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Online discussions discussing the recent CDC data “reanalysis” story

1 Sep

Educator/writer Liz Ditz often keeps a running summary of online discussions of trending topics. Below are some of her links. They are a few days old, but this gives you a starting place in case you wish to read multiple sources.

Posts discussing Hooker’s allegations, excluding anti-vaccine sources .

Timeline

August 8, 2014: Hooker paper published online

August 18, 2014: Focus Autism Press Release published online

August 18, 2014: Andrew Wakefield’s Autism Media Channel Video Alleging a CDC Whistleblower published online

August 22, 2014: Andrew Wakefield’s Autism Media Channel Video Naming William W. Thompson as “The CDC Whistleblower ” published online

  1. August 22, 2014,  Orac Knows at Respectful Insolence:  Brian Hooker proves Andrew Wakefield wrong about vaccines and autism

    Of course, the key finding in Brian Hooker’s paper is that Wakefield was wrong. Indeed, in this video, Wakefield even admits that he was mostly wrong about MMR and autism. Let that sink in again. He admits that he was mostly wrong about MMR and autism. OK, he says we were “partially right,” but the flip side of that is that he must have been mostly wrong.

  2. August 22, 2014, Reuben Gaines at The Poxes Blog: Andrew Jeremy Wakefield plays video director while African-American Babies die, or something

    Hooker is wrong in his assertions because the DeStefano paper did not leave out African-American children on purpose. Children were excluded from the analysis because of very legitimate and scientific reasons. They either were not the right age, did not have autism but some other neurodevelopment disorder, or were born outside of Georgia. Even if they were tossed into the analysis, DeStefano et al used a statistical analysis that took into account things like birth weight and mother’s age when analysing the data. They wanted to make sure that what they were seeing was most likely because of the MMR vaccine and not because of some other factor associated with autism.

  3. August 23, 2014,  Ren at Epidemiological: Directed Acyclic Graphs and the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism.

    I’m very skeptical that Dr. Hooker’s simplified statistical approach can be better than DeStefano et al’s approach of conditional logistic regression. Conditional logistic regression has the advantage of being able to control for a multitude of confounders and effect modifiers.

  4. August 24, 2014, Liz Ditz at I Speak of Dreams: L’affaire CDC-MMR: Hooker, Wakefield, and Focus Autism Accuse African-American Senior CDC Researcher of Being A Race Traitor

    According to Hooker, Wakefield, and Focus Autism, a respected senior African-American physician-researcher is a race traitor and a mass murderer.

  5. August 25, 2014, Orac Knows at Respectful Insolence: The central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement 

    I can imagine three main possibilities for what happened. The first possibility from what I know is that Thompson had some sort of disagreement with his co-investigators, made the incredibly stupid—yes, stupid—decision to unburden himself to Brian Hooker, who, he must have known or should have known, is an antivaccine crank associated with Andrew Wakefield, and is now paying the price for that decision… The second possibility is that Thompson wanted to correct something Hooker was doing with the data and somehow let himself be drawn into saying things that could easily be taken out of context. The third, and (I hope) much less likely, possibility is that Thompson’s gone off the deep end and gone antivaccine.

  6. August 25,2014, David Gorski MD at Science Based Medicine: Did a high ranking whistleblower really reveal that the CDC covered up proof that vaccines cause autism in African-American boys?

    “What [Hooker] has done, apparently, is found grist for a perfect conspiracy theory to demonize the CDC, play the race card in a truly despicable fashion, and cast fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the CDC vaccination program, knowing that most of the white antivaccine activists who support hate the CDC so much that they won’t notice that even Hooker’s reanalysis doesn’t support their belief that vaccines caused the autism in their children. Meanwhile, there is no evidence, at least none, submitted by the antivaccine propagandists flogging this conspiracy theory, that there really was a CDC conspiracy to hide anything.

  7. August 25, 2014, ToddW at Harpocrates Speaks, Andrew Wakefield Tortures History

    I want to focus on some statements made by one Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who committed scientific fraud, resulting in the full retraction of his 1998 case series study on MMR and the stripping of his medical license. Wakefield boldly added himself to the list of not only torturing science, but now adds to his accomplishments torturing history and ethics (granted, we already knew he was ethically challenged). You see, in his videos (here and here) about the alleged “whistleblower”, William Thompson,Wakefield compared the purported “cover-up” to the Tuskegee syphilis debacle. It’s a false comparison used simply to inflame people and claim the race card.

  8. August 25, 2014, Michael Simpson at Skeptical Raptor, Great CDC Coverup–suppressing evidence that MMR vaccines cause autism? cross-posted at at Daily Kos

    It’s clear what’s happening here. Thompson, through sheer ignorance or total incompetence may have had a conversation with Hooker. Given the fact that the antivaccination gang lacks any serious scientific evidence supporting their dogma that vaccines cause autism, they jump on anything, however tenuous, that makes it appear that all of the evidence that refutes their dogma should be thrown in the garbage.

  9. August 26, 2014, Orac Knows at Respectful Insolence: Hey, where is everybody? The “CDC whistleblower” manufactroversy continues apace

    Here it is, Tuesday already, and the antivaccine underground is still on full mental jacket alert over the biggest story the antivaccine movement has seen in a while. Fortunately, it’s a story that’s been largely ignored by the mainstream media, which tells me that maybe, just maybe, the mainstream media has figured out that it shouldn’t give undue credence to cranks.

  10. August 26 2014, Sullivan (Matt Carey) at LeftBrainRightBrain Autism, Atlanta, MMR: serious questions and also how Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield are causing damage to the autism communties

    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.

  11. August 26 2014,Lisa Lightner at Grounded Parents: the CDC vaccines/autism/coverup theory {spoiler alert-it’s not true!}

    a friend, a friend that I consider to be intelligent and reasonable….first posted a link to a CNN article. Correction–it’s iCNN…which is VERY different. ANYONE can post ANYTHING there. You can, really. It’s a crowdsourcing platform. Shame on you CNN for whoring out your name for page views. Because this is what happens–people will post just about anything…..

    I wish we knew the causes of autism, I really do. But vaccines ain’t it.

    Fear sells, don’t buy it.

  12. August 26, 2014, Reuben Gaines at The Poxes Blog: How to end a scientist’s career with some fancy editing

    As much as the anti-vaccine activists have been demanding that Dr. Thompson come out into the open and make some sort of a statement, no one seems to demand that Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and his team publish the entire recorded conversation between Brian Hooker and Dr. Thompson. All we get are lies and innuendo. We have operatives like Ginger Taylor writing on Twitter that CDC deliberately didn’t look at birth certificates for African-American babies in the DeStefano study.

    August 26, 2014: Anti-Vaccine Group The Thinking Mom’s Revolution Hosts a #CDCWhistleblower Twitter Party

  13. August 27, 2014 Karoli Kuns at Crooks and Liars: Rob Schneider’s Anti-Vax Crusade Now Enters Alex Jones Territory

    There’s nothing like a good conspiracy theory to get the creative juices flowing. For actor Rob Schneider, that means getting your dander up over your incorrect belief that the CDC altered data to bury the “fact” that MMR causes autism.

  14. August 27 2014, Sullivan (Matt Carey) at LeftBrainRightBrain Autism: Discussions of the recent MMR/autism paper (and why the study isn’t what the author wants you to believe it is)

    Below are a selected list of discussions about Brian Hooker’s recent paper and the highly irresponsible way he and his team are promoting it. Let me know if you spot one I should add to the list.

  15. August 27, 2014,  Orac Knows at Respectful Insolence: The CDC “whistleblower” manufactroversy: Twitter parties and another “bombshell” e-mail

    … just how desperate the antivaccine movement is to have Brian Hooker’s incompetent “reanalysis” of a ten year old vaccine safety study and Andrew Wakefield’s despicable race-baiting video gain traction in the mainstream media. The failure of this conspiracy theory to do so is driving antivaccine activists into ever-greater fits of lunacy online.

  16. August 27, 2014, Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy, Slate: No, There Still Is No Connection Between Vaccines and Autism

    There’s a conspiracy theory going around that the CDC covered up a link between autism and vaccines. From what I can tell, this conspiracy theory is on the same level as the one that NASA faked the Moon landings. And you know how I feel about that.

  17. August 27, 2014, ToddW at Harpocrates Speaks, Anti-vaccine Activists Throw Twitter Tantrum

    … the hashtag #CDCwhistleblower to do what really amounted to the social media equivalent of a temper tantrum, whining about how the mainstream media is not reporting on the study. It was really a sad display, as they simply all copied and pasted from the same list of talking points, not even adding their own interpretation.

    August 27, 2014, in the morning: The Journal Translational Neurodegeneration removes Hooker’s paper from the public domain

  18. August 27 2014, Sullivan (Matt Carey) at LeftBrainRightBrain Autism:The Brian Hooker article “…has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions”
  19. August 27, 2014, Adam Marcus at Retraction Watch: Journal takes down autism-vaccine paper pending investigation

    An article purporting to find that black children are at substantially increased risk for autism after early exposure to the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine has been shelved, amid claims that a CDC whistleblower has accused health officials of suppressing information about the link.

  20. August 27, 2014, Reuben Gaines at The Poxes Blog: Even the bottom-feeding journals seem to have some sense

    ’m still left wondering how this paper got through peer review, or who did the peer review. They seem to not have bothered with checking the biostatistics or with looking back at the DeStefano paper.

    August 27, 2014, at approximately 2:30 pm, PDT, attorneys for William W. Thompson, the CDC employee, publish Thompson’s statement

  21. August 27, 2014: Ren at Epidemiological Dr. Brian S. Hooker gets the Andrew Wakefield treatment.

    My problem with Dr. Thompson’s statement is that the data were not omitted willy-nilly. There was a protocol that was established, and it excluded from the analysis children of different ethnicities, not just African Americans. In that exclusion, a vaccine-autism signal that was confounded by different factors was lost. It wasn’t lost out of bias but out of properly adjusting for different factors.

  22. August 28, 2014, Sullivan at LeftbrainRightBrain Andrew Wakefield betrays another “whistleblower” with Brian Hooker helping

    Apparently Mr. Hooker is unaware that the secrecy of confession is absolute. Priests, real ones, not self appointed ones like Mr. Hooker, have been known to go to jail rather than divulge what they’ve been told in confession. Real priests don’t record confessions so they can betray another.

  23. August 28, 2014, Debra Goldschmidt, CNN, Journal questions validity of autism and vaccine study

    Dr. Frank DeStefano, lead author of the 2004 study, said he and his colleagues stand by their findings. DeStefano said all the study authors, including Thompson, agreed on the analysis and interpretation before the study was submitted for publication 10 years ago. However, he said he plans to review his notes and will decide whether to run another analysis on the data.

  24. August 28, 2014, Reuben Gaines at The Poxes Blog, Autism is not death, unless you want it to be

    While the black ribbon can mean different things to different people, it’s main use is for grieving or remembering the fallen, the dead. The way that these people have used it is to try to bring attention to their cause by equating autism with a death or a loss.

  25. August 28, 2014, Orac at Respectful Insolence A bad day for antivaccinationists: A possible retraction, and the “CDC whistleblower” issues a statement

    Betrayals within betrayals. This can’t all be laid on Wakefield. Thompson was played. Big time.

Posts discussing Hooker’s allegations from anti-vaccine sources and those believing Hooker’s allegations  .

Timeline

August 8, 2014: Hooker paper published online

August 18, 2014: Focus Autism Press Release published online

August 18, 2014: Andrew Wakefield’s Autism Media Channel Video Alleging a CDC Whistleblower published online

  1. August 18, 2014, Jake Crosby at Autism Investigated: CDC Whistleblower Reveals Yet More Research Fraud
  2. August 19, 2014 Age of Autism at Age of Autism: Whistleblower Says CDC Knew in 2003 of Higher Autism Rate Among African-American Boys Receiving MMR Shot Earlier Than 36 Months
  3. August 20, 2014, Mike Adams at Natural News: Vaccine bombshell: CDC whistleblower reveals cover-up linking MMR vaccines to autism in African-Americans
  4. August 20, 2014, Age of Autism at Age of Autism: Senior Government Scientist Breaks 13 Years’ Silence on CDC’s Vaccine-autism Fraud
  5. August 20, 2014 Jon Rappoport at Jon Rappoport’s Blog Breaking: Breaking: MMR vaccine, autism, CDC coverup 
  6. August 21, 2014 Jon Rappoport at Jon Rappoport’s Blog: Vaccine-autism connection: US Congressman stonewalled by the CDC
  7. August 21, 2014 Jon Rappoport at Jon Rappoport’s Blog: Advice for the secret CDC vaccine whistleblower
  8. August 21, 2014: Mike Adams at Natural News:  CDC refuses to turn over documents to Congress: Evidence linking MMR vaccines to autism intentionally withheld from investigators
  9. August 22, 2014, Ethan Huff at Natural News, CDC whistleblower confesses to publishing fraudulent data to obfuscate link between vaccines and autism
  10. August 22, 2014, metamars at My Firedog Lake: CDC refuses to turn over documents to Congress showing MMR vaccines caused autism in black children (note: metamars’ blog post, not an official Firedoglake post)

    August 22, 2014: Andrew Wakefield’s Autism Media Channel Video Naming William W. Thompson as “The CDC Whistleblower ” published online

  11. August 22, 2014 Jon Rappoport at Jon Rappoport’s Blog: CDC whistleblower revealed: William Thompson
  12. August 22, 2014 Jon Rappoport at Jon Rappoport’s Blog: What CDC whistleblower William Thompson needs to do now
  13. August 22, 2014 Jon Rappaport at Jon Rappaport’s Blog Breaking: CDC whistleblower Thompson in grave danger now
  14. August 22, 2014, at TMR at Thinking Moms’ Revolution: CDC Whistleblower William Thompson Blows the Lid on Malfeasance and Fraud at the CDC
  15. August 22, 2014, Jake Crosby at Autism Investigated, Andrew Wakefield Betrays CDC Whistleblower
  16. August 23, 2014, Inquisitr CDC Whistleblower’s Claims Cause Uproar In Autism Community
  17. August 24, 2014 Jon Rappoport at Jon Rappoport’s Blog CNN iReport on CDC whistleblower spreads like wildfire, then censored
  18. August 24, 2014, Jon Rappaport at Jon Rappaport’s Blog Rob Schneider says he has smoking gun on CDC vaccine-autism fraud  (For beginners: Rob Schneider is an actor who has in the last few years become an anti-vaccine activist. Why he would have access to sensitive information is an open question.)
  19. August 24, 2014, Sally Colletti, Examiner:  Autism and The CDC: Now What?
  20. August 25, 2014, Kent Heckenlively, Age of Autism: A Break in the Wall – William W. Thompson
  21. August 25, 2014, Ethan Huff at Natural News: CDC whistleblower exposes massive autism cover-up perpetrated by government agency
  22. August 25, 2014, Mike Adams at Natural News: CDC whistleblower’s secret letter to Gerberding released by Natural News as mainstream media desperately censors explosive story
  23. August 25, 2014, Mike Adams at Natural News CNN caught red handed covering up CDC medical genocide of African-American babies (much handwaving over open-source reports at iCNN being changed or deleted.)
  24. August 25, 2014, Zorro at Thinking Moms’ Revolution: Stop Calling Us Crazy: Autism, MMR, and Institutional Gaslighting
  25. August 25, 2014, Megan Heimer at Living Whole CDC Whistleblower Comes Out and They All Play Dead
  26. August 25, 2014, Age of Autism at Age of Autism: Rob Schneider Demands Answers on CDC MMR Fraud
  27. August 25, 2014, Jon Rappoport at Jon Rappoport’s Blog CDC vaccine-autism fraud: what victory looks like
  28. August 25, 2014, Jon Rappoport at Activist Post: CDC whistleblower, watch out; here come the mothers
  29. August 25, 2014, Kelly Brogan at Kelly Brogan MD CDC: You’re Fired. Autism Coverup Exposed.
  30. August 25, 2014, Patrick “Tim” Bolen at the Bolen Report The CDC Whistleblower… The Story Mainstream Media Doesn’t Want To Run…
  31. August 26, 2014, JB Handley at Age of Autism: Knock-out Blow Needed: Dr. Thompson Must Speak Out on MMR African American Autism Connection.
  32. August 26, 2014, John Stone at Age of Autism:CDC Frauds: Connections Between the DeStefano Paper and the Thorsen Affair.
  33. August 26, 2014, Celia Farber, Epoch Times:  Whistleblower Reveals CDC Knowingly Put Children at Risk of Autism, Media Remains Silent (Video)
  34. August 26, 2014, Jon Rappoport at Jon Rappoport’s Blog CDC whistleblower is just the tip of the iceberg
  35. August 26, 2014 Mike Adams at Natural News EXCLUSIVE: Bombshell email from CDC whistleblower reveals criminality of vaccine cover-up as far back as 2002
  36. August 26, 2014, Age of Autism at Age of Autism: CDC Whistleblower on Thimerosal in Pregnant Women (note: video interview with Brian Hooker, not William W. Thompson)

    August 26, 2014, in the evening: Anti-vaccine Activists at The Thinking Moms’ Revolution Host a #CDCWhistleblower Twitter Party

  37. August 27, 2014, “Bobby Dee” at Gianelloni Family: Erased by a Birth Certificate
  38. August 27, 2014, John Stone, Age of Autism: The CDC: the Detective Agency Which Could Never Find Anything<
  39. August 27, 2014, Anne Dachel, Age of Autism: CDC Whistleblower Story: Danke to Franchi
  40. August 27, 2014, Marcella Piper-Terry, CDC Whistleblower and Probability of Post-MMR Autism Diagnosis
  41. August 27, 2014, Marcella Piper-Terry at Thinking Mom’s Revolution How Many African-American Boys Have Autism as a Result of the CDC’s Lies?
  42. August 27, 2014, Ethan Huff at Natural News: Congressman Posey discusses autism, vaccines and lack of CDC transparency in interview with Dr. Brian Hooker
  43. August 27, 2014 Mike Adams at Natural News: Media conspiracy to bury CDC whistleblower story protects vaccine makers at the expense of human life
  44. August 27, 2014, Jon Rappoport at Jon Rappoport’s Blog Update: CDC whistleblower in touch with members of Congress

    August 27, 2014, in the morning: The Journal Translational Neurodegeneration removes Hooker’s paper from the public domain

  45. August 27, 2014 Mike Adams at Natural News: Scientific journal censors Brian Hooker’s analysis of CDC vaccine data; the Church of Science orders ‘burning of books’
  46. August 27, 2014, Age of Autism at Age of Autism: Translational Neurodegeneration Removes Vaccination Timing Article

    August 27, 2014, at approximately 2:30 pm, PDT, attorneys for William W. Thompson, the CDC employee, publish Thompson’s statement

  47. August 27, 2014, Age of Autism at Age of Autism: Statement from William Thompson, RE Pediatrics MMR African American Males Data
  48. August 27, 2014 Mike Adams at Natural News: BREAKING: CDC whistleblower confesses to MMR vaccine research fraud in historic public statement
  49. August 27, 2014, The Event Chronicle at The Event Chronicle: CDC whistleblower confesses to MMR vaccine research fraud in historic public statement
  50. August 28, 2014 Celia Farber, Epoch Times Vaccinegate: CDC Whistleblower Admits Claims of Data Fixing Were True, Complains at Being Recorded and Outed

Other links

Alycia Halladay, PhD, Named Chief Science Officer of the Autism Science Foundation

29 Aug

Below is a press release for the Autism Science Foundation. They are growing and have added a Chief Science Officer.

