Dan Olmsted, Jeff Bradstreet, Frank Noonan and Mayer Eisenstein Need to Come Clean

19 Sep

It is well known that Dan Olmsted has repeatedly argued that autism is virtually non-existent in unvaccinated populations. The following is just one example of his writings on the subject.

But this column identified several groups that might fit the bill -- from the Amish in Pennsylvania Dutch country to homeschooled children to patients of a Chicago family practice."I have not seen autism with the Amish," said Dr. Frank Noonan, a family practitioner in Lancaster County, Pa., who has treated thousands of Amish for a quarter-century."You'll find all the other stuff, but we don't find the autism. We're right in the heart of Amish country and seeing none, and that's just the way it is."

In Chicago, Homefirst Medical Services treats thousands of never-vaccinated children whose parents received exemptions through Illinois' relatively permissive immunization policy. Homefirst's medical director, Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, told us he is not aware of any cases of autism in never-vaccinated children; the national rate is 1 in 175, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We have a fairly large practice," Eisenstein told us. "We have about 30,000 or 35,000 children that we've taken care of over the years, and I don't think we have a single case of autism in children delivered by us who never received vaccines."We do have enough of a sample," Eisenstein said. "The numbers are too large to not see it. We would absolutely know. We're all family doctors. If I have a child with autism come in, there's no communication. It's frightening. You can't touch them. It's not something that anyone would miss."


Jeff Bradstreet has also made the same claim.

Earlier this year Florida pediatrician Dr. Jeff Bradstreet said there is virtually no autism in home-schooling families who decline to vaccinate for religious reasons -- lending credence to Eisenstein's observations.


Both Olmsted and Bradstreet have clamored over the years for a prevalence study of autism in unvaccinated populations.

Fast forward to June, 2007 when Generation Rescue released the results of a phone survey they had commissioned. Now, it’s true that the survey had serious methodological flaws, and the way Generation Rescue chose to characterize its results was dubious to say the least; but there are couple things that are salvageable about the survey.

  1. It did manage to locate a fairly significant population of unvaccinated children, just as Olmsted and Bradstreet had wanted.
  2. Even conspiracy theorists would think it’s absurd to suppose Generation Rescue was payed by “Big Pharma” to doctor the results of the survey. (Or maybe not.)

The survey located 991 unvaccinated children, out of which 37 (3.73%) were reported to have an ASD diagnosis (source). A sample size of 991 is not bad. For the more statistically inclined readers, the 95% CI around 3.73% is 2.55% to 4.91%. We’re talking roughly 6.6 times the prevalence previously found by the CDC in a phone survey of the US general population.

Olmsted et al. had assured us autism would be virtually non-existent in unvaccinated populations of children. We were not even told it would be twice as rare or anything like that. Virtually non-existent is what they told us, clearly implying that almost all autistic children are made autistic by vaccines.

In my view, this is one of the most ridiculous and spectacular failures of a prediction I have ever seen. It has to be right up there with WMDs in Iraq. David Kirby’s failed prediction on the California DDS 3-5 cohort pales in comparison.

I believe, however, that a more important issue than Olmsted et al. being wrong is how the prediction could have failed in the first place. OK, maybe autism really is rare among the Amish for reasons unrelated to vaccination. But what about the home-schooled children? Are we to believe there’s something else about home-schooling that completely prevents autism?

Evidently, someone has been making stuff up. I don’t see any other way around it. Perhaps Olmsted was just reporting. But there were claims made that could not have been true, and someone is responsible for them. I think Olmsted et al. need to explain themselves if they desire to preserve some slight measure of credibility.

We’re not talking about a trivial issue. Broad claims about the effects of vaccination no doubt have an impact on public health. Unsubstantiated fear-mongering of that nature cannot be given a pass under any circumstances.

I anticipate someone might point out that the survey’s automated introduction had a flaw in that it likely selected for persons interested in the anti-vaccination debate, a flaw Generation Rescue admits to. Sure, parents of unvaccinated autistic children are probably not likely to hang up the phone in such a survey. But how many times less likely to continue with the survey would parents of non-autistic unvaccinated children have to be? In a country where vaccination is a requirement for school entrance, most parents who don’t vaccinate their children must have very strong views about vaccination. Households with unvaccinated children had to have been likely to continue with the survey, regardless of the presence of autistic children in the household.

Generation Rescue’s survey, in fact, found that 6% of the children in the survey were not vaccinated. Note that Smith et al. (2004)had found that only 0.3% of US children aged 19 to 35 months had received no vaccines. (Older children would obviously have a similar or lower rate of lack of vaccination.) Granted, Smith et al. also found that some counties in California had the highest rates of lack of vacination in the US, but still.

It’s obviously very difficult to go from virtually non-existent to 3.73% of the unvaccinated population, even if you consider survey flaws and confounds. It just doesn’t add up.

14 Responses to “Dan Olmsted, Jeff Bradstreet, Frank Noonan and Mayer Eisenstein Need to Come Clean”

  1. HN September 19, 2007 at 01:27 #

    Just a little quibble on your good explanation of the GR self-selected survey…

    Olmsted is spelled without an “a”. I actually had to correct myself twice since my fingers automatically put the “a” in!

