CDC: “Thank you, Sallie, May We Have Another?”

27 Sep

A CDC study released yesterday found no evidence to support “a causal association between early exposure to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immune globulins and deficits in neuropsychological functioning at the age of 7 to 10 years.” In other words, vaccines don’t scramble your brain.

The study didn’t examine autism as an outcome, although that is almost certainly what it was intended to get at. Instead, it looked for whether children’s exposure to thimerosal before birth or in infancy had any relationship to their later performance on 42 standardized tests which one would expect to be affected by autism. For each of the 1,047 children in the study, the researchers assessed speech and language; verbal memory; achievement (letter and word identification); fine motor coordination; visuospatial ability; attention and executive function; behavior regulation; tics; and general intellectual functioning.

CDC tried so hard. They invited one of the queen mercury moms, Sallie Bernard of “SAFEMINDs,” to participate in the planning of the study. They brought on a panel of outside advisors. The team spent at least two years administering forty-seven separate tests to each of the children and analyzing and writing up the results. They printed every piece of data generated in a companion volume to the published study.

They got kicked in the teeth, but don’t feel bad for them. They should have known better.

The autism-vaccine contingent has responded by spluttering about the study not having been large or random enough, and by accusing the researchers of being biased and of ignoring important associations in the data. It’s no news that these people don’t believe anything that comes from CDC – they’ve said as much, very clearly. But one would think that if you let the antivaxers in on the process from day one, if you were totally transparent, they couldn’t object, could they? They’d have to see the light when the results came back and say, “Well! I guess it’s not the vaccines after all!”

CDC, if you really thought that would happen, you were so, so wrong.

The appearance is that Sallie Bernard was going along with all this up until the day the results came in and – shockingly! – showed thimerosal didn’t do one bit of harm. If she’d thought from the outset, as a SAFEMINDs press release now claims, that there weren’t enough kids in the study or the sampling were biased, does anybody think this gadfly would have nodded and smiled and gone right along with it?

No, everything was fine and dandy as long as she was enjoying being fawned over as a “representative of the autism community” and a fellow-scientist instead of the commercial marketer she actually is. Here’s a clue, Sallie: If you’re going to play scientist, you have to follow the rules of science, and that means you stand by your results. You don’t get to say “heads I win, tails you lose” by waiting to see the outcome before deciding whether the study was any good.

And you really don’t get to have CDC at your beck and call, spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to do a study to your specifications, then turn around and call them liars when you don’t like how it comes out.

And you, CDC? You’re not just a victim here. Every time you say “let’s do more research” or “we are examining this issue” in order to appease the mercury moms, you increase the chances that kids will go unvaccinated because you failed to give their parents confidence in the safety of vaccines. When you say a study is reassuring and then highlight what is virtually certain to have been a chance finding (a statistical association between higher thimerosal exposure and transient tics in boys) without making it abundantly clear that some false associations were inevitable given the study design, you defeat the purpose of doing the study. People who understand statistics weren’t the ones who needed to be convinced thimerosal is safe; the antivax crowd will never be convinced no matter what. You needed to speak to the well-meaning parents who worry about the rumors they hear at playgroup, and not only did you give them something new to worry about and whiff the opportunity to show them that the likes of Sallie Bernard are all about the rhetoric – you managed to tee up for yet another round of Righteous Long-Suffering Parents vs. Heartless Government Scientists.

Haven’t you learned yet who wins that one? Or are you going to invite Sallie back for another round of research?

Postscript: More commentary on this study by Arthur Allen, Orac, Joseph, Interverbal, and Kristina Chew.

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31 Responses to “CDC: “Thank you, Sallie, May We Have Another?””

  1. Sullivan September 27, 2007 at 05:49 #

    Expect some Geier-ed version of data analysis to cook the public data to come out shortly.

    Also, keep this in mind: the sky could open up to a large bearded face with a booming voice saying, “Arthur, King of the Britons. Mercury does not cause autism.”

