As I’ve said before, I like David Kirby personally. We exchange friendly emails. We even recently discussed the idea of having a private blog – readable by all but one that allowed only two posters (David and I) and no commenters. This would, I suggested, give us the opportunity to have a civil debate.
Unfortunately, David was too busy, which was a shame. However, the offers always open should he find a bit more time.
He did have time yesterday to blog a piece for the Huffington Post in which he discussed Amanda Peet and said she was ‘against the medical establishment’ for taking the stance she did. He cited a few things to support his point. I’d like to discuss these things but before I do I’d like you Dear Reader to take note: someone who was at the IACC meeting David talks about (he wasn’t there) will hopefully be posting their account of proceedings on LB/RB.
Anyway. Lets proceed. David’s first piece of rhetoric to support the idea Amanda Peet was against the medical establishment was:
A workgroup report of the IACC (the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which includes HHS, CDC, NIH and others) says that some members want “specific objectives on vaccine research” included in the new, multimillion-dollar national autism research program, as mandated by Congress in the Combatting Autism Act.
I’m sure that some members do want this. Lynn Redwood and Mark Baxhill to be precise. As the upcoming IACC account will show, I don’t think any other IACC workgroup members were interested. (Please see this correction of an ignorant Limey’s take on the US system.)
I would also like to correct David on his characterisation of the Combating Autism Act. The Act contains no mention of vaccines. It specifies environmental research but the words ‘vaccine’, ‘vaccination’ ‘immunize’, ‘immunization’, ‘mmr’ or ‘thimerosal’ appear nowhere in the CAA. I hope David will correct his HuffPo piece accordingly.
Notes from the meeting indicate that workgroup members want federal researchers to consider “shortfalls” in epidemiological studies cited as proof against a vaccine-autism association (by Offit, Peet, et al); as well as a specific plan “for researching vaccines as a potential cause of autism.” The workgroup also says that the final research agenda should “state that the issue is open.”
Once again, David’s notes are coming from two people, Lynn Redwood and Mark Blaxill and indeed – they asked for all these things. The account of the meeting I have heard (from someone who was there) differed somewhat. As a flavour of how much the majority of the working group listened to Redwood and Blaxill, I enclose a teaser quote from chairperson Tom Insel:
“Lyn, your community is not the whole community and there are many people with well thought out concerns about ethics of the concept of prevention and if we want to be inclusive we will not do this.”
Back to David:
July 14, 2008 – Rep. Brad Miller (R-NC), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, (Committe on Science and Technology) writes to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt to complain that current federal autism research “shows a strong preference to fund genetic-based studies,” even though there is, “growing evidence that suggests a wide range of conditions or environmental exposures may play a role” in autism.
I blogged that episode here. Suffice it to say that a _politician_ is not representative of the medical establishment. I would urge everyone reading this to read that piece as it suggests amongst other things that Generation Rescue and SafeMinds be responsible for a Board that would serve as a liaison between the IACC and parents of autistic people and autistic people themselves!. After reading that I would urge everyone to contact the following people to express your thoughts (politely!) to the decision makers:
HHS Sec Mike Leavitt (mike.leavittAThhs.gov)
NIMH director/IACC director Tom Insel (tinselATmail.nih.gov)
Everyone here: http://science.house.gov/about/members.htm
Once again, back to David:
Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the NIH and the American Red Cross and current Health Editor of US News & World Report tells CBS News that, “Officials have been too quick to dismiss the hypothesis as irrational,” and says they “don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people.”
I still can’t get over the fact that David is using this person to back up his points! He continues to trumpet the opinion of Bernadine Healy who actually did assert that cigarettes do not cause cancer and worked closely with Philip Morris to do so. She also totally reneged on her stance on fetal tissue research when she found herself in the same camp as President Bush. In AoA language she’s a shill.
David then goes on to cite al three Presidential Candidates – as if a politicians opinion in an election year means anything! I definitely fail to see what any of them have to do with being part of the medical establishment.
March 29, 2008 – Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the CDC, speaking about the Hannah Poling case on CNN says: “If a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines, and was pre-disposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage (including) symptoms that have characteristics of autism.”
Er, so? I’m really not sure how this is a ‘point’ for David (or anyone else who thinks its supportive of the idea vaccines cause autism). If she’d said ‘yes, vaccines caused autism in Hannah Poling’s case’ (which no-one ever has by the way, despite statements to the contrary) than _that_ would be a bombshell. As it was Dr. Gerberding was simply speaking what is obvious.
The CISA Network (Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment), headed by the CDC, receives a report from top researchers at Johns Hopkins University that 30 typically developing children with mitochondrial dysfunction all regressed into autism between 12 and 24 months of life. At least two of them (6%) showed brain damage within one week of receiving simultaneous multiple vaccinations.
Now, I can’t answer this as much as I’d like to. I have spoken to people involved in the preparation and writing of this report (as has David) and I was given two take home points from our email chat:
1) The science is _not yet complete_ . The paper is not published.
2) The authors feel ‘disappointed’ in the slant David has put on their work and are loth to discuss it with anyone else due to that. I was told that David might be rather surprised when everything comes out later in the year.
David once more:
Medical Personnel at HHS concede an autism case filed by the family of Hannah Poling in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, before the claim can go to trial as a “test case” of the theory that thimerosal causes autism. Though portrayed by some (ie, Dr. Offit) as a legal decision, it is in fact a medical decision. HHS doctors admit that the “cause” of Hannah’s “autistic encephalopathy” was “vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation that exceeded metabolic reserves,”
First of all, I beg to differ with David. The concession was a legal one. By definition the phrase “autistic encephalopathy” does not exist in mainstream science so if it was used (a fact which has yet to be determined – I invite David once more to link through to the document where this is stated). A simple test of its non-existence is to search for the phrase on PubMed. I got:
Quoted phrase not found.
So we have a multitude of uncertainties here:
1) Nowhere (except in David’s writings) can we find evidence of HHS apparently saying “autistic encephalopathy” caused Hannah Poling’s autism.
2) The phrase itself (“autistic encephalopathy”) does not appear in the entire PubMed database, thus causing me to doubt its use by the medical establishment.
3) Is the concession legal or medical? If a diagnosis does not exist but is used in a legal document then by definition it must be legal – thats my opinion anyway.
David also mentions a HHS Vaccine Safety Working Group meeting but I know next to nothing about that so can’t comment.
I have to say that based on the above, David seems to be attempting nothing more than an intellectual ‘land grab’ i.e. to attempt to paint those who claim vaccines cause autism as part of the medical establishment and those who stand against them as not. Its a good political idea but I don’t think its going to work. There are just too many holes in this particular boat for it to float for long.