Autism, Atlanta, MMR: serious questions and also how Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield are causing damage to the autism communities

26 Aug

The groups promoting vaccines causing autism have been handed probably their biggest story in a decade. They are claiming, and it seams likely, that a senior CDC epidemiologist came to them with information that a statistically significant result of possible increased autism risk from the MMR in a specific subpopulation was not reported.

I’ll go into a lot of background below, but if you wish to read up about these events:

Here’s the press release for the recent reanalysis study

Here’s a discussion of that study by an epidemiology grad student:
Directed Acyclic Graphs and the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism

And another discussion of that study from The Poxes Blog:
Andrew Jeremy Wakefield plays video director while African-American Babies die, or something

And Surgeon/Scientist Orac takes on the study and more here:
Brian Hooker proves Andrew Wakefield wrong about vaccines and autism

Educator and Advocate Liz Ditz discusses the PR approach that has been taken by those promoting the study here:
L’affaire CDC-MMR: Hooker, Wakefield, and Focus Autism Accuse African-American Senior CDC Researcher of Being A Race Traitor

And the CDC have a simple statement here:
CDC Statement Regarding 2004 Pediatrics Article, “Age at First Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in Children With Autism and School-matched Control Subjects: A Population-Based Study in Metropolitan Atlanta”

Even with multiple press releases and no doubt other efforts to gain media attention, this story has yet to break out into a mainstream news story. Some alternative news sources and many parent supporters of the vaccine/autism idea have discussed this lack of media attention. And there’s a YouTube video by Andrew Wakefield that I’ll embed below. That video deserves and probably will get it’s own article here on Left Brain/Right Brain. It is remarkably bad.

It has often been said that the parents promoting the idea that autism is a vaccine-induced epidemic are their own worst enemies. As the parent of a multiply disabled autistic child I can say without reservation that these groups are no friends to the majority of the autism parent community either. Nor are they friends to the real majority of our community: autistics. The vaccines-caused-an-autism-epidemic parents have refused to support any research which goes against their idea that autism is a vaccine-induced epidemic. They don’t support research into the prevalence of autism in adults. Likely because they worry that this will show that their epidemic idea is false. In the process we lose the chance to learn from the previous generations of autistics about what has worked and what has not. Information which is critical to this autism parent. These groups have failed to accept that the lower prevalence of identified autism in racial and ethnic minorities indicates that the prevalence numbers we so often hear are not the a true count of the fraction of our population that is autistic. Because to admit that is to admit that they are misusing the numbers they rely upon to claim an epidemic. Their lack of support has hindered attempts to improve identification and get appropriate services for autistics in racial and ethnic minorities. This is a point that is incredibly ironic given the way these groups are framing their recent news as you will see (or have seen if you read Ms. Ditz’ article linked above). On top of this they have produced a way over-the-top PR campaign about their news, demonstrating their deep hatred for the CDC. If I were to tell you that Andrew Wakefield is claiming that the CDC are worse than Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Pol Pot (because, you see, in Mr. Wakefield’s eyes at least those dictators were sincere), would you believe me? Would you think I was making this up? If I said that Mr. Wakefield has played the race card in a disgusting way, claiming that the U.S. vaccine program is a new Tuskegee experiment, would you believe me? You can skip down to the bottom if you want to see that discussion and video. I’ll start with the science.

About 10 years ago a team from the CDC published a study: Age at First Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in Children With Autism and School-Matched Control Subjects: A Population-Based Study in Metropolitan Atlanta (full paper here). They took data from the CDC’s Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (MADDSP). In order to control for potential confounding variables–like mother’s age, birth weight and more, the authors of the MMR follow-up study pulled birth certificate records. They only pulled them for kids born in Georgia. Could be there was a logistics issue (trying to track down records across the country) or if birth records were not consistent across the US. Also, they would have had to find control kids for those born outside Georgia, and that would have been a big logistics issue. In the end there were two analyses presented–one on the raw data with all the kids, and one with a more detailed analysis done with this smaller “birth certificate” cohort.

Here’s an example of one of those analyses (click to enlarge):

DeStefano table 3

This is a good table to review this study. What did they find? The general result is that time of MMR vaccine receipt was similar between autistic kids and non autistic kids, but was statistically more common among autistic kids. In the table above we see that for the most part, the sub groups reported had generally no increased risk of autism with MMR. I.e. in most examples the 95% confidence intervals encompass 1. The unadjusted sample “all cases” and “boys” do not encompass 1. If those were all the data we had, we’d say “let’s look more closely at these”. We’d start with exactly what the authors do–check for confounding variables and see if the effect gets bigger or smaller. In the adjusted data, all the odds ratios encompass one. Some are high enough to warrant a closer look: kids aged 3-5 and boys. Combining these two I’d probably ask, “what about boys aged 3-5″, but the authors take on the age 3-5 question in general in the discussion citing that the 3-5 age group autistics were mostly in special ed preschool and were thus required to have MMR.

If you look at Table 5 (click to enlarge) you see an interesting and very strange trend. It was in the other data but it’s really clear here. The odds ratio is much larger for kids who got MMR before 36 months than for kids who got it before 24 months. The odds ratios still encompass 1, but there is something going on in the data for the kids who got vaccines between 24 and 36 months. And by “something going on” we always have to consider social factors. But take a look:

DeStefano table 5

Take, for example, maternal education. Kids with mothers who had more than 15 years of education had an odds ratio of only 0.61 if their kids got the MMR before 24 months, but that odds ratio jumps up to 2.76 if their kids got the vaccine before 36 months. In both the confidence intervals encompass 1, so we can’t say “MMR before 24 months is protective but MMR before 36 months increases risk”. But that difference is striking. Even if these results were statistically significant, it doesn’t make sense to say, “the MMR vaccine causes autism in kids when it is given between 24 and 26 months if their mothers are well educated. And, by the way, it’s protective if given before 36 months.”

While not as striking, the differences between the unadjusted and adjusted analyses in table 3 are notable. Odds ratios change when you take into account other factors. I’m no epidemiologist, but if this isn’t covered in epidemiology 101 I’ll be stunned. In physics (the field of my Ph.D.) we talk about “hidden variables”. You see one thing correlated with another but in reality a third, “hidden”, variable is actually causing the association.

That said, the CDC MMR paper is not a study without limitations (no study is). One major limitation was the need discussed above–to argue why the 3-5 age group kids had a higher prevalence.

At this point researchers (both the study authors and those reading this paper) and advocates can take a number of approaches. Here are 4:

1) They can say, “yep, that’s plausible enough. We’ve worked this dataset enough. This tells us that MMR doesn’t cause autism. Let’s move on from MMR.”

That didn’t happen and rightfully so. This isn’t a particularly strong study. It’s not the final word and I don’t think it was intended to be. It was a relatively quick study using an existing population. In the end there were more studies on autism and MMR.

2) Advocates and researchers could take the approach: “There’s an association there, but these data are too limited to really answer the question of causation. Can we do a study to nail down if there’s something about those kids born in those specific years (the 3-5 year olds) who got the MMR between 24 and 36 months? Maybe look at further subsets?” And, while it’s easy to say with hindsight, this is the approach that should have been taken in my opinion. I am unaware of work by this team of researchers or external researchers which addressed this question. I am also unaware of calls by the autism community to do such a follow up, by the way.

3) Advocates and/or researchers could say, “I think we can tease more out of these data. Hey, CDC, can I have that dataset to review myself?” Because the CDC did make these data available for serious researchers to review. CDC researchers moved on to other topics in autism and vaccines, but other researchers or qualified advocates could have taken this up.