    The answer would be, “well, God didn’t have a large enough sample size. Also, he is obviously being paid by Big Pharma.”

  2. Ms.Clark September 27, 2007 at 08:01 #

    Thank you, isles.

    The CDC has made ridiculous mistakes in this who mercury-mom and ambulance-chaser driven mess. And still, if a non-psycho parent wanted to discuss autism with them, they’d have a very difficult time, but if Sallie Bernard or some ding-bat from Autism Speaks wants to talk, you can bet someone would pick up the phone.

    It’s time to put a “not welcome” mat out for Sallie/Sally and her friends.

    Here’s Autism Speaks statement.
    http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science_news/nejm_thimerosal.php
    **Although the general study conclusions are supported by the data presented and are consistent with past findings, given the significant study limitations and some of the intriguing albeit inconclusive associations involving behavioral regulation and tics, this study isn’t and shouldn’t be seen as the “last word” on the topic. If anything, it is a great example why we must take a systematic, rigorous approach to the science involved if there is ever going to be hope for a compelling and satisfactory answer. Just as important is the understanding that in science, it is rare that any given study would deliver a definitive conclusion. The prudent and scientifically responsible thing to do is to evaluate multiple lines of evidence and look at the totality of the data before drawing any conclusion, especially when it comes to something as complex a scientific challenge as this.**

    **While the study does not specifically examine the link between thimerosal and autism spectrum disorders, it does explore neuropsychological functioning, such as language development, attention, and fine motor coordination, that are affected in some individuals with autism. The Centers for Disease Control are currently studying the potential association between autism and thimerosal and are expected to report findings next year.**

    I had expected that Autism Speaks would put out two press releases, one bashing the CDC and one praising it….
    Instead they put out one mildly commenting on the study and linked to the SAFE MINDS’ statement which of course if full of bitter recriminations.

    Sally/Sallie is part of both SAFE (hermetically sealed) MINDS **and** Autism Speaks (with Forked Tongue). So she got to speak twice with her own forked tongue and the voice of the CDC’s member of Autism Speaks was probably drowned out by the high pitched whining of the Chief Operating Mercury Daughter.

    Right now on the Autism Speaks main page they have a link to something about Jenny McCarthy and this announcement about the CDC study. (rolls eyes)

  3. Joseph September 27, 2007 at 13:55 #

    After this, I don’t think the CDC will try to appease the mercury militia any longer. It’s futile. They are not interested in science or facts. All they want is their beliefs confirmed so they can use that as evidentiary support in court. I don’t even believe they are all that interested in the actual etiology of autism.

  4. Gabrielle September 27, 2007 at 14:00 #

    Not to change the subject – but I just saw Jenny Mccarthy on Larry King last night and was horrified. I have a 17 year old very high functioning high school senior – totally mainstreamed. Of course this took years to achieve, and we tried all the garbage she was talking about and none of it worked. I remember the feeling of desperation and desire to try anything that might work. I feel she is doing damage here. Any other parents want to share their feelings with me? I just thought she seemed crazy. Also, I am new to this blog, it is very interesting!

  5. Isles September 27, 2007 at 14:47 #

    Sullivan – exactly.

    Autism Speaks sounds just like CDC. “Let’s do another study!” There’ll never be enough evidence for them. Resources that could actually be helping people are lost.

    Joseph – let’s hope so. Studying thimerosal (or MMR for that matter) is a no-win proposition for science.

    Gabrielle, glad you’ve found this site! And if you like this one, you’ll probably enjoy others from the Autism Hub: http://www.autism-hub.org

  6. Sullivan September 27, 2007 at 17:39 #

    The short version of the problem (as I see it) is this:

    Research is supposed to be looking at causes and treatments for autism.

    Sally Bernard, SafeMinds, et al. would like to focus research on how mercury causes autism and treatments for mercury induced autism.

    It just isn’t a good way to do research.

  7. Schwartz September 27, 2007 at 20:45 #

    Can we get past the belly-aching and address the real complaints? Unless you are from the CDC, you don’t know the politics of what went on, and so most of this is conjecture.

    This article and the comments here are all complaining about press releases and study conclusions.

    Can someone come out and say that the 30% participation rate is generally acceptable? (I don’t actually know)

    Can someone come out and say that it is valid to draw these types of conclusions from a cohort study? (I’ve heard a lot about epidemiology studies, but not this type)

    Can someone address the lack of adjustment for early intervention treatments? — I must admit, I was surprised they didn’t try to address this one.

    Can someone address the short period of Thimerosal exposure? (This is one of the bigger issues in my mind.)

    Personally, I get the impression that the sample sizes in the key areas of interest, were just too small to draw any useful conclusions.

    The study itself lists these exact issues in the text:

    “Our study had several limitations. A majority of the selected families declined to participate or could not be located, and we were able to enroll only 30% of the subjects included for recruitment. Therefore, our findings may have been influenced by selection bias. In addition, we were not able to control for interventions, such as speech therapy, that may have ameliorated the potential negative effects of thimerosal exposure and could have biased the results toward the null hypothesis. Given that parents were not trained to assess tics, the parental ratings of tics may have been less reliable than the ratings by trained evaluators. We did not assess exposure to thimerosal beyond 214 days. Finally, the information available for some potential confounding factors, such as family income, which may have resulted in unmeasured residual confounding, was imprecise. Our study did not examine the possible association between autism and exposure to mercury from vaccines and immune globulins.”

    The effort that the CDC applied to the study is not relevant to the discussion of the study itself. What is being questioned very clearly here, is does the data and it’s quality as presented in the study, provide enough evidence to justify the conclusions written in the study and press release.

    No one here has addressed that point. Isn’t that the point of critical thinking?

  8. Ms.Clark September 27, 2007 at 21:11 #

    30% is very acceptable participation because they didn’t compensate the patients in any way for their time. That is typical of a study where you don’t compensate patients, so a study participants’ rights expert told me.

    think about it. Also the bias would be toward people who had kids with some kinds of symptoms to join the study and for kids without symptoms to not enter the study.

    The data was as likely to show thimerosal caused gains as well as losses.

    Everyone refuses to look at the gains, tossing them aside as nothing, but will blow up the losses (tics) as a massive destruction of a generation of young boys who are now burdened with life destroying tics (see David Kirby on Huffpoof).

    Oh, yeah, for some reason no one noticed this epidemic of tics when it was happening, or that it’s dropped out of sight since removing the thimerosal from vaccines.

    Give me a break. The study showed no problems with thimerosal and the mercury phobes are crawling out of their skin in anger over it, it doesn’t matter how credible the study is, if it goes against them it’s the work of the DEVIL!! !! !!! !! Thank you Sallie/Sally Bernard for being so predictable.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arthur-allen/thimerosal-vindicated-in-_b_66143.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/27/health/27vaccine.html?_r=1&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/H/Harris,%20Gardiner&oref=slogin

  9. Joseph September 27, 2007 at 21:58 #

    Generation Rescue’s survey had a participation rate of about 20% in the vaccinated group, and maybe more in the unvaccinated group, not clear how much. That discrepancy in itself is pretty bad. But the way it was selected is the major issue. That is, the survey clearly selected parents with certain views.

    In the CDC study, while there might be some sort of selection bias, it’s not clear what that might be. How did they approach the potential subjects? Could they be selecting parents who believed thimerosal caused their kids issues? This would work against the null hypothesis.

    For a significant selection bias to exist in the CDC survey, parents would have to be generally aware whether the specific vaccines their kids had contained thimerosal. This seems like a stretch.

  10. Joseph September 27, 2007 at 22:06 #

    I should say ‘at most 20%’. Could be a lot lower, but GR hasn’t released that information.

