The heroic Andy Wakefield

The New York Times has a long profile of Andrew Wakefield. It’s not at all laudatory (read the last paragraph in particular), but it does include quotes from people who regard Wakefield as a hero…and even something more.

“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” says J. B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue, a group that disputes vaccine safety. “He’s a symbol of how all of us feel.”

Handley, of course, is a certifiable kook and an awful excuse for a human being. I am amused that he sees Wakefield as a Jesus, though; there doesn’t seem to be much self-sacrifice in Wakefield’s past or any prospect of martyrdom in his future. Jesus did say “suffer the little children,” though, which we can quotemine to apply appropriately to these promoters of childhood mortality.

After reading about callous fraud Wakefield, though, you need some context. How about this?

Europe, especially France, has been hit by a major outbreak of measles, which the U.N. health agency is blaming on the failure to vaccinate all children.

The World Health Organization said Thursday that France had 4,937 reported cases of measles between January and March — compared with 5,090 cases during all of 2010. In all, more than 6,500 cases have been reported in 33 European nations.

“This is a lot of cases, to put it mildly. In past years we’ve had very few cases,” said Rebecca Martin, head of WHO’s office in Copenhagen for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization.

“There’s been a buildup of children who have not been immunized over the years,” she said. “It’s almost like a threshold. When you have enough people who have not been immunized, then outbreaks can occur.”

Wakefield’s body count is much higher than Jesus’s or Mandela’s.