Rewards for the High Priest of MMR hysteria: Ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield was struck off after his anti-MMR ‘science’ was debunked – but now he has a millionaire lifestyle with supermodel Elle Macpherson in and STILL preaches his dangerous gospel
- Andrew Wakefield now lives in a gated community in Miami’s millionaire enclave
- He was recently aboard the ‘Conspira-Sea’ cruiser to share conspiracy theories
- Previously directed film that alleged government cover-up over vaccine dangers
Floating off the coast of Mexico, the ‘Conspira-Sea’ cruisers had gathered for a week-long voyage of discovery into their eccentric universe of wacky conspiracy theories.
Speakers at the event, which took place on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, included a ‘global alchemist’ who claimed she’d visited secret colonies on Mars, a man who insisted he’d died and been reborn three times and another who believed that an extraterrestrial species, the ‘Nephalem’, is running the world and that fleets of UFOs can be seen through special goggles.
Oh, yes: and there was also a disgraced British gastroenterologist who believes that the MMR vaccine causes autism.
Andrew Wakefield (pictured with his girlfriend Elle Macpherson in Miami) was a British gastroenterologist who believed that the MMR vaccine causes autism. He moved to the US with his family when he lost his license in the UK
One of Andrew Wakefield’s lectures on the cruise was grandly titled ‘Whistleblowing in the Public Interest’.
As a projector flashed up disturbing images of children born without arms and others screaming in pain, he told his audience: ‘Your bodies are owned by Big Pharma. It’s turning into a science-fiction movie.’
This, he added ominously, ‘will be the end of the United States of America’.
According to an eyewitness, during a Q&A session, Wakefield described the public vaccination policy as a ‘eugenics programme, a deliberate population-control programme’.
Not for nothing do many vaccination experts regard the 61-year-old — who, having been struck off, can no longer call himself a doctor — as the biggest single force behind the alarming fall in vaccination rates.
An eyewitness on the bizarre Conspira-Sea trip said Wakefield looked unhappy to be sharing a platform with crop-circle obsessives, crystal-ball gazers and assorted occupants of interplanetary craft.
Still, the Berkshire-born ex-researcher could at least console himself with the thought that his audience had each paid £2,500 for the week, not including drinks and flights. (His own fee remains undisclosed.)
Wakefield can often be found swanning around a gated community in Miami’s millionaire enclave of Coral Gables. He and his ex-wife, Carmel, own a string of homes between them in the fashionable Texas city of Austin
The man who fled Britain to the U.S. after becoming one of the most reviled doctors of his generation when he fraudulently connected the MMR vaccine to autism is, under the circumstances, not doing too badly nowadays.
He and his ex-wife, Carmel, own a string of homes between them in the fashionable Texas city of Austin, while Wakefield can often be found swanning around a gated community in Miami’s millionaire enclave of Coral Gables.
On his arm is girlfriend Elle ‘The Body’ Macpherson.
The 55-year-old former supermodel and ‘wellness’ expert recently made a reported £45 million from her divorce settlement from her second husband, billionaire property tycoon Jeffrey Soffer.
She spent more than £6.7 million of it on the seven-bedroom mansion, complete with salt-water swimming pool and private boat dock, which has become Wakefield’s second home.
Having ‘The Body’ for a girlfriend might go to any 62-year-old’s head, but Wakefield has other reasons to feel special.
Most doctors who had suffered the mauling he received from the medical and science establishment would have gone into hiding.
Instead, he is holding his head high (at least in some quarters) as the figurehead and intellectual leader of a resurgent anti-vaccine movement which has been blamed for falling vaccination levels not just in Britain and America but around the world.
The ‘Conspira-Sea’ cruisers had gathered for a week-long voyage off the coast of Mexico to share the eccentric universe of wacky conspiracy theories
In 1998, Wakefield and 12 co-authors sensationally published research in The Lancet, a bible to the medical profession, which proposed a link between the triple jab against measles, mumps and rubella and both autism and bowel disease in a study of just 12 children.