  11. Schwartz September 28, 2007 at 13:55 #

    I’m glad someone else thinks that the % enrollment can only potentially invite selection bias, but that the actual number enrolled is what really matters for sample size.

    I find it interesting that people continue to say Sallie Bernard did not complain until after the study results were known. How do you know what discussions occured during study design, and execution? Let’s deal with what we know as fact.

    The biggest contention that no one seems to be discussing is if the concluding statement is supported by the evidence in the study.

    I tend to agree with the analysis that these results show little to no correlation between thimerosal exposure in any of the items studied. The few outliers both positive and negative, seem likely to be noise.

    Does the absolute sample size, exposure distribution, and type of study justify the concluding statements written and publically published?

    Is the sample representative of typical exposures in the US during the time period?

    This is really what it appears Sallie is complaining about and this should be what people should be focussing on. Not the rhetorical crap being published.

  12. Isles September 28, 2007 at 15:27 #

    Schwartz, if Sallie had actually been interested in the science, she would have raised her objections loudly before the study went forward. Note that her pals at the anti-vaccine PAC “A-CHAMP” broke the Journal’s embargo with a release damning the study…hmm, wonder where they got access to it! You don’t have to have insider information to figure this one out.

    The issue is that Sallie, a non-scientist, is raising a hue and cry over a paper that dozens of actual scientists signed off on; some from CDC, some external. Is she a better statistician than all of them put together? Or is she trying to smear a perfectly good bit of science because it doesn’t favor her cause?

  13. Joseph September 28, 2007 at 15:35 #

    The biggest contention that no one seems to be discussing is if the concluding statement is supported by the evidence in the study.

    It absolutely is. In no study that I have seen will the authors say “Well, we can’t conclude anything because there may or may not be some confounds, not sure about that though.”

    The study concludes that its results cannot support a causal association. This is absolutely true and absolutely what had to be reported.

    I’m also skeptical whether the proposed confounds exist at all, and if they exist, whether they are more than negligible. And the reason I believe this is that the results are very statistically consistent with the null hypothesis. The best explanation for this is that the null hypothesis is true.

  14. Kev September 28, 2007 at 16:32 #

    _”I find it interesting that people continue to say Sallie Bernard did not complain until after the study results were known. How do you know what discussions occured (sic) during study design, and execution? Let’s deal with what we know as fact.”_

    What we know as fact is that if Sally felt the study was designed badly she would’ve hollered it loud and clear way before now. SafeMinds have never been backward in coming forward before.

    Or, to put it another way, she’s a crybaby who doesn’t like the results of a study she tacitly endorsed the design of.

  15. Schwartz September 28, 2007 at 17:44 #

    Kev,

    Can’t you see that you’re are guessing like everyone else? You have no evidence, only observation of past experience. Has she ever been an advisor for a CDC study before?

    What if she signed a non-disclosure that was in effect during the study? I could easily believe that could be a requirement of participation.

  16. Schwartz September 28, 2007 at 18:35 #

    “It absolutely is. In no study that I have seen will the authors say “Well, we can’t conclude anything because there may or may not be some confounds, not sure about that though.””

    Joseph,

    Since the conclusions of many if not most studies often turn out to be incorrect later, what the authors write isn’t the question.

    What matters is a critical analysis of whether what they wrote is supported by the evidence provided.

    I agree completely with the concluding statment you provided. It appears to be quite accurate.

    However, the conclusion should have qualified the limitations of the study itself. Including limitations of studies in the conclusions is common practice — I have seen it many times, and these are notably absent here and in the press release.

    The point of contention really comes from the public text accompanying this conclusion:

    “The findings from this study suggest that exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines does not reduce neuropsychological functioning in children.”

    Again, this text is not accompanied by any study limitations (which should be standard practice) and that immediately makes it misleading. Additionally, the issue of selection bias, small sample size, and confounding factors, definately limit the scope of the conclusions IMO.

    So there appears to be some validity to SOME of the complaints. (I don’t support the 30% complaint, nor the minute association with some minor negative effects complaints).

