Thimerosal on trial- the incredible shrinking epidemic

13 May

The audio recordings of the first day of the thimerosal-only portion of the Autism Omnibus Proceedings hearings are now available here: ftp://autism.uscfc.uscourts.gov/autism/thimerosal.html. They are mp3 files.

Here’s some of what I heard yesterday via telephone and comments on what I think the parents’ lawyers seem to be implying now, maybe you will listen to the same discussion and take away different key points:

A lawyer for the petitioners (Mr. Williams, I think) said, as if a fact: there has been an autism epidemic, and he added that there is no such thing as a “genetic epidemic”.

They know this because no one could “miss” regressive autism in the past. I guess they might have missed other non-regressive autism and other ASDs.

The only kind of regressive autism they are interested in is the “clearly regressive” subtype, which they seem to be saying is about 2% or less of all ASD children born during the 1990s.

Apparently, they are only interested in the children of the “epidemic” era when kids got more thimerosal exposure.

There are so few of their target group that when these kids started to be “added” to the “epidemic” no one could see it happening, and likewise when the exposure to thimerosal dropped of precipitously, even though the numbers of these target group kids must have dropped off precipitously, no one could see that change in the larger epidemiological data.

So the epidemic might continue but it has nothing to do with thimerosal exposure now.

The numbers of “clearly regressive” autistics, however should be obviously diminishing. Because it’s a small group and not all of them “clearly regressed” following a vaccine containing thimerosal. These supposedly thimerosal-damaged clearly regressive kids must be disappearing by now, but maybe they’ve been replaced by kids who “clearly regress” due to another actionable agent. If they regress because of an non-actionable agent, like, say, oxygen or exposure prenatally to mom’s immune system, no one cares. Then logically, if all of the “clear regressing” autistics were caused to regress only by thimerosal, then there should be very few, or none, younger “clearly regressed” autistics in areas where thimerosal is not used for toddler age vaccines now and hasn’t been used in the past few years.

Apparently, they are claiming that thimeosal in vaccines only causes a subset of regressive autism, not including early-onset autism. So apparently there’s no way for a baby who got the birth dose of Hep B to be made autistic, since it can’t “clearly regress” shortly after birth. And if the baby only got the Hep B dose (if preserved by thimerosal), that alone couldn’t cause a regression months later. I think they are only interested in vaccines given right before a toddler regresses, at say age 12 months to 36 months.

Also, it seems that the PSC believes Eric Fombonne’s research is reliable when they want to make a point with it. They used his research to support the numbers of autistics who regress if I recall.

The transcripts will be available eventually (maybe soon), but we don’t know when. I think it would be interesting to compare get them to explain how many of this tiny group of ASD kids also have mitochondrial diseases or disorders. I wonder if they are trying to imply that the rest of the “epidemic” is caused by tuna mercury, chicken mercury or MMR, aluminum, assortative mating or what?

7 Responses to “Thimerosal on trial- the incredible shrinking epidemic”

  1. bones May 13, 2008 at 23:35 #

    Well, the “subset theory”, for want of a better term, has been there from day 1. The anti-vaxers just keep forgetting about that tid bit while they spew their conspiracy/epidemic rhetoric all over the place.

  2. Ms. Clark May 14, 2008 at 02:55 #

    I just tidied up some of the typos on my post, in case anyone notices the changes and wants that to be noted. None of the information was changed, just some typos and I cleaned up some confusