Published on January 1st, 2018 | by Erin Lehn Floresca0
Beyond the Headlines of Autism and Vaccines
Interview by Lainie Sevante Wulkan Edited by Erin Lehn Floresca
Lainie Sevante’ Wulkan, host of Zeta Global Radio on BBS Radio Network, recently caught up with Andrew Wakefield, former medical researcher, author and filmmaker to find out more about the man behind one of the most highly controversial topics of modern medicine—the possibility of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Wakefield, a Britain expat currently living in Austin, Texas, was brought into the media spotlight as one of the co-authors of a notorious 1998 paper published in The Lancet, a renowned U.K. medical journal, suggesting this connection. Since then, he has since become the face of the anti-vaccination movement. In 2016, Wakefield released his provocative documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe. He is also the subject of director Miranda Bailey’s recent documentary film The Pathological Optimist.
Lainie Sevante’ Wulkan: I really wanted to talk to you about your life beyond the media spotlight and what it means to walk the path of consciousness—a path of total transparency. I’ve seen what it’s like to have the media suddenly turn your life in an entirely different direction. What was it like for you?
Andrew Wakefield: We all have choices we’ve faced and we can go one way or another and we don’t fully anticipate the consequences. But I was faced with a compelling story from parents of children who had been extensively damaged by vaccines… and there was a clear pattern of what was going on. And I was confronted with the Dean of the medical school who said “if you continue this work, this vaccine safety research, it will not be good for your career.” And I had a number of my colleagues in paediatrics as well who said something that really, to this day, perplexes me. And these were eminent paediatricians that said we cannot be seen to question the safety of the MMR vaccine. That wasn’t a medical view or a scientific viewpoint. That was purely self-preservation.
LSW: But that was their own perception of how they believed you would be perceived. Correct? Or they knew that to be a fact?
AW: As paediatricians, the statement stood that we cannot be seen to question the safety of the MMR vaccine and so that was the point at which I had to make a decision—do I work with public health and the pharmaceutical industry or do I work with the children who have no voice but who have been damaged by these vaccines and until proven otherwise. And so, that was the crossroads.
LSW: Let’s talk about your opening scene in the new documentary The Pathological Optimist.
AW: I think the opening scene had me doing yoga.
LSW: It made me think “we’re just getting a glimpse into who he is and it’s just authentic.”
AW: I just fell in love with yoga and it was a wonderful way of not only getting physical exercise but, also, it was much more spiritual. I realized that the yoga mat is a place where you could stop thinking about the world and let the cares and troubles of everyday life just disappear for an hour or so and revitalize you and help you to deal with things. So I just got more and more into it. I’ve been called to teach yoga to the autism community, to children and young adults affected by autism. For me, it’s been a wonderful journey and I feel better now than I have felt in a very long time.
LSW: I really receive that in what you’ve been through on this journey that you’ve had to maintain some sort of practice to stay grounded and in your center.
AW: One of the things I came to terms with is the fact that it’s not about you. They focus on you. They attack you, they insult you— but it’s not about you. Once you realize how insignificant you are, it becomes extremely enlightening. It’s a relief. You look up the night sky and the universe is massive, absolutely extraordinary, and you realize how tiny, how irrelevant you are to everything. A lot of people would find this challenging; I find it absolutely liberating. Once you realize it’s not about you at all, you’re just irrelevant, then you can get on with the job.
To hear the full interview, visit ZetaGlobalRadio.com. This article is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily express the opinions of Natural Awakenings magazine.