    I’m also not sure what you mean by this:

    “I’m also skeptical whether the proposed confounds exist at all, and if they exist, whether they are more than negligible. And the reason I believe this is that the results are very statistically consistent with the null hypothesis. The best explanation for this is that the null hypothesis is true.”

    You’re basically saying that you don’t think the confounding factors are real (despite the fact that the authors admitted them) because the result is consistent with what you already pre-determined to be true? Your argument here isn’t sounding very scientific unless I misread your intention.

    Let’s just address the confounding factor for a moment. If I had a child that was interviewed between 7-10 years of age, that originally had a developmental speech delay. However, he was enrolled in 2 years of speech therapy at age 3-4 after which he managed to catch up to his peers. From what I understand, that information would not show up in this study and that would be a hidden result. That is a huge problem because 7 years is a long time to address many developmental or even physical delays that might have been caused by the exposure.

    IMO, one of the biggest problems I have with studies like this (and they are all over the place) is that we aren’t able to put the samples into the overall context.

    We can’t answer the following questions:
    How do these childrens’ (based on the selection bias) exposures compare to the calculated average for people of that age?

    How does the choice to only calculate 0-7 months exposure compare to projected peak Thimerosal exposure to children between 0-2 years old?

    We also have to note the stated conflicts of interest as most of the study authors have financial dependencies on the Pharamaceuticals manufacturing the vaccines. I’m not accusing anyone of fraud, but it is widely acknowledged that conflicts of interest tend to bias results.

    So we have acknowledged selection bias, confounding factors, some conflict of interest, small sample size of participants of interest, and little context to compare the study group with the greater population — not even in the discussion. We also have a limit of exposure analysis to 7 months only, even though heavy vaccinations continue through to 24 months. Without a greater context, it is difficult to understand the impact of this decision, but I personally was surprised at the limited scope.

    In favour, we have a very thorough assessment of the individuals, the selection bias appears to be relatively limited and the evaluations of both exposure and a wide variety of assessments appear to be quite thorough. Unfortunately, the most thorough analysis won’t matter, if the counding factors have already taken effect.

    One very interesting point to me is that they notably did NOT reference the numerous flawed epidemiology studies often quoted by Thimerosal proponents. I think some people here should take a lesson from that one.

    I agree with the limited conclusion, and I think this study adds some value to a growing body of evidence. However, due to the significant number of limitations in the design itself, (specifically the short exposure period, and the confounding factors) the weight of the evidence is quite low and does not add any substantial evidence to support the null hypothesis.

    I also agree with the complaints that the conclusions, discussion and the press release are lacking the appropriate disclaimers based on the limitations of the study. No surprise there, because we alrady pointed out the risk of bias.

  17. Joseph September 28, 2007 at 19:07 #

    Swartz,

    The study looked at 378 measures. From this I would expect that 378 x 5 / 100 (= 18.9) 1.0 RRs would be outside the 95% confidence interval, if the null hypothesis is true.

    The study happened to find 19 with this issue. (David Kirby is still trying to figure out this part as we speak.) They were pretty evenly divided between protective factors and risk factors.

    In other words, the results fit a null effect like a glove. (One thing I’ve learned from this study is that confidence intervals really work.)

    So we have two possible explanations for these results:

    1) There is a real risk factor or a real protective factor, but there is a confound that exactly offsets the risk/protective factors such that it gives the appearance that the null hypothesis is true.

    2) The null hypothesis is true.

    I’d tend to believe #2 (Occam’s razor).

    As to the specific confounds proposed, the one that mentions speech therapy is weak. First, speech therapy is not going to make speech delays completely disappear in 100% of children treated. Second, that probably only affects one or a few of the 42 outcomes measured.

    The 30% participation confound is also probably weak. What has been mentioned is that parents of children with neurological issues would be less likely to participate. Clearly, a significant number did participate, otherwise statistical significance in the outcomes would be impossible. Among those children with the outcomes, a thimerosal trend should’ve been noticed if there was any.