At a press conference, Wakefield, then a specialist at London’s Royal Free Hospital, called for a return to three single jabs.
It later emerged that he had financial and ethical conflicts of interest.
The General Medical Council eventually found that he had used children who showed signs of autism as effective guinea pigs, subjecting them to invasive, unpleasant and unnecessary procedures including colonoscopies and lumbar punctures.
At one birthday party, he even paid children £5 each for taking blood from them.
Disgracefully, he took money to prepare evidence for solicitors who wanted to bring cases against vaccine manufacturers.
He also lodged a patent for his own measles vaccine, which he claimed could treat bowel disease.
Wakefield took his first stab at film directing a documentary titled Vaxxed which alleged a government cover-up over vaccine dangers and papered over the cracks of its pseudo-science
In 2010, as it struck him from the medical register, the GMC said Wakefield had acted ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly’ and found him guilty of ‘unethical behaviour, misconduct and fraud’.
Some 21 studies since his Lancet research found no link between vaccines and autism.
Experts believe many parents blame vaccines because the first symptoms of autism often appear when children are about a year old — the age they receive their first MMR jab.
Wakefield, who has always denied wrongdoing, continues to insist he was motivated only by children’s suffering.
Yet, remarkably, his discredited views influence parents around the world, helping to push the ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement that has seen immunisation rates fall in several countries.
By 2010 he had decamped to the U.S. It’s hardly surprising Wakefield should have left his birth country, where the facts of his disgrace are seared into public memory.
What’s shocking to critics is how strongly Wakefield has rebounded, finding a new, frightening influence and — as that cruise made clear — becoming more entrenched in his views.
Experts say if any single person should shoulder the blame for falling vaccination rates and Britain’s loss of measles-free status, it is him.
The U.S. has proved the perfect home for him. Americans are sympathetic to people who want to make a new start and are also particularly susceptible to conspiracy theories, especially when expounded authoritatively by an ex-doctor with a British accent. Most of his supporters are wealthy, middle-class women.
America’s deep distrust of government and big business has provided fertile ground for Wakefield’s insistence that he’s the victim of a plot by ‘Big Pharma’ — the pharmaceutical giants — to protect their highly profitable vaccines, even if it means poisoning us.
Indeed, he has spent the years since his downfall in the UK fanning the flames of vaccine controversy abroad. He has spoken at anti-vaccine conferences internationally, recently in Italy, Croatia and Chicago.
When there have been measles outbreaks in the U.S. among communities sceptical about vaccination, Wakefield has diligently stepped in to counter public health officials’ attempts to encourage people to be immunised.
Since 2010, he has repeatedly visited Minnesota’s large Somali population, warning that vaccination was linked to autism.
In 2017, the community suffered its worst measles outbreak for decades.
When there was an outbreak among the Orthodox Jewish population in New York City earlier this year, Wakefield encouraged vaccine scepticism via a video message.
His presence in Texas has been cited as an explanation for the state’s falling vaccination rates.
Since he arrived, said one study, the rate of Texas children who have not received at least one vaccine has soared by 1,900 per cent.
Social media, where false information can spread like viruses, has been crucial in fuelling the anti-vaccine conspiracy.
Indeed, last year Wakefield said: ‘In [America], it’s become so polarised. No one knows quite what to believe. So, people are turning increasingly to social media.’
He’s not only tweaked his message to make it more appealing to Americans but, as he can no longer practise as a doctor, he has rebranded himself as a film-maker.
His first stab at film directing, the hysterical documentary Vaxxed, alleged a government cover-up over vaccine dangers and papered over the cracks of its pseudo-science with accounts from parents of children who had developed autism shortly after getting jabs.
Vaxxed received a private screening at the Cannes film festival and was distributed in Italy, Poland, Germany and China, earning £1.08 million within a year.