  2. Phoebe September 19, 2007 at 02:20 #

    My son is diagnosed autistic disorder, mild-moderate. He is four years old, will be five next March.

    He is completely unvaccinated.

  3. bullet September 19, 2007 at 09:31 #

    In retrospect my older son was showing signs of autism before any of his vaccinations.

  4. Tom September 19, 2007 at 13:13 #

    Dan Olmsted is sloppy and just plain dumb. He depended on a salesman’s recollections for evidence that autism is not present in the Amish and that Amish childern are not vaccinated.

    I am not a journalist. But instead, I called a Kennedy Kreiger doc who sees Amish kids at the Clinic For Special Children in Lancaster. Within the space of 5 minutes, I established that 70% of the kids visiting the Clinic are vaccinated and that good old garden variety autism exists in the Amish. I also did a Pub Med search and found that one of the larger Amish communities in IL have a 90% vaccination rate.

    Given that copy number variations at the very least account for 14% of autism, it would stand to reason that the Amish must experience autism just like the rest of us humans.

    Olmsted is a hack who is also in way over his head. What medical reporter in their right mind would rely on a salesman as an authority on a medical issue?

  5. Joseph September 19, 2007 at 14:27 #

    Thanks HN. I’ve corrected that.
    To summarize, I think it’s become very clear that Olmsted, Bradstreet and the rest have obtained their data from http://www.pulledoutofyourass.com.

  6. Brian Deer September 20, 2007 at 07:41 #

    Michelle Cedillo, the first test case in the US autism omnibus action, unquestionably showed clear symptoms of autism before her MMR.

    After a legal tussel, in which her parents’ lawyers tried to prevent disclosure of Cedillo family home videos, they were played to the court.

    Nobody in that courtroom could have been left in any doubt. The testimony of the DoJ’s witnesses went unchallenged. Michelle’s mother spent a great deal of time laughing and chatting with her husband, I think knowing she had nothing at stake.

  7. John Fryer September 20, 2007 at 07:48 #

    When you talk about serious issues like autism which does seem to cost some parents a lot of money, damages the wellbeing of the children for life it seems abysmal to get sillarse comments about something that apart from all this is FAILURE OF THE STATE.
    The possibility that 101 dangerous things in vaccines may be responsible is legitimate.
    This doesn’t prevent 1001 things not in vaccines causing harm.
    Do you avoid illness and death by insisting that teratogens and DNA splitters and nerve destroying chemicals are good for us and we need them?
    And when the livelihood of Industry and State IS at stake, who do you know is really on the side they say they are?
    I see many people who put forward sillyarse comments on both sides to destroy their ‘sides’ case.
    Has no one heard of double and triple agents?
    John Fryer MSc BSc Solidly behind the notion that brain destroying chemicals are bad for us despite the best peer reviewed evidence of the CDC which tells us they are protective of infants health

  8. Tommy Westphall September 20, 2007 at 12:48 #

    John Fryer,

    Did you have a stroke or are you suffering from some neurologic disorder?

  9. Joseph September 20, 2007 at 14:28 #

    John Fryer,

    If I could parse your argument, I would attempt to respond. I couldn’t. I’m serious, not making fun or anything.

  10. HN September 20, 2007 at 15:20 #

    Perhaps the stroke is why John Fryer had to retire early. From:
    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/321/7269/1091 … “John Fryer, early retired scientist”

  11. notmercury September 20, 2007 at 16:33 #

    I’ll translate John’s comment:

    Autism is serious and expensive, it’s bad form to make wise cracks when it is actually caused by bad government.

    Hypothetical potential for some vaccine ingredients to cause harm doesn’t preclude the possibility that other components do not.

    Splitting yer DNA is not the best way to stay healthy?

    The government and industry profit from making people sick so who you gonna trust?

    Silly ass comments hurt the arguments of both sides.

    Some spies work for multiple entities.

    John Fryer MSc BSc says brain destroying chemicals are bad no matter what you hear.

  12. HN September 20, 2007 at 17:16 #

    Mr. Fryer, would you be so kind as to answer the question I left for you here?:

    I know I have asked you this before, but your answers lacked something… like real evidence.

    Thank you.

  13. Prometheus September 25, 2007 at 00:06 #

    The good thing is that the GR telephone poll didn’t include any of the Amish that Mr. Olmsted clearly didn’t visit – they don’t use telephones.

    I’ve noted that GR tends to “gloss over” the fact that their baloney survey (meaning no disrespect to hard-working luncheon meat) found a lot of autism in unvaccinated kids. A more insightful (or less self-deluded) group might have seen the light and folded their tents right there.

    But not GR – they are right out there pitching the “results” of their “survey” trying to get “the government” to pay for a real study.

    I doubt that they’d like the results of a real study, but it would at least give them another piece of evidence of the “massive government conspiracy to make GR look foolish”.


  14. Joseph September 25, 2007 at 17:42 #

    A more insightful (or less self-deluded) group might have seen the light and folded their tents right there.

    They did change their message right about that time. It’s no longer mercury in vaccines that causes autism; now it’s heavy metals, viruses and other toxins; or something along those lines.

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