    It’s like I noted in my criticism of the GR survey. I don’t care if there’s low participation, as long as the participation rates behave in the same manner in the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups. That’s why I suggested that the survey introduction should not mention vaccines or health outcomes.

  18. Schwartz September 28, 2007 at 20:53 #

    Joseph,

    I think we agree on most points here. I agree completely that % enrollement factor is relatively benign, and that the selection bias is limited.

    I also agree that the outcomes observed show no significant correlation at all (I’ll diverge from Kirby and Safeminds on that one right now).

    I am concerned that the sample size in the low exposure cohorts (is that the right term?) are quite small and thus there isn’t a good control of children with no to marginal exposure. I do think that speech delays can be corrected pretty easily. There are many children that have speech development delays, that are completely eliminated after treatment or after a number of years without treatment.

    I am also disappointed by some of the exclusion criteria, especially regarding the Preterm exposure period.

    Specifically children with drug reactions (I assume Vaccines fall into this) were all excluded, and that is very unfortunate. Other exclusions of interest include: CNS Dysfunction, Gastric Anomaly.

    This just highlights the fact that this study does not address the overall safety of Thimerosal at all, and only asks the question whether Thimerosal exposure is correlated to specific Neurological problems without any other associated problems. That clause at the end further limits the applicability of the study. If Thimerosal is even slightly related to Neurological problems but strongly related to other health issues, this study would not detect it as the exclusion list is quite long.

    I think we both agree with your final statement: “That’s why I suggested that the survey introduction should not mention vaccines or health outcomes.”

    As for Occams razor, I peronally find that life is a lot more complicated than I ever imagined. :)

  19. Schwartz September 28, 2007 at 21:23 #

    Isles:

    “Schwartz, if Sallie had actually been interested in the science, she would have raised her objections loudly before the study went forward. Note that her pals at the anti-vaccine PAC “A-CHAMP” broke the Journal’s embargo with a release damning the study…hmm, wonder where they got access to it! You don’t have to have insider information to figure this one out.”

    Read you own posts here. You’re not providing evidence, you’re asking more questions, that you can answer by doing a little homework.

    If you read the study text, at the very bottom, you’ll note that they thank Sallie and specifically note her as a dissenting member.

    “We thank Xian-Jie Yu of … ; and external consultants Anne Abramowitz, Thomas Campbell, Lorne Garretteson, Roberta White, Robert Wright, and Sallie Bernard (dissenting member).”

    That pretty much blows away the majority of your rant in the article (and a rant is what it is, not science, not critical analysis).

    They obviously knew she was a dissenting member, and thus she must have made her opinions known. You’ll also note, that it does not define the level or timing of the involvement of the members, so you can only guess as to the sequence of events and to how much information she was given at specific points in time. Again, from the text, it looks like the consultants were engaged in the design of the study, and since she was listed as dissenting, she would seem to have communicated issues with the protocol well in advance of the study execution and publication.

    You also have no idea how hard the CDC tried (as you assert in your article). I find it interesting given the huge number of exclusion criteria (which is severely understated in the discussion section) that they couldn’t have included more candidates but used statistics to both account for the known factors, and to look for other correlations (something other good studies try to do). I question how hard they really tried.

    “The issue is that Sallie, a non-scientist, is raising a hue and cry over a paper that dozens of actual scientists signed off on; some from CDC, some external. Is she a better statistician than all of them put together? Or is she trying to smear a perfectly good bit of science because it doesn’t favor her cause?”

    Uh oh, don’t tell me you’re going to fall in the same trap as Tommy did a couple weeks ago by believing that peer-review = good science. Go back to his post and read the comments because I’m tired of re-posting the overwhelming body of evidence that this idea is patently false.

    I also didn’t see any smearing going on. She clearly articulated her issues, about half of which I agree with, and the other half I don’t. I do not find it eggregious by any means, especially related to a study with such a limited scope of applicability.