Yet it might have been less high-profile had Hollywood star Robert de Niro not started a furious row by including it in his Tribeca Film Festival in New York in 2016.
The actor, who has an autistic son, was forced to back down after a revolt by other film makers over the film’s scientific credibility. De Niro is one of a gaggle of Hollywood stars and U.S. celebrities who have made anti-vaccine noises.
They include actors Jim Carrey, Jessica Biel, Jenny McCarthy and JFK’s nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Donald Trump, once a vocal vaccine sceptic, invited Wakefield to his inauguration ball. As President, however, he has responded to a resurgence of measles in the U.S. with a U-turn in which he insisted children must be immunised.
Elle Macpherson, who met Wakefield at an alternative-medicine awards ceremony in November 2017, hasn’t publicly come out as an anti-vaxxer.
Although the couple are occasionally photographed together, they are circumspect about their relationship.
On recent holidays in Arizona and Provence, they both posted photos on social media but avoided including each other in the shots.
A friend says Wakefield is ‘deliriously in love’, but Macpherson’s spokesman was quick to shoot down rumours this week that they’re engaged. The ring seen on her engagement finger was an ‘Om’ yoga ring, the spokesman added.
The question of how much Wakefield is earning from all his anti-vaccine proselytising remains somewhat murky.
When I interviewed him three years ago at the time of the film’s release, he insisted he hadn’t ‘earned a cent for three-and-a-half years’ and that he, his wife and their four children had survived on the proceeds of selling their home in Kew, South-West London.
But financial documents indicate Wakefield is far from being on the breadline. He set up the Thoughtful House Centre for Children, an autism centre in Austin, and was paid £228,000 a year from 2005 to 2010 as its executive director.
Other well-remunerated positions have followed, including running autism-connected organisations.
He has also written two books which, given that the Vaxxed Facebook page has 200,000 followers, have likely sold well.
Until their divorce, he and Carmel shared a Tuscan-style home worth £1.017 million in Austin. The Travis County Appraisal office lists three other properties worth a combined £850,000 owned by Wakefield or Carmel.
Since his move to the U.S., Wakefield has attracted a number of wealthy donors, notably New York hedge fund manager Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa, who have emerged as key financial supporters of the anti-vaccine movement.
In recent years, they’ve contributed more than £2.5 million to the cause, including a £170,000 donation to Wakefield’s legal fund as he tried unsuccessfully to sue journalists who questioned his research.
Polly Tommey, a former Wakefield acolyte who followed the tarnished ex-medic to Texas from Britain with her family, assured me Wakefield is no longer regarded as the spiritual leader of the anti-vaxxers.
She insisted he has been replaced by Robert Kennedy Jr, an activist who has alienated his own family with his insistence that vaccines cause autism.
In a parting of the ways she insisted wasn’t ‘a rift’, Mrs Tommey and others are working on a sequel to Vaxxed, due out next month, while Wakefield is making a separate film, believed to be a dramatisation of the MMR-autism controversy.
However, Tara Smith, an infectious diseases expert who has researched the anti-vaccine movement, insists Wakefield ‘is still a big figurehead after rebranding himself as a producer and author’.
Smith added: ‘I see Vaxxed brought up daily in anti-vaccine circles [online]. It does seem to be very convincing to parents who are unsure about vaccines.’
Meanwhile, she said, Wakefield has managed to ‘twist’ his disgrace ‘so he’s a martyr of the system’ and can play on existing scepticism about pharmaceutical companies.
If the Conspira-sea cruise wasn’t proof enough of Wakefield’s readiness to do anything to make money from his controversial claims, it was revealed in 2013 that he had even pitched TV producers in Washington DC with an idea for a reality TV show based around autism.
The Autism Team: Changing Lives involved a team of experts helping parents with autistic children turn their lives around.
Perhaps thankfully, the programme was never made.
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