huffington Post article on Wakefield being struck off
Notice here that the backtracking that occurred immediately after the ruling on what his case series showed, etc., had been fully dropped for the bold statement by Wakefield that vaccines cause autism. Never mind that there's an abundance of science to show this is not the case. Offit characterizes it accurately. These parents will follow Wakefield wherever he chooses to lead them. It doesn't even matter if their ideas line up squarely behind him all the way; a ballpark approximation is close enough for them. It's enough that he too sees a global conspiracy.
The Huffington Post article already has over a thousand comments up on it, both sides of the divide slugging away at each other. Many are familiar faces to the autism related threads over there. Nothing new really is being said between the two camps, although I admit that some of the posts by the regulars on the wackawoo side, if their delusions weren't as serious as they are, would be amusing. It's hard, though, to see anything amusing about people who want to bring down the vaccination program, who see bogeymen behind every immunization yet push crazy treatments and offball ideas, who use jargon yet make clear that their understanding of that jargon is akin to Damon Wayan's character in In Living Color all those years ago.
Give them the benefit of the doubt that their intentions are noble; they want safe vaccines and to "save the children." Their way will harm thousands of children and save not one from autism because autism isn't caused by vaccines. Just as bad as this, though, is that the legitimate claims by people who do suffer adverse reactions to vaccines will not be taken as seriously; calls to make sure that vulnerable populations are identified so they can avoid vaccination will go unheeded, and even if these subpopulations (like those with egg allergies) are safely identified, they will not have the protection of herd immunity because individuals like those attending the rally tomorrow in Chicago would deprive them of it.
This is not a divide that can be bridged. It is not one that should be. Choosing woo, pseudoscience and conspiracies over science, evidence, and rationality is a foolhardy choice, at best. At worst, it is calamity.