Alycia Halladay, PhD, Named Chief Science Officer of the Autism Science Foundation

August 25, 2014- New York, NY)– The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research, today announced that Dr. Alycia Halladay will join the organization as Chief Science Officer. The announcement was made by Autism Science Foundation president Alison Singer.

“Dr. Halladay is the perfect person to lead our growing science department” said Singer. “She has extensive experience in all aspects of autism research, as well as a deep understanding of how to maximize investment in research to provide the best outcomes for families. I could not be more thrilled to have her as part of our executive team.”

Halladay previously served as the Senior Director of Clinical and Environmental Sciences and Interim Head of the Etiology Portfolio at Autism Speaks. Prior to joining Autism Speaks, she was Associate Director for Research at the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR). While at NAAR and Autism Speaks, she worked across all areas of autism science, directing or managing portfolios relating to risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of ASDs. In addition, she led activities relating to family services, communications, awareness, and advocacy. She has a Ph.D. in psychology and behavioral neuroscience from Rutgers University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the department of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers where she later joined as faculty and currently holds an adjunct position. She has participated as a guest editor for a number of journals including Neurotoxicology, Autism Research, Brain Research and Gastroenterology and has served on grant review panels for the CDC and the NJ Governor’s Council for ASD.

“I am proud and honored to lead the growing science program at the Autism Science Foundation” said Halladay. “This is an exciting and important time for autism research, and I look forward to working with ASF to continue and also expand its scientific contributions.”

In its five years of operations, the Autism Science Foundation has funded over $1.6 million in grants including pre and postdoctoral fellowships, medical school gap year research fellowships, 3-year early career awards, treatment grants, undergraduate summer research funding, research enhancement mini-grants and travel scholarships to enable stakeholders to attend the annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).

“Autism Science Foundation’s research programs have grown consistently year after year and now need full time leadership to oversee their continued expansion”, said Dr. Matthew State, chair of ASF’s Scientific Advisory Board and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco. “Alycia is a highly respected autism scientist and has exactly the right experience to lead ASF into the next phase of its growth.”

Dr. Halladay will begin work with the foundation on September 8, 2014.

Founded in 2009, Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c) (3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism. To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation or to make a donation visit http://www.autismsciencefoundation.org.

The Brian Hooker article “…has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions”

27 Aug

The paper recently published by Brian Hooker, Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young african american boys: a reanalysis of CDC data has been pulled. Currently the journal’s website has this in place of the article:

This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further investigation.

I wish they had thought this through before publishing it. Be that as it may, my own view (as an author and one-time editor) is that the revelation that this is not an original work by Mr. Hooker should have warranted some action. Mr. Hooker has discussed how the idea to do this study came from someone else and the analysis is a recreation of a previous analysis. Minor point, I know. And I know my online friends did not agree with me on that.

I do appreciate the journal taking this step. While Mr. Hooker, Andrew Wakefield and their team try to make as much political hay out of this paper as they can.

More discussions of this paper

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

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”


By Matt Carey

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

Is Autism Speaks supporting vaccine-autism causation proponent Congressman Bill Posey?

19 Aug

Someone forwarded an email from the “Autism Action Network” recently. The email asked people to support Congressman Bill Posey’s election campaign by attending a fundraiser. Looks like a few big donors to Mr. Posey were going to attend, including Sallie Bernard of SafeMinds and Autism Speaks. Ms. Bernard certainly is with both organizations, but I wonder if she was attending as an Autism Speaks officer or if Autism Speaks was even aware that their name was being used to promote the fundraiser.

Perhaps Ms. Bernard wasn’t aware that her Autism Speaks affiliation was being used this way. I’ve seen some of my affiliations used where I didn’t expect nor want them. Perhaps Ms. Bernard was aware that the AS affiliation was being used in this advertisement, but Autism Speaks wasn’t. Perhaps Autism Speaks was aware and supported this effort. I’m not betting heavily on that last option though.