    I also find it interesting that you feel only scientists can practise or evaluate science. Again, I will re-iterate on this forum, it does not matter who publishes scientific data or a scientific review. The data or review should be analyzed based on it’s own merits, not based on who wrote it — another failure of due to lack of critical thinking.

    As for statistics, she made no claims about statistics that the study authers didn’t say themselves, so your rhetorical question about her being a better statiscian is completely irrelevant to this discussion.

    I can safely conclude that a little less rant and a little more evidence, science and critical thinking would be the prescription on both sides of this argument.

    Looking this over, your own post contains far more conjecture, and obvious errors than her public statement of the study.

  20. isles September 29, 2007 at 03:13 #

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/27/health/27vaccine.html?_r=1

    “Ms. Bernard served on a board of consultants that helped design and oversee the study, but she withdrew her support for the published version of the study, saying its conclusions were not supported by the underlying data.”

    Sallie versus a host of scientists does not invite a referendum on the value of the peer review process. It invites rotten tomatoes directed at Ms. Bernard, who deserves every last splat.

  21. Schwartz September 29, 2007 at 05:30 #

    Isles,

    Too bad you can’t tell who is saying those words. You still have a bunch of unsubstantiated allegations. You don’t know what information was provided to her. You don’t know what information she provided in return. You also don’t know when she expressed her dissenting opinion.

    Who is the one smearing here?

  22. Schwartz September 29, 2007 at 05:35 #

    “Sallie versus a host of scientists does not invite a referendum on the value of the peer review process.”

    You are absolutely correct. This statement does: “The issue is that Sallie, a non-scientist, is raising a hue and cry over a paper that dozens of actual scientists signed off on; some from CDC, some external.”

    Again, supporting an argument about a published study based on who wrote it is pretty pointless. Why not argue the specifics of the issues raised? I think I know the answer.

  23. Kev September 29, 2007 at 06:15 #

    Schwartz, I’m sorry, I appreciate your desire to be plausible but you’re not.

    If you seriously believe that:

    a) Sally Bernard wouldn’t have hollered about the terrible study before now

    or

    b) that peer review doesn’t equate to a better standard of science

    then I can only conclude that you’ve been smoking crack.

    Being sceptical is one thing. Being sceptical to the point of unreality is just being silly.

  24. Joseph September 29, 2007 at 13:54 #

    I don’t think Sallie Bernard has an reasonable excuse for this. If she does, let’s hear it. What did she think the conclusions of the study should say? That expected random fluctuations might be actual effects? That theoretical and unlikely confounds (known before the results) invalidate the study altogether?

    Obviously, the only reason she dissented is that she didn’t like the results.

    Are we to believe that if the results had shown an actual risk effect, she would’ve dissented because of potential confounds? Come on.

    At this point, SafeMinds is no longer SafeMinds. It’s ClosedMinds. I’d normally try to be polite in these discussions, but in this case things have gone far enough, and I can only conclude SafeMinds is composed of a bunch of closed-minded assholes. The CDC should not even give the time of day from now on. Let them talk among themselves on EOHarm. The Omnibus hearings should be dismissed with prejudice.

  25. Schwartz September 29, 2007 at 18:17 #

    Kev,

    Unlike Isles, a blogger from another site has actually provided more specific information (Interverbal) obtained personally that the dissent was not registered until the end of the trial. Given that knowledge, I support any criticism leveled at Sally regarding the study design as she had the opportunity to comment on it.

    However, I don’t see how you can blame someone for dissenting on the basis of the Concluding dialog since that would not have been known until the end. Again, a number of her criticisms revolve around the wording of the conclusions, and some of those are valid IMO.

    As for this: “b) that peer review doesn’t equate to a better standard of science”

    When will you stop using peer review to justify the results of a study? Do we need to review all the studies of the peer review process so see that it does not guarantee good science? I’m not advocating that peer review be scrapped because I think it’s a good thing as far as process is concerned. I also think it needs to be overhauled to make it more effective. However, when analyzing details of SPECIFIC studies and cases, the peer review is irrelevent as evidence in support of the conclusions if only because the process itself was not published or available for public review. That’s pretty fundamental.

    Joseph,

    You’re one of the most articulate/accurate posters here, so I am surprised at the vehemence. I come to this site to gather and understand logical well presented arguments in the Autism-Vaccination debate as well as learning more about Autism itself.

    I originally got hooked into the debate many years ago, not because of Autism, but because I was doing research to help me decide whether and how to vaccinate my own children. These days, the debate mostly centers around autism (has plusses and minus’) so that is why I’m here.

    What does not aid debate, are allegations, conjecture and questions of conspiracy without providing real data or even first hand personal information. The sad part is that commentary like this article tend to totally distract from some beneficial discussion of the study itself (which the author assumed was 100 correct and accurate based on peer-review mind you).

    Why not discuss the actual merits of the study because all the information is available and published for us to discuss?

    Since only a few people actually know the sequence of events, personal communications, the rest of us can only guess at the sequence of events and make allegations.

    What I can confidently say right now, is that any comments from Sallie about the study design is not justified given she reviewed the design (unless it was modified after the review — but I have nothing to suggest that it was).

    I personally find the concluding statements to be farther reaching than the evidence provided in the study. There is no earlier time to dissent to the concluding statements until after they are written.

    “The Omnibus hearings should be dismissed with prejudice.”

    This I find a bit shocking. Why do you feel that no one has the right to have their case heard in a scientific hearing as they are entitled to by the system and the law? And remember, if you want to win that argument, you need to provide specifics, because every case is different. From what I read of the first hearing there was more than enough evidence in the Cedillo case to justify a hearing. (PLEASE NOTE: I didn’t say find in favour of, just to justify a hearing)

  26. Joseph September 29, 2007 at 19:22 #

    The last sentence of what I said was unrelated to anything else, yeah. (I still think it would be a good idea though.) But I stand by my position that Sallie Bernard has absolutely no excuse to have dissented, would not have dissented if the results had been different, and that the conclusion is exactly what it should’ve been. I’m sure it was a very well though out conclusion. Note that it doesn’t say anything has been disproved. It simply states that the study does not support a causal association. It does not, in any way shape or form. Theoretical confounds and such are noted in the paper. They even explain quite well why the recruitment was what it was, and most importantly, they note that exposure distribution was similar in the selected group compared to the entire sample. This is a key indication that there was no selection bias.

  27. Schwartz September 30, 2007 at 06:49 #

    Joseph

    I agree that the conclusion was accurate to the letter of the text. But that’s easy to accomplish and still mislead people.

    I do feel it underplayed the weaknesses and combined with the press release, it overreached it’s implications.

    The study authors should have known better IMO. But as far as bias goes, it is no where near other stuff I’ve read. We’ll see what happens to Sallie.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. NeuroLogica Blog » More Evidence for the Safety of Vaccines - September 28, 2007

    [...] Isles from Left Brain/Right Brain points out that Sallie Bernard (a believer in the mercury hypothesis) was consulted on the study design and execution and did not criticize its methods until after the results came back negative. That kind of behavior instantly sacrifices all your credibility in the science club. [...]

  2. More Evidence for the Safety of Vaccines : Left Brain/Right Brain - September 29, 2007

    [...] CDC: “Thank you, Sallie, May We Have Another?” » (28) Schwartz, Joseph, Kev, Schwartz, Schwartz, isles [...] [...]

  3. A bad day for antivaccinationists: Yet another study fails to support an association between vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders : Left Brain/Right Brain - September 30, 2007

    [...] CDC: “Thank you, Sallie, May We Have Another?” » (31) Schwartz, Joseph, More Evidence for the Safety of Vaccines : Left Brain/Right Brain, Schwartz, Joseph, Kev [...] [...]

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