4) Advocates (not so much researchers I suspect) could say, “I don’t trust the CDC to add 1 and 1. Give me those data and I’ll do the analysis myself. Even those areas where you show a lack of association are probably wrong.” And, yes, there are advocates like that. Well, except that no one asked for the data back then. More recently, though someone did. Which leads us to:

An autism parent and strong proponent of the failed mercury hypothesis, Brian Hooker, recently published a study re-analyzing that old CDC dataset on MMR and autism. His financial backers put out a press release claiming that not only does this study show that vaccines cause autism in a specific subgroup, but that this study was prompted by a CDC “whistleblower”. I.e. someone who was inside CDC and knew about the details of the CDC study was in contact with Mr. Hooker.

That’s a pretty dramatic press release. Let’s take some time on it.

Focus Autism Releases Findings on 2003 CDC Autism Study – Higher Autism Rate Among African-American Boys Receiving MMR Shot Earlier than 36 Months
Focus Autism releases their findings of a possible reduction in the sample size of a major 2003 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This sample size reduction negates statistically significant findings from the study.

This title is why I jumped to the press release before talking about Mr. Hooker’s paper. With this title we know (a) that Mr. Hooker is claiming an association among a specific subgroup only (African American boys) and (b) he’s claiming that there was some sort of sleight of hand by the CDC where they reduced the sample size.

Well we already know from the CDC study that autism rates were higher in kids who got the MMR before 36 months. It’s right there in the conclusion statement of the abstract. But not so much before 24 months. And we know autism rates were higher in boys. We didn’t see the analysis narrowed down to African American boys.

The press release states:

“However, CDC researchers did not include any children that did not have a valid State of Georgia birth certificate – reducing the study’s sample size by 41% . Dr. Hooker explains that by introducing this discretionary criteria into the analysis, the cohort size was sharply reduced, eliminating what would have been a higher statistical finding. “

This is a rather odd statement. And by odd, I mean so obviously false that I wonder why it was written. See for yourself above, the study includes *both* the group with the birth certificate data and the raw data. Mr. Hooker’s explanation is, well, lacking. Sure, it is “discretionary” to try to account for confounding variables. It’s the sort of discretion I expect from epidemiologists. It’s like saying, “the engineers designing the Tacoma Narrows bridge decided against including the discretionary criteria of wind”. Also, consider that a result can be both statistically significant and wrong as is often the case when one finds something “statistically significant” without looking for or correcting for hidden variables.

In another press release Mr. Hooker calls the birth certificate data “irrelevant and unnecessary”. Again, why put out statements that anyone familiar with epidemiology would know to be false?

Elsewhere Mr. Hooker has even challenged the fact that one can obtain the stated data from birth certificates. He is in effect stating that not only is there no point in controlling for such factors, but that the CDC just lied and didn’t even have those data from the birth certificates.

Despite your assertions and the assertions of Destefano, Birth Certificates do not contain the information on the covariates you cite: birth weight, maternal age, maternal education, parity, etc. If you had read my paper, you would see that I repeated the analyses of the CDC and obtained the same results that they obtained in both what was published originally and what was withheld. Also, the birth certificate restriction was NOT applied to other race categories outside of African Americans.

Readers interested in whether Mr. Hooker is correct can take a look at the U.S. Standard Certificate of Live Birth. While this is the revised version, states standardized on birth certificates back in the 1990’s.

Epidemiologists are aware that the piece of paper a parent takes home isn’t necessarily the same birth certificate data that is in the full record.

And “Also, the birth certificate restriction was NOT applied to other race categories outside of African Americans”. Here we see the race card being played. A card that we will soon see was played with a very heavy hand. But to address the assertion made by Mr. Hooker, I wonder how he explains that there are 333 white autistic kids in the “total sample” and 199 in the “birth certificate sample”. Which is to say, his statement is false.

In one of the press releases, Mr. Hooker states

When asked if there could be any scientific basis for excluding children born outside of Georgia, Hooker responded, “I know of none, and none has been provided by the authors of the DeStefano study.”

Again, children born outside of Georgia were not excluded as Mr. Hooker asserts. Analyses were presented on both those born within Georgia (including adjustments for vital statistics found on the birth certificates) and a total sample including those born outside Georgia (the unadjusted analysis). If Mr. Hooker is “unaware” why people would do such an elementary epimiological task as adjusting data with covariates, I suggest he was a poor choice to perform Focus Autism’s study. Another thought would be that Mr. Hooker could read his own paper where he states:

It should be noted that a recent publication has shown that the prevalence of autism in African Americans is nearly 25% higher than that of whites. This value was obtained when CDC data were appropriately analyzed based on socioeconomic status

Mr. Hooker notes that when one does an analysis “appropriately” one includes socioeconomic status (such as with data found in the full birth certificates).

If Mr. Hooker would like to ask why the CDC team didn’t look for birth certificate data on kids born outside of Georgia, that’s would be a better place to start. Then we can discuss whether the CDC would then need 3 controls for each non-Georgia born kid, controls from the same place of birth as the study team did with Georgia born kids. And we could discuss how difficult that would be. And whether that would introduce more problems than it might solve. That’s a reasonable discussion. Claiming there’s no reason to gather important data is not.

Enough of the inconsistencies in Mr. Hooker’s recent statements. What was Mr. Hooker’s method and what did Mr. Hooker find in his analysis? The Poxes Blog and
epidemiologcal.net discuss this with more expertise than I can. Mr. Hooker does not recreate the CDC’s case-control study. That would require that match autistic kids and non autistic kids on the parameters he says aren’t available, and adjust for those same parameters. Instead he does a cohort study without adjustments. As discussed elsewhere, this is a much weaker approach. His main result is as the press release states “Higher Autism Rate Among African-American Boys Receiving MMR Shot Earlier than 36 Months”. He does not note in his press release “no risk for MMR and autism in everyone else”. Here is table 2 from his paper showing that.

hooker table 2

He states a relative risk that is statistically significant for African American boys who get the vaccine before 24 months (RR=1.73) and before 36 months (RR=3.36). No increased risk for African American girls. And, as Table 3 shows, no increased risk for non African Americans.

Mr. Hooker says his results are statistically significant. Others have questioned whether his analysis is really appropriate to say this, but for now let’s just benchmark this by checking how large his sample group for that large relative risk is anyway. Just so we know. The high risk group are kids vaccinated before 36 months. Here’s a figure from Table 2 of DeStefano et al.:

DeStefano table 2

There are 45 autistic kids vaccinated between 24 and 36 months. African Americans account for 40% of the total population, but let’s say about 1/2 of this 24-36 age group are African American. Or about 22 kids. 22 kids and Mr. Hooker is doing no adjustments for factors such as those found on birth certificates. The sort of socioeconomic parameters that he notes are important to get an accurate prevalence in the African American population.

Which is to say: this is not a strong finding by any stretch of the imagination.

Mr. Hooker took a subgroup–African American males–and found that there was in the unadjusted data a statistically significant relative risk. An increased relative risk is not the same thing as showing causation, especially when you are working with unadjusted data and many other limitations in this. This is enough to raise the question of whether we should do more studies to show if this increased risk holds up to further scrutiny. This is how Mr. Hooker concludes his paper:

Routine childhood vaccination is considered an important public health tool in reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with infectious diseases. However, consideration should be made in the current United States vaccination schedule for genetic subpopulations that may be associated with vaccine adverse events. Additional research is required to better understand the relationship between MMR exposure and autism in African American males.

A study relying largely on a small group of subjects (about 20) with the conclusion that more work is needed. Sounds vaguely familiar. And, as we will see, Mr. Hooker has teamed up with Andrew Wakefield to put out a video where they jump past the whole this indicates more research is needed through this is absolute evidence of MMR causing autism directly to the CDC are engaging in a racist experiment sacrificing children to autism. It’s like the events around Mr. Wakefield’s 1997 Lancet paper cranked up to 11.

Even though Mr. Hooker’s analysis is quite limited, as in it would be (and you will see is) incredibly irresponsible to jump from this to say “MMR Causes Autism in African American Males”, I’d like to see either more data or a good explanation why someone shouldn’t do it. If for nothing else, precisely to head off the sort of irresponsible and damaging PR campaign that Mr. Hooker and Mr. Wakefield have engaged in. There are a lot of data on MMR and autism since DeStefano first published (especially Hornig et al.) showing that MMR doesn’t increase autism risk. And Mr. Hooker himself has shown that autism risk is not raised in everyone other than African American boys. One can easily argue (and should) that the MMR/Autism/African American Boys result is spurious. But I’d like to see more evidence to support that. I don’t see evidence so far that this is fraud, but I don’t agree with the scientific decisions made.

All this said, can reasonable people really raise a concern about autism risk given how inflammatory that discussion can be? Yes. Here’s an example of how a study found a possible risk factor and follow up studies answered the question. The Price study was one of the largest studies on thimerosal exposure and autism risk. As part of that study they considered folic acid intake in mothers as one confounding variable for thimerosal exposure. They reported that there could be an increased autism risk from taking folic acid. The calculated risk for mothers who reported taking folic acid was about double that of those who didn’t. Keep in mind that folic acid supplementation for pregnant women is a major public health program as it reduces the risk of some developmental disabilities, so the possibility that it was increasing autism risk has major public health implications. This is a good parallel to the question of vaccines (public health program) and autism.

After the Price study, multiple studies were performed looking folic acid intake and autism risk (I can’t say that these were prompted by Price et al., but it seems reasonable to think they might):

Maternal periconceptional folic acid intake and risk of autism spectrum disorders and developmental delay in the CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment) case-control study.

Association between maternal use of folic acid supplements and risk of autism spectrum disorders in children.

How can we summarize the folic acid history? A possible risk factor was found. It wasn’t plausible since folic acid seems to be protective for birth defects. But people did a second check (and even a third) and found that not only is folic acid not a risk factor, it may even reduce autism risk. Which even though this is what people would have said was biologically the most probable outcome at the start, this was a needed exercise.

Can we draw a parallel? Well, DeStefano et al. and later Hooker found a possible risk for MMR and boys (with Hooker citing African American Boys) getting the MMR vaccine late but before 36 months. It doesn’t seem plausible or even self consistent with the other results of the study dataset as has already been discussed. Reasonable people could move forward on this and see if existing data could answer this or if a new study is warranted.

Reasonable people could. As I’ve alluded to, we aren’t really dealing with a “and reasonable people” scenario. And here’s where we get into the “these people are their own worst enemies” part of the discussion. We’ve already seen how Mr. Hooker has made incorrect statements about the birth certificates of the DeStefano study. Let’s look another of Mr. Hooker’s statements and ask, “is this the statement of a reasonable person”?

He added, “The exclusion is reminiscent of tactics historically used to deprive African-Americans of the vote by requiring valid birth certificates.”

And here we see Mr. Hooker and Focus Autism playing the race card for sensational effect. One can’t even say this is a stretch. It’s just ridiculous. There was no exclusion and certainly people didn’t say, “let’s exclude African Americans and deny them their rights.” Maybe some will say this still within the realm of what a reasonable person might say. I would then ask you to watch this video produced to promote this study and the events surrounding it. The really inflammatory statements are made by Andrew Wakefield, but this looks to be a joint effort between Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Hooker. If Mr. Hooker would like to explain that he disagrees with the approach Mr. Wakefield took, I’ll be quick to rewrite this. But for now, here’s what team Wakefield/Hooker has prepared for you:

As promised above here are Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker claiming that the CDC are running a Tuskegee like experiment, where in Mr. Wakefield’s view African American boys are allowed become autistic by MMR for some nefarious and unexplained reason (because there are so few autistics that we need to create some for study?). I suspect Mr. Hooker will take offense at me stating that he is claiming this as it’s Mr. Wakefield who says the words. OK. Go ahead and put out a statement distancing yourself from this irresponsible attack Mr. Hooker. And, yes, I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that Mr. Wakefield thinks that the CDC are even worse than Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. The dictators, you see, were sincere. (8:40 into the video).

No one has yet responded in the mainstream media to the press releases and the Hooker study. And many of Mr. Wakefield’s supporters online are noticing this and asking why. Here are some possibilities:

1) The press has been burned by 17 years of bad science and unethical behavior by those promoting the vaccine/autism link.

2) perhaps the most famous person in that bad science and unethical behavior is your spokesperson on this new media campaign: Andrew Wakefield.

3) members of the press are not generally attracted to stories where people who have devoted their lives to preventing infectious diseases and to understanding developmental disability are called worse than Hitler.

4) after years of a campaign to instill fear about vaccines, we are in the midst of outbreaks of multiple vaccine preventable diseases. The founder of the blog where Mr. Hooker chose to release and discuss his new results famously once bragged that his groups was going to bring the “U.S. vaccine program to its knees

Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Hooker probably (and some of their followers certainly) have been wondering why their news of a CDC “informant” hasn’t garnered media attention. If you read the press releases and have followed the online discussions, you know that the idea for this reanalysis of the DeStefano data came from documents obtained by Congressman Issa and from phone conversations Mr. Hooker had with a CDC epidemiologist.

In their first press release, Mr. Hooker’s team noted that

According to Dr. Hooker, the CDC whistleblower informant — who wishes to remain anonymous — guided him to evidence that a statistically significant relationship between the age the MMR vaccine was first given and autism incidence in African-American boys was hidden by CDC researchers.

That was released on a Tuesday. The video came out the Monday previous, but was censored and the voice of the “informant” was obscured. On that same Monday, Mr. Wakefield noted on his Facebook page “He will be identified very soon” (referring to the “informant”). In other words, they had no intention of keeping this man’s identity secret. And a few days late, on Thursday night, the video was changed so that the censoring was gone and the voice was not obscured.

So, we have an informant who was obviously working with the Hooker/Wakefield team for months who wanted to remain anonymous. The Wakefield/Hooker team left clues about who this person was: they noted that he works for the CDC and has for some number of years and Mr. Hooker spoke of the informant as “him”. There are only two males who worked on that paper: W.W. Anderson Thompson (who has been named as the informant) and a statistician in the acknowledgments. Which of those two are on record within CDC as having voiced a strong opinion about the African American boy data? Heck, I nearly called Mr. Thompson myself to ask if he was working with Mr. Hooker. I wouldn’t be surprised if people at the CDC figured it out and that’s why his name was so quickly divulged by Mr. Wakefield. Why keep his name secret if you’ve already given out enough information to his superiors for them to break his cover?

And with that let’s get back to the “these guys are their own worst enemies” discussion. When you have someone you consider a whistleblower, it is your duty to protect that person. Not out him/her. Mr. Wakefield doesn’t seem to understand that. Years after having ignored the information given to him by a whistleblower in the UK, Mr. Wakefield not only outed that whistleblower, he first threatened the man with disclosure:

If Mr. Thompson intended to stay anonymous, and I have no reason to suspect otherwise, he chose poorly in his confidants.

Mr. Thompson had many options of to whom he could reveal his information. Many people would have taken him seriously and not taken the highly irresponsible approach that Brian Hooker has with the race-baiting video and more. I’ve read a number of people speculate that Mr. Thompson didn’t know what he was getting himself in to. If he really chose to work closely with Mr. Hooker, I can’t see how he didn’t see the extremes this information would be put to.

Mr. Hooker has had much communication with the CDC over the past decade and more. Here is some of that communication (about 3MB worth), selected by Mr. Hooker himself as an exhibit in his FOIA case with the CDC.
People at the CDC, likely Mr. Thompson included, would know of Mr. Hooker’s very strong opinions of them. A letter sent to then CDC Director Julie Gerberding is entitled “War Crimes in Your Fight Against Infectious Disease and recommends: “I would personally urge you to review the Book of Matthew 18:6 and consider your own responsibility to all children of the U.S. including my own son.” Italics in the original. Here is one version of Matthew 18:6:

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Former CDC director Gerberding almost certainly did not share this with Mr. Thompson. But Mr. Thompson may have had similar exchanges with Mr. hooker in the past. As I’ve noted above, Mr. Hooker had at least some contact with Mr. Thompson previously. Also, one need only google Mr. Hooker’s name to see that he tends to exaggerate the importance of his CDC FOIA findings, his critiques of vaccine safety science are heavily biased, he is a board member of Focus Autism (Focus Autism was born out of Barry and Dolly’s desire to put an end to the needless harm of children by vaccination and other environmental factors.) and more.

Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield present at parent conventions such as AutismOne, where other presenters are selling their goods and services with faux autism treatments. Treatments such as bleach enemas and drinks (MMS), Lupron (a drug which shuts down sex hormone production. Essentially chemical castration), chelation, megadoses of “supplements” and more. They are sold largely on the promise of healing “vaccine injury”. By handing the Hooker/Wakefield team this PR win, Mr. Thompson will be feeding that industry.

This all said, we only have a few sentences on a video purporting to be Mr. Thompson. I have no reason yet to doubt that his his voice. I also don’t have the full conversations in context. Nor do I have evidence that Mr. Thompson agreed to be outed. Nor do I have evidence that Mr. Thompson agreed to have his phone conversations recorded. Nor do I have evidence that Mr. Thompson continues to communicate with Mr. Hooker. In fact he’s been silent since this story broke and no new quotes from him have been passed by Mr. Hooker or Mr. Wakefield.

What’s more, and rather odd, is that MMR is not really either Mr. Thompson nor Mr. Hooker’s primary interest. Mr. Thompson was author on a number of major thimerosal papers. First author on one. Mr. Hooker’s primary focus on the vaccine/autism discussion has been on thimerosal. I have been reading people online claiming that these events are what they’ve expected and hoped for: someone from CDC exposing that all the vaccine/autism work is fraudulent. But this isn’t the case at all. Nothing so far on thimerosal. One re-analysis of some MMR work that, while important to discuss, is not very strong at all. And while I have written what is possibly my longest article yet (out of something like 2000), there isn’t, as they say, much there there when it comes to anything substantial about vaccines and autism. What we do have is a public relations mess. A story that will be exploited by unethical people to frighten parents and try to revamp their own image and take some revenge.

More recently, at least one (non reliable) site is reporting that Mr. Thompson has spoken through his attorney. The message (and I paraphrase): in getting the preliminary result on African American boys out, he did what he set out to do.

In the end, it is once again public health and autism families that will pay the price. People will use this in their attempt to “bring the U.S. vaccine program to it’s knees”. More autism parents will be dragged into the self blame and guilt that comes with the vaccines-cause-autism beliefs. And disabled children will be subjected to abusive faux therapies in attempts to heal their “vaccine injury”.


By Matt Carey

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63 Responses to “Autism, Atlanta, MMR: serious questions and also how Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield are causing damage to the autism communities”

  1. Science Mom August 26, 2014 at 19:01 #

    Very nice post Matt. I don’t think the price that autism families have to pay because of the sheer selfishness of a few can be emphasised enough.

    Pedant alert: “W.W. Anderson” Should be W.W. Thompson.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 26, 2014 at 20:28 #

      thanks for that. Corrected above.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 26, 2014 at 21:55 #

      As an aside–a good example of how *not* to protect someone’s identity.

      There was some discussion online about whether Mr. Thompson agreed to being outed. On CNN’s iReport page they posted the video. In the comments they had

      “Update: [whistleblower] himself responds to e-mail showing support for his act of speaking out:

      Thank you for your kind words.
      Thanks,
      [whistleblower]
      Senior Scientist
      National Center of Birth Defects and Development Disabilities
      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
      1600 Clifton Road, MS-E86, RM 3079
      Atlanta, GA 30333″

      Isn’t that nice how they redacted his name with [Whistleblower]? We have no idea which person at 1500 Clifton Road, Mail stop E8, Room 3079 this could be.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 26, 2014 at 22:04 #

        To be clear–the redaction was added on a different website than the iReport.

  2. usethebrainsgodgiveyou August 26, 2014 at 19:52 #

    WW Thompson’s 2007 CDC press briefing on that “Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years” was interesting and dumbed down enough for me to understand. Tics…http://www.cdc.gov/media/transcripts/2007/t070926.htm

    This was a lot of work, Matt. I would be most interested in what Thompson had to say for himself but that isn’t going to happen.

  3. reissd August 26, 2014 at 20:07 #

    Thank you for going through all that. It’s really, really helpful.

  4. brian August 26, 2014 at 20:24 #

    In physics (the field of my Ph.D.) we talk about “hidden variables”. You see one thing correlated with another but in reality a third, “hidden”, variable is actually causing the association.

    Yes, the concept of “hidden” or “lurking” variables is so elementary that, although it seems unfamiliar to most anti-vaccine activists, it was presented in the first days of my kid’s high school statistics course.

    Here’s an example: the damage sustained in a house fire seems proportional to the number of firefighters on the scene. Of course that doesn’t mean that you should not call the fire department if your house catches fire: the lurking variable is the severity of the blaze, which leads to both more fire fighters and more damage.

    The lurking variable that seems to suggest that on-time receipt of MMR increases the risk of ASD among African-American (but not white!) boys is likely poverty: since the publication of the Destefano article, it’s become clear that at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale (such as in a place like Atlanta, which features high rates of poverty among African-Americans) there are significant barriers to both vaccination and diagnosis of ASD. These aren’t the kids of Marin County moms with Google Ph.D.s.—black children in poverty are both more less likely to receive on-time vaccination and appropriate ASD diagnosis because of the critical, hidden variable: their poverty.

    • sabel mouse (@sabelmouse) August 27, 2014 at 14:20 #

      if it is poverty then the mmr really shouldn’t be used on poor, malnourished african/developing world children, should it?

      • Chris August 27, 2014 at 20:32 #

        Why? The paper actually concludes it is better to get the MMR on time, and to not wait.

      • lilady August 30, 2014 at 08:46 #

        That’s a strange comment.

        Measles has a profound impact on “poor, malnourished african (sic)/ developing world children”

        http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/

        “….. Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease. Complications are more common in children under the age of five, or adults over the age of 20. The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. As high as 10% of measles cases result in death among populations with high levels of malnutrition and a lack of adequate health care. Women infected while pregnant are also at risk of severe complications and the pregnancy may end in miscarriage or preterm delivery. People who recover from measles are immune for the rest of their lives.
        Who is at risk?

        Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death. Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk. Any non-immune person (who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity) can become infected.

        Measles is still common in many developing countries – particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. More than 20 million people are affected by measles each year. The overwhelming majority (more than 95%) of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures…..”

  5. brian August 26, 2014 at 20:28 #

    Oops, “black children in poverty are both more likely to receive on-time vaccination and appropriate ASD diagnosis because of the critical, hidden variable: their poverty: should read LESS LIKELY . . .

    It would be useful if you could correct my mistake.

    Thanks..

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 26, 2014 at 20:51 #

      did that correction do the trick?

      • brian August 26, 2014 at 21:01 #

        did that correction do the trick?

        Yes, thanks.

  6. Seth Bittker August 26, 2014 at 21:04 #

    You have done a great service by writing this up.

  7. Broken Link August 26, 2014 at 21:13 #

    Just to be totally clear, in Tables 3 and 5 of DeStefano, when it says <36 months, it means between 24 and 36 months. Is that correct? It must be correct because the confidence limits are much wider (reflecting the smaller sample size) for that age group. This is one thing that I don't see the anti-vax proponents discussing – the increased risk to African American boys is only for those children vaccinated late, even accepting Hooker's conclusions. So, Hooker says that white kids vaccinated with MMR at any age have no increased risk of autism. Black kids vaccinated before 24 months with MMR have no increased risk of autism. Only a tiny group of African-American boys vaccinated with MMR between the ages of 24-36 months could have an increased risk of autism.

  8. Broken Link August 26, 2014 at 21:14 #

    Do they now say “too many, too late”? ;)

  9. Chris Hickie August 26, 2014 at 22:12 #

    Wakefield and Hooker are no friends to those with autism and those raising a child with autism. Thank you for a well written summary, Matt.

  10. Power Corrupts August 26, 2014 at 22:31 #

    If Thompson was outed without his consent, I agree that that is highly unethical. I hope that isn’t the case. I know that sometimes people feel such tactics are morally justified, but from a practical standpoint – if we as a community with concerns of transparency of government agencies want to support people on the inside to bring us more transparency, then this is not the way to go.

    I am curious to see how the details of this controversy shake out. Meanwhile, I do think there is ample evidence that puts the vaccine program and the corporate interests behind it ahead of transparency and even public safety. The case of SV40 in the Polio vaccine is a very straightforward case in point. It seems epidemiology was used for years to keep the concerns in the as-yet-unproven category when much evidence was already available to warrant notifying the public. The respected employee who first raised the concern was all but fired. Then there is the granting of immunity to vaccine manufacturers. That does not instill confidence. Then there is the way the Vioxx concerns were covered up.

    I am sad to say that our society’s institutions do not hold up well against monied interests and the trend over time is in the wrong direction. That does not mean that all government officials are out to harm babies, but it does mean that quite often the risk of subjecting people to harm is deemed more palatable than upsetting profit-making entities.

    This problem of corruption by powerful interests is by no means limited to vaccine and drug regulation. Look at genetically modified organisms introduced with no testing under the authority of a former Monsanto employee.

    Personally, I am more concerned about aluminum adjuvants in vaccines and avoid them. It would not surprise me if the increase in autism and/or epidemic of allergies were related to the introduction of GMO foods (with their heavy glyphosate contamination) and increased vaccine use.

    I could go on and on, but in my experience, the reliance on profit making vaccines as the main tool for infectious disease prevention is a problem. My children were exposed to pertussis by a vaccinated child whose physician didn’t see the need for testing her due to her positive vaccine status! Doctors seem to be ignorant of the fact that no vaccine has 100% efficacy – especially not the pertussis vaccine… I am not of a mind to “bring the vaccine program to its knees”, but I do feel that in the context of the current power dynamics in our society, a public health agenda driven by profit-motivated rather
    than health-motivated interests is inevitable. And when you approach the issue from that angle (which I believe is more realistic than trusting in the good intentions of employees who continue at the whim of their employers) the claims and concerns of Wakefield and Hooker seem more understandable.

    • reissd August 26, 2014 at 22:43 #

      A. The SV40 example actually seems to go against what you said – an industry member, Dr. Hilleman, pushed for examining the problem, and studies were done.

      B. The evidence about vaccine safety and effectiveness comes from all around the world. Claiming moneyed interests control on that is problematic, especially with no proof offered.

      C. The evidence is against a connection between vaccines and allergies – and of course autism and vaccines. Claiming it’s GMOs without evidence is just as problematic.

      D. There is no evidence of problems from aluminum adjuvants, and a Cochrane review found no cause for concern. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(04)00927-2/fulltext
      While highlighting that data was limited, review concluded: “We found no evidence that aluminium salts in vaccines cause any serious or long-lasting adverse events.”

      E. I’m sorry to hear your children got pertussis. No vaccine is perfect, though the 85% short term protection of the pertussis vaccine is a lot higher than the 0% of non-vaccinating.

      F. Nothing is perfect, certainly not when human-made, but our vaccine program has served us remarkably well. I just don’t see evidence of extensive corruption in it.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 26, 2014 at 23:54 #

      Because SV40, GMO’s Vioxx are so important to the autism community we should discuss them here?

      I understand the motives of Hooker and Wakefield. I just don’t agree with them. In Mr. Wakefield’s case, I find them reprehensible. Then there are their methods. Using race-baiting to try to make this story controversial enough to get media and possibly political attention. Ugly.

      Outing someone you consider a “whistleblower” is foolish. Mr. Wakefield has now burned one, and maybe two people who came to him with information. One would have to be a fool to go to Wakefield or his team again. Perhaps Mr. Thompson was no longer communicating and Mr. Wakefield felt promoting his own short term interests warranted his actions. Who knows. Good luck to that team with ever getting inside information again.

      “…a public health agenda driven by profit-motivated rather than health-motivated interests is inevitable”

      False dichotomy. One can be motivated by both. In fact, making vaccines that work and are safe is the best way to insure profit.

      • Power Corrupts August 27, 2014 at 02:45 #

        SV40, GMO’s and Vioxx demonstrate systemic problems with US regulatory bodies and thus make the concerns raised by Wakefield, Hooker and the whistleblower seem *potentially* credible. I am hoping we will learn more, but that may not happen.

        Here is my source on SV40 for poster named reissd:

        According to that source, Bernice Eddy was the first to raise the alarm and she was silenced and demoted for her efforts. This was inside FDA in the Division of Biologics Standards. Dr. Michael Carbone was a second researcher who raised the concern, this time within the NIH. His results were not able to be replicated by a Merck tied researcher, so the issue was put on hold for years… I can’t reproduce the tale here, but look into it and tell me if you think there wasn’t corruption at work. (And no, this was not first brought out by an industry researcher.)

        On the topic of Al, there is much that remains to be understood about Al. One review article will not do it. I am sorry, but we need to be a lot more curious, imo. I realize it is not possible to prove a negative, but we do need to be a lot more exhaustive in our quest to determine safety.

        As far as my alleged false dichotomy about being driven by health or profit, it is actually worse. There is a profit motive for creating vaccines, but no corresponding risk. The incentives of capitalism to make profit are in operation with the risk being socialized. Same problem with the nuclear energy industry. Not looking like such a great idea since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, does it? This may seem off topic, but it speaks to the structural problems of government, including their regulatory organs, being beholden to corporate interests. This is the context into which vaccine policy arrives – not in a vacuum. All of the researchers, no matter how sincere and dedicated, are constrained by this system. Ask Carbone and Eddy about it. It seems they were quite sincere in their efforts to protect people, but that goal was subordinated to the financial interests. At the end of the day, that is what trumps so often in our society.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 27, 2014 at 04:37 #

        Sorry, I’m tired, but your “alleged false dichotomy”? Whatever. It’s no accusation. It is, however, accurate. Unlike your SV40 nonsense.

        This is an autism blog. Go away and find some people who want to talk to you about conspiracies. I’m sure you know where to find them.

        ” There is a profit motive for creating vaccines, but no corresponding risk. ”

        Right. Developing a vaccine costs nothing and every experimental vaccine is approved making huge profits. Oh, wait, they spend tens, even hundreds of millions developing a vaccine and most don’t get approved. And when they are approved, they can be de licensed.

        It was nice. Goodbye.

      • Barry Segal September 4, 2014 at 17:38 #

        Unfortunately, the autism community is very fragmented,and, undoubtedly, some people have their own personal agendas. We recognize that many people who want to accomplish good, go about it differently.
        Focus Autism and I feel very strongly that the information released by the whistle-blower clearly shows that, in one way or another, vaccines are part of the problem. It has to be carefully looked at, and not swept under the rug.
        While the major media initially showed some interest in the whistle-blower’s revelations, it now appears they are backing off. The problem of determining the cause of autism is immense. There is no simple solution. Mistakes will be made, but the battle must be fought.
        We can’t stop the infighting in the community. Above all, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that William Thompson was aware that young children’s lives were needlessly being destroyed. His letter to CDC Director Julie Gerberding clearly demonstrates that he, unlike other scientists at the CDC, was willing to risk his career to change that.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 4, 2014 at 18:09 #

        With all due respect Mr. Segal,

        1) as you and your team have your own agenda, you don’t have to state it here.

        2) You have a very low bar for what constitutes evidence of vaccines “being part of the problem”. This is not a strong result.

        3) You can’t stop the infighting? You are a major source. You’ve latched on to my community and are acting like a bull in a china shop.

        4) It’s nice of you to say that this has to be looked at, not swept under the rug. However, you and your team have not approached this in any way as subject that question to be answered. Instead you’ve used this for politcal and PR purposes. What’s important in this? The question of vaccines causing autism. What is the subject of your press release? A CDC whistleblower. While you try to justify 20 years of claims of some grand conspiracy, the rest of us are focused on improving the lives of those within our communities. You are part of the problem. Not the solution.

        5) Your science adviser, Mr. Hooker, is far from an excellent researcher and is quite biased. His talking points on the Price study show that he is quite willing to lie and mislead, in a way much worse than he accuses the CDC of doing. Cherry picking a partial result out of an interaction model is bad enough. There’s no way those results are valid on their own. His analysis consisted of looking at a publicly available report and picking out the results encircled by a red box. While ignoring all the statistically significant results in those nice blue boxes. If I were to say that thimerosal is protective because of the many statistically significant “protective” results, you would think I’m being dishonest. Yet you accept what Mr. Hooker is feeding you.

        If you have to go to Mr. Hooker to ask what I’m talking about there, then you aren’t doing due diligence.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 4, 2014 at 18:13 #

        Mr. Segal,

        Did you finance or approve of that disgusting video? If so, please apologize. If not, please distance yourself from it.

      • reissd September 4, 2014 at 17:54 #

        That is an extremely problematic set of claims.

        A. While Thompson may have believed what he had showed a link between MMR and autism, the only evidence for such a link was Hooker’s fatally flawed study – where he used extremely problematic methods. And even then, all he could find was a link in one small subgroup – extremely small. The evidence in this study and many others goes against such a link – and with all due respect, nothing Thompson said actually undermine even the main findings of this study, let alone others.

        In short, Thompson provided nothing that actually supports any link between vaccines and autism.

        B. Far from sweeping the issue of vaccines and autism under the rug, this study was followed by many others that looked at it. There’s no credible evidence of such a link. None. There is, instead, evidence that autism is prenatal.

        C. Since there is no such evidence, there’s no evidence that young children’s lives were being destroyed. Except, perhaps, those subjected to untested, dangerous biomedical treatments because of the vaccines-cause-autism claim. And those children left unvaccinated because this unsupported claim that caught and were harmed by a preventable diseases. But we can’t blame Thompson for those past ones, though he bares responsibility for those that will be left unvaccinated because of his misplaced trust in Dr. Hooker.

        D. Dr. Thompson’s letter to Julie Gerberding shows nothing except his concern about the way the CDC handles PR. It was clear he was going to explain all his findings, and was worried about how they will be received.

        As Dr. Carey points out, keeping the vaccines-cause-autism claim alive, in the face of evidence, harms the autism community and others.

      • lilady September 4, 2014 at 18:32 #

        @ Barry Segal: The only divisiveness within the autism community is caused by organizations such as yours. You made a major mistake by funding Mr. Hooker’s “study”.

        “Above all, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that William Thompson was aware that young children’s lives were needlessly being destroyed. His letter to CDC Director Julie Gerberding clearly demonstrates that he, unlike other scientists at the CDC, was willing to risk his career to change that.”

        I read that communication from William Thompson to Dr. Gerberding (it’s been featured on multiple science blogs). It is clearly a plea for assistance because Thompson knew he would be facing the Chairman of the Congressional Oversight Committee, Dan Burton and his anti-vaccine, anti-science constituency:

        http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/11/23/representative-dan-burtons-last-antivaccine-hurrah-is-scheduled-for-november-29/

      • Barry Segal September 4, 2014 at 21:59 #

        Obviously, your response did not make my day. I will try to clear up a few things. I did have dinner with Andrew Wakefield about six weeks ago. The film came up, he had tapes of Brian Hooker talking to whistleblower and I agreed to fund him, but knew nothing about the balance of the film.

        The tapping of the whistleblower was important to me because I expected him to be neutralized and back off, but he could not back off from the tapes. Whether he is right or wrong Mr. Thompson did feel it was a racial issue.

        I want to clarify something else…

        Occasionally, we’ll fund something with the cure because we meet someone, but our real (primary) focus is the cause.

        Attached is a letter to Bob Wright (link below), whom I highly respect and who I think know) he understands the problem. It shows that many people realize there are vulnerable children, but the CDC refuses to identify them. That doesn’t make any sense to me, to destroy children and their family when it can be prevented is just cruel.

        My feeling is not that vaccines that cause the rise in autism alone, but the combination (cumulative effect) of other things done in this country that lead to the deteriorating health here.

        I saw an interesting document that claims Cuba has approx. 11 million people, roughly 20% more than the state of NJ and less than 200 cases of autism. NJ has roughly 12,500. Cuba does vaccinate, but more carefully.

        Obviously, we are creating a gigantic problem. The problem has to be addressed now.
        _____________________________________________________

        Link to Bob Wright letter: http://focusautisminc.org/i-have-met-with-bob-and-susan-wright-and-they-actually-completely-understand-the-situation-but-unfortunately-they-dont-have-the-freedom-to-let-autism-speaks-do-what-is-necessary-here-is-my-letter/

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 4, 2014 at 22:26 #

        So you didn’t know what would be in the video. What do you think of it now?

        You are active in causes in Africa as I recall. Something which I applaud you for.

        I recall reading that no one in Kenya is diagnosed with autism. Perhaps that’s changed in the recent past. You know where I read that article? On a Kenyan autism group’s website. Per their website there were (and maybe still are) no specialists qualified to diagnose autism. I suspect the nonverbal Samburu/Massai woman I met 20 years ago had no diagnosis. As in none. Not even ID. We can say, “the official prevalence in country X is nothing, therefore it’s evidence that vaccines cause autism” or we can say “the official prevalence of autism in country X is nothing, therefore we should do something to see if that is accurate. And since it almost certainly isn’t, we should do something now to improve identification and to support those autistics in that country”.

        One can say the same for ethnic/racial groups, people in geographies that show a lower prevalence of identified autism and more. One thing that can be said–there has absolutely been an explosion in recognition. Both the recognition of what is autism and recognition of autistics who meet the current definitions. And those who have spent a great deal of time and money promoting an epidemic have failed our community by refusing to support the efforts to improve our understanding and our recognition efforts.

        I see you like to speak for people. Thompson. Bob Wright. With all due respect, I’ll wait to hear things from the sources. You are someone who plans in advance to betray the trust of another person. It’s wonderful that you can justify your actions. Don’t ask me to agree. And don’t ask me to think, “well, he played Thompson, but I’m sure he’s being honest now”.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 4, 2014 at 22:46 #

        I admit I didn’t check many sites, but here’s a document on vaccines in Cuba I found.

        Cuba Vaccine Schedule

        So, not just one, but two vaccines at birth? They are using the old whole cell pertussis vaccine. MMR at 1 and 6. Can’t see if they use thimerosal. Wouldn’t be surprised either way, but I’d like to know.

        So, what exactly about this schedule do you find more “careful”?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 4, 2014 at 22:52 #

        Not to put too fine a point on it, but in the “count each vaccine separately in combined vaccines” method of counting, I get 29 vaccines by age 2.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 4, 2014 at 23:29 #

        Mr. Segal,

        sorry to hit you with so many responses, but just in case you are still reading here, I’d rather you saw this now than risk you missing it when I write it up in full.

        Your science advisor, Mr. Hooker, has for some time now been claiming that the Price study hid results showing that prenatal thimerosal increases autism risk. The highest risk he claims is 8.73.

        here’s the figure from the full report (more accurately, one of the two full reports) where that figure comes from:

        Abt associates figure

        Please take notice of two things. (1) this is from an interaction model. I.e. this is for whether the interaction of prenatal exposure and postnatal exposure combine to increase autism risk and (2) while the risk Mr. Hooker quotes is right there in a nice red box (it’s in the original), there are many blue boxes around results which have odds ratios less than one.

        Why is (1) important? Because these results are not valid taken separately. They are part of an interaction model–they are calculated as being interacting variables. Picking one out, as your Mr. Hooker does, is just wrong.

        Why is (2) important? Because there are many results which if you applied the same logic as Mr. Hooker, would suggest that thimerosal exposure up to 7 months (in this case) is protective. For ASD only (Mr. Hooker focuses on regressive autism, the group with the fewest kids in this study) the calculated 1/odds ratio is about 30. I.e. 30 times lower risk of autism. But only if you ignore (1).

        Which is to say, Mr. Hooker is doing exactly what you claim the CDC are doing. Showing one result and hiding others that go against his argument. And, all the while, ignoring the fact that none of these are valid taken alone.

        Sorry to be so blunt, but your man is lying.

    • Chris August 27, 2014 at 01:24 #

      “Personally, I am more concerned about aluminum adjuvants in vaccines and avoid them.”

      Something the MMR vaccine does not contain.

    • Elizabeth Hart August 27, 2014 at 10:52 #

      ‘Power Corrupts’ re your comment “Personally, I am more concerned about aluminium adjuvants in vaccines…”

      For information, please see my recent letter to the Editor of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, challenging a systematic review prepared by members of the Cochrane Vaccines Field, ie “Adverse events after immunisation with aluminium-containing DTP vaccines: systematic review of the evidence”

      The contents of the letter can be accessed on my website: http://over-vaccination.net/2014/08/11/request-for-retraction-of-the-cochrane-vaccines-field-systematic-review-re-vaccine-safety-and-aluminium/

      Elizabeth Hart

      http://over-vaccination.net

    • Elizabeth Hart August 27, 2014 at 11:17 #

      ‘Power Corrupts’, re the MMR vaccine… This is a ‘live’ vaccine, and sero-negative subjects are likely to be immune after the first effective dose of this vaccine, particularly the measles and rubella components. This can be verified by serological testing. However, mass populations of children are revaccinated with a second dose of this live vaccine product without their parents being properly informed of their options, ie the option of a blood test to verify immunisation after the first dose.

      I have raised this matter with a number of parties, including the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (Jonathan Temte), vaccine industry promoter Paul Offit, Australian politician Tanya Plibersek, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Terry Nolan), and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (Ian Olver and Warwick Anderson).

      For hyperlinks to my letters on this subject to the above mentioned parties, please see my webpage on the MMR: http://over-vaccination.net/questionable-vaccines/mmr-jab/

      I am pursuing this matter, which is pertinent to ‘informed consent’ before vaccination, and bodily autonomy of citizens (including ‘pre-citizens’, ie children).

  11. Dana Connor August 26, 2014 at 23:37 #

    Personally, I welcome the controversy…The bigger question to all this is why we haven’t figured out autism yet…I know nothing more today than when my severely autistic son was diagnosed 20 years ago…and, unfortunately, he lost his battle 2 years ago at age 16…a massive seizure took his life…autism took his life (up to 40% of autistic people suffer seizures).

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 26, 2014 at 23:55 #

      because controversy for it’s own sake is good? I don’t have time for that.

  12. lilady August 27, 2014 at 00:48 #

    Thanks Matt for your extraordinarily thorough reporting about Mr. Hooker’s study…and its aftereffects.

    The accompanying video with its tawdry references to Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot? I have no words.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 27, 2014 at 04:42 #

      So far I’ve seen SafeMinds and Kim Stagliano from the Age of Autism blog promoting that video. Says a lot about them. They don’t see how completely unacceptable this video is. It says what they want, so they don’t care about the rhetoric. My guess is other groups are latching on to it as well. I expect this from the likes if Bolen, Natural News and the rest. They have no guts to stand up. Generation Rescue under JB Handley–Handley never had any guts, just bluster (man couldn’t even pick up the phone or send an email to Paul Offit. He’s never apologized to Bonnie Offit. Bullies rarely have real courage). Of course he will tout it.

  13. Narad August 27, 2014 at 06:53 #

    On the off chance that this hasn’t been mentioned, Thompson’s L—edIn profile states only formal training in psychology.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 27, 2014 at 08:12 #

      Hadn’t seen that. Plus two years at Merck. And any associates before that (abt did the Price study)

      • usethebrainsgodgiveyou August 27, 2014 at 13:42 #

        Which makes one think….at first…he was not a highly qualified scientist, so he would be likely to leave the ranks. After a few hours reflection, I thought, what was a not highly qualified scientist doing on such a politically charged paper? No wonder he was paranoid, if the correspondence with his superiors is to be believed.

  14. amandasmills August 27, 2014 at 13:24 #

    Reblogged this on Nature Study in the City and commented:
    “In response to the latest round of “AHA! told you so!”
    I call bullshit.
    It’s a beautiful day and I refuse to spend my most precious asset dealing with fear mongers.
    And anyway Left Brain/Right Brain’s Matt Carey does a splendid job tearing the argument apart, I neednt bother.”

  15. Lawrence August 27, 2014 at 16:51 #

    @Matt – take a look:

    http://www.translationalneurodegeneration.com/content/3/1/16/abstract

    The Hooker paper has been removed from publication & an investigation has been started.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 27, 2014 at 17:54 #

      Thanks for that. I’ll put up a quick post.

  16. Sunny August 29, 2014 at 16:45 #

    I wish everyone who’s writing about this would throw in the sentence “By the way, the MMR vaccine has never contained thimerosal.” Or something to that effect.

    http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/UCM096228#t1

    Although no one’s talking about thimerosal in the current debate (because as stated above, it’s irrelevant in discussing MMR), I’ve seen a lot of conflation of “research” about MMR and thimerosal in anti-vaccination manifestos. Several have repeatedly referred to “evidence” of one to support claims regarding the other, when neither thimerosal or MMR are applicable to each other. I’d love to see the record set straight when possible – it’s a simple sentence that completely shuts down an entire line of spurious rhetoric. Or should, in a rational world.

    • Sunny August 29, 2014 at 16:53 #

      (I just thought of this because you came SO close to mentioning this in your third to last paragraph. Personal preference, I find it best to spell everything out in case some readers didn’t know it already. The more you know…!)

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 29, 2014 at 17:36 #

      Good point. I’ve seen journalists and people promoting vaccine-causation of autism make the mistake of mixing up thimerosal and MMR.

  17. Barry Segal September 6, 2014 at 13:40 #

    Obviously if I respond you will go off the deep end. But a few things, we do have the Cuba vaccination schedule, which doesn’t explain the big the big difference in numbers, They are doing something better than us.— There is autism in sub Saharan Africa,(and growing) we do fund 6 different organizations there. Where are you on giving multi catch up doses to a sick child? — Where on you on Multi-vial flu shots to pregnant women?— You must be aware of the following studies, Netherlands 2004, US 2003, New Zealand 1992, Germany 2011, all showing more asthma, allergies, autism, etc. (creates lifetime customers for someone) among the vaccinated community. Generation Rescue is supposed to come out with a study probably showing the same thing. But you will trash it. Have fun, I am going to the open.

    • Chris September 6, 2014 at 17:57 #

      What studies? You just listed countries and years. I know of Vaccination Status and Health in Children and Adolescents, which the only difference was that the kids who did not get vaccines had more vaccine preventable diseases. Also this list has several on vaccine and asthma, but either showing no correlation or recommending vaccines to protect those with asthma.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 6, 2014 at 18:12 #

      You are doing the typical fall-back retort. Just want to point that out. You start with attacking the person (“you will go off the deep end”), then you move into the “I won’t answer your questions which are on topic but I’ll pull my standard set of general (and off topic) questions out as a defense”. Drop chaff, turn tail and head back to base.

      The man who sponsored that ugly race baiting video and gave a nonpology for it is saying I will “go off the deep end”. You may be expecting me to give some sort of passive-aggressive “sorry I pushed your buttons” response. If you can’t stand hard questions you have no business in this discussion. And if you could handle hard questions, you would have responded to them.

      Let’s get into the actual discussion.

      What is the real prevalence of autism in Cuba? If someone goes in and does a whole population study, what number do they get? Answer, you don’t know. What if someone does an ADDM network like study, what will the prevalence be? Answer is, you don’t know. If it wasn’t clear in the examples I gave, I’ll make it even more clear–we can spend all day comparing prevalence rates in various countries and their vaccine schedules. I’ve seen people do that before(Generation Rescue: a dishonest autism charity?). If you want to cherry pick and compare apples to oranges (or as one researcher I know said: apples to airplanes), go ahead. What you are doing is called confirmation bias.

      Back to the point at hand, if you want to spend your day confirming your bias with bad data (heck, give me any study on autism prevalence in Cuba). You want to show me you actual care about this? Sponsor a study in Cuba on autism prevalence. Not a “Barry Segal stays in control and pushes people to give him the answer he wants” study. A real, independent study. I’m telling you that there are certainly many autistics there, children and adults, who are undiagnosed and not getting appropriate services. Richard Grinker saw that sort of thing in Korea. He did a study which has changed the way Korea is handling autism.

      If you knew the Cuba vaccine schedule before making your previous comment you should have been prepared to respond to my question and not dodge it. They are “doing something right”? What is that? Giving two birth doses of vaccine? Giving the whole cell pertussis vaccine instead of the acellular? Are they using thimerosal? Do you even know? This study shows that the Cuban HepB vaccine contained thimerosal in 2001. Given the fact that they still use the older whole cell pertussis vaccine, I’m leaning towards the Cuban schedule being based on thimerosal containing vaccines. So, does thimerosal prevent autism? Thimerosal exposure in my state for both infants and pregnant women is dramatically down from the 1980’s and yet we have more kids identified with autism in our services programs.

      Generation Rescue has been working for some time on a study. I’ve noted that here. I also read your email complaining to Jenny McCarthy that your, what was it, $200k hadn’t produced results yet. GR tried years ago to get money left over from a class action lawsuit to fund this study. In the original version of this study, GR was going to use as one of the researchers a guy that was holding the domain “PaulOffit.com” for JB Handley. So forgive me if I think there may be some bias involved.

      I assume you are talking about the GR study and not the vax/unvax study that Brian Hooker says he’s doing with the Florida Medicaid database information. Which would be the data that “Dr. Gary” bullied and paid for access to, right? Will the Geier’s be involved as well? Given Mr. Hooker’s lack of epimdiology skill, I will likely be skeptical, you are correct. Trash it? I probably won’t have the time. How many Hooker and/or Geier papers have gone by in the past year? They just aren’t interesting. As you well know, by the way. If you felt that Mr. Hooker’s reanalysis was going to carry any weight at all on a scientific basis you wouldn’t have betrayed Mr. Thompson.

      You are correct that I used to do analyses of papers like Mr. Hooker’s or Generation Rescue’s as they came out. Why? Because I wanted to see if there really was something to them. But after seeing such junk science over and over, I’ve stopped.

      There’s a real vaccinated/unvaccinated study due out very soon. I’ll await your response.

      Have fun at the open. I’m going to spend the day with my autistic kid. Which, with all due respect, is a hell of lot more fun than being an observer at a sporting event. I’ll take my day over yours anytime. Which is my way of saying–next time drop the high-school taunts. I mean seriously, a passive aggressive “I’m rich and off to the ball” statement to the parent of a disabled kid?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 6, 2014 at 18:28 #

      “Where on you on Multi-vial flu shots to pregnant women?— ”

      By which I assume you mean “shots from multi-dose vials for pregnant women”. Not trying to play a debate trick where I point out minor flaws in your statement. But a “multi-vial” shot would be something different. Given that the Price study doesn’t show an increased risk of autism from thimerosal, which again I believe to be your point, I don’t have a problem with it. You want to show me some data on something outside autism, go ahead.

      I am aware of some very weak studies, yes. If I had found them convincing I wouldn’t have the stance I do, would I?

      Is autism “growing” in sub-Saharan Africa (why sub-Saharan, by the way? Do we not care about north Africa?). Show me data. Show me that there is a real increase in the secular rate of autism. Not a “there are more kids diagnosed today than before”. We can’t identify all autistic kids here in the US. What makes you think that they are accurately counting the number of auistics in Africa? Given that they don’t even have people qualified to make diagnoses (as I pointed out a few times before).

      Since you seem to think my direct questions are rhetorical: I would like to hear your views on that.

      I would wait for vaccines if my kid were sick. We vaccinate on time, so it isn’t a “catch up” thing for us. It’s a recommended schedule, right? I would make damned sure to get my kid in as soon as the illness was over, though.

      I’m not afraid of your questions. Even when it’s clear you are using them as a diversion from your own refusal to answer mine.

    • Science Mom September 6, 2014 at 19:03 #

      Obviously if I respond you will go off the deep end.

      I think you over-estimate your importance in this matter Mr. Segal.

      But a few things, we do have the Cuba vaccination schedule, which doesn’t explain the big the big difference in numbers, They are doing something better than us.— There is autism in sub Saharan Africa,(and growing) we do fund 6 different organizations there.

      You are proven completely wrong about Cuba’s vaccine schedule and this is how you respond? Cuba vaccinates more than the U.S. in infancy. How about the explanation for the big difference in numbers is that the U.S. is doing something better than they are which is identifying ASD.

      Where are you on giving multi catch up doses to a sick child? —

      Depends upon the illness; some are contraindicated others aren’t.

      Where on you on Multi-vial flu shots to pregnant women?—

      The amount of thiomersal in a TCV is not harmful, besides thiomersal-free are recommended for pregnant women and children under the age of three. Additionally, there are more than enough thiomersal-free flu vaccines to accomplish this.

      You must be aware of the following studies, Netherlands 2004, US 2003, New Zealand 1992, Germany 2011, all showing more asthma, allergies, autism, etc. (creates lifetime customers for someone) among the vaccinated community.

      Completely meaningless. Why don’t you cite the studies and discuss what is so compelling about them.

      Generation Rescue is supposed to come out with a study probably showing the same thing. But you will trash it. Have fun, I am going to the open.

      It sounds as though you don’t even have any confidence in the GR “study” to withstand scrutiny. It’s a shame that you would use your wealth to continue to fund unethical and incompetent investigators to churn out easily refuted studies just to support your own mistaken beliefs and continue to divert attention from issues that are important to autistics and their families. Do you even bother to think about them or is it all about your anguish?

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