Here’s the list of donors for the fundraiser in the email I got:

Jennifer Larson of the Canary Party and Health Freedom
Sallie Bernard of Safeminds and Autism Speaks
JB Handley of Generation Rescue
Tony Lyons of Shy[sic] Horse Publishing
Barry Segal of Focus Autism
Mark Blaxill of the Canary Party and Health Freedom
Dr. Gary Kompothecras
Teri Costigan

The Autism Speaks name adds a legitimacy to this fundraiser that the other groups just can’t. The Canary Party and Health Freedom (which I assume to be Americans for Health Choice) are basically the same people with “Canary Party” as a political party and “heath freedom” as a charity. The Canary Party/Health Freedom team is led by the same people who funded large donations to Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chair Daryl Issa ($40k plus). JB Handley is not as vocal as he once was, but he founded Generation Rescue on the notion that “autism is just a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning“. Sky Horse publishing is boutique publisher of many of the books on vaccines and autism, including “Age of Autism” and books by Andrew Wakefield. Barry Segal (Focus Autism) has been a large supporter of groups like Generation Rescue, the Age of Autism, SafeMinds and is very vocal on his belief that vaccines cause not only autism, but many other health problems as well. Gary Kompothecras has been funding Mr. Posey for years and is an autism parent and benefactor of groups promoting the vaccine/autism idea.

Without Autism Speaks’ name added to this, this would be very clearly all about a small but wealthy group of people pushing the failed ideas of vaccines and autism. People with failed and damaging ideas have the right to lobby members of congress along with everyone else. I, for one, am glad that the vast majority of Congress has moved on from the vaccine/autism-epidemic idea. I look forward to the day when that majority reaches 100%.


By Matt Carey

And yet another vaccinated/unvaccinated comparison study, this time funded by SafeMinds

13 Aug

A study comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated children is expected to be published soon. That study was mentioned at a meeting of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Commitee earlier this year. With that announcement one might reasonably expect much discussion in the online autism parent community. Instead I’ve seen only one response: SafeMinds (an organization focused on the failed idea that mercury in vaccines caused the rise in autism diagnoses) put an article on their website noting that they were “worried” by this study (a response I already discussed). Perhaps I missed it, but I did not see a statement in the SafeMinds article that they have their own vaccinated/unvaccinated study ongoing. Not only a vaccinated/unvaccinated study, but one which parallels the one about to be published. Both the about to be published study and the SafeMinds funded study focus on baby siblings of autistic kids. Parents of autistic children are more likely to delay or forgo vaccines than are other parents. Also, the risk of autism is high in the baby sibling population, giving a ” ‘window of opportunity’ to observe any potential interactions between vaccinations and the diagnosis of ASD”, as SafeMinds put it. But read for yourself. Under “Recently Funded SafeMinds Investigations“, SafeMinds lists:

The Early Identification of Infants and Toddlers at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Developmental Delay and Developmental Language Disorders
CAROLE SAMANGO SPROUSE, ED.D., THE FOCUS FOUNDATION
The siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have a 90% incidence of speech and language delay and an 11% increased risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This proposal hypothesizes that the siblings who are not vaccinated will have a smaller incidence of ASD than the 11% already projected, as well as other developmental differences. The incidence of ASD in siblings will be lower in the unvaccinated population than vaccinated. The siblings of children with ASD provide a fertile ground to follow the neurodevelopmental progression of an at-risk population, and the effects of vaccinations on development. The siblings also provide a “window of opportunity” to observe any potential interactions between vaccinations and the diagnosis of ASD. It is very common for parents of children ASD to avoid vaccinating siblings in the first five years of life. This provides an interesting opportunity to observe and see possible correlations between vaccinations and ASD.

First, let me note the wording of that webpage: “Recently Funded SafeMinds Investigations”. Not Investigations Recently Funded by SafeMinds. Their choice of word order is poor. It implies that these are “SafeMinds Investigations” and not really independent. I will note that SafeMinds were more careful at the top of that page in how they framed the projects they have funded, but still, I would change the “SafeMinds Investigations” if I were they.

When I searched for information on the principle investigator for the SafeMinds study, I found a 2007 announcement for the study: Vaccinated/Unvaccinated Autism Baby Sibling Study, Carole Samango Sprouse, Ed.D., The Focus Foundation. Research does take time, something I wish SafeMinds made more clear in their public statements. It’s been seven years, though, and I haven’t seen this vaccinated/unvaccinated study published. The only payment I’ve seen in the SafeMinds tax forms to support this project was relatively small, $24,250 in 2006, so perhaps it wasn’t well enough supported to complete. Perhaps I missed the other support.

The principle investigator on the SafeMinds funded study has published a different study on autism and vaccines: Survey of Vaccine Beliefs and Practices Among Families Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders, and remains active in disability research.

When we consider the question of studies comparing vaccinated/unvaccinated populations, there are at least 4 in various stages. Four. That, plus the number of statements one can find online calling for such a study and we see a very strong interest in this type of study.

Here are those four studies:

1) The self-named “National Vaccine Information Center” is funding a project at George Mason University. I believe this is being performed by a member of the NVIC.

2) Generation Rescue (and others) are funding a project at Jackson State University.

3) The SafeMinds funded study noted above.

and

4) the study about to be published.

Again, with this high level of interest, where was the response to the announcement that a vaccinated/unvaccinated study is nearing publication?


ByMatt Carey

A bit of irony from Generation Rescue: still citing Jenny McCarthy as the face of autism recovery

5 Aug

Somehow I’ve found myself on Facebook and, even more, navigating to the Generation Rescue page. And today I found this:

GR_FB

In case you didn’t click to enlarge and read, here’s their statement:

The New York Times recently posted an article on autism recovery – and yes, it’s real! There really is hope!

Thank you Jenny McCarthy for being the celebrity to bring attention to the truth and thank you for all you have done for this cause.

Here’s a hint–there really is hope even without losing a diagnosis. One can have be autistic or the parent of an autistic kid and have hope. Trust me, I know. And I think if you ask Jenny McCarthy, she will tell you the same.

Back to the story. Generation Rescue are referring to this article (The Kids Who Beat Autism) in the NY Times magazine.

You may ask, where’s the irony in that? Jenny McCarthy is the public face of autism “recovery” after all, right? She told us all about how her kid was no longer autistic, typical, all that after using alternative medicine. She went so far as to berate the government for not calling her to study her no-longer-autistic son (more on that later).

I find it ironic because she’s been in the news just in the past few weeks, discussing how her autistic son is being bullied because of his autism.
http://www.people.com/article/jenny-mccarthy-the-view-autistic-son-bullied

AutisticEvan

I wish her kid well. I really do. I also wish Jenny McCarrthy compassion and forgiveness. I wish she would be more honest.

Let me return to the “Jenny McCarthy Berates the US Government for Not Studying her Autistic Kid” thing. You seethe NY Times Magazine article is discussing an NIH study of kids who were diagnosed as autistic but later were diagnosed to be not autistic. Not just a coincidence, but years back my friend Kev Leitch not only discussed that study while it was in progress, but pointed out that if Jenny McCarthy were serious about wanting the government to study her kid she might want to participate in the NIH study. Here’s what Jenny McCarthy had to say back then:

Evan is now 5 years old and what might surprise a lot of you is that we’ve never been contacted by a single member of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or any other health authority to evaluate and understand how Evan recovered from autism. When Evan meets doctors and neurologists, to this day they tell us he was misdiagnosed — that he never had autism to begin with. It’s as if they are wired to believe that children can’t recover from autism.

So where’s the cavalry? Where are all the doctors beating down our door to take a closer look at Evan? We think we know why they haven’t arrived. Most of the parents we’ve met who have recovered their child from autism as we did (and we have met many) blame vaccines for their child’s autism.

So, where was the cavalry, Jenny? Where was your desire to see that the NIH, CDC, AAP and “any other health authority…understand how Evan recovered from autism”?

Ms. McCarthy, back then the autism community knew you’d never volunteer your kid for such a study. Controlling the message was just too important to you. The only surprises are that these “new” revelations so soon and are so clear.


By Matt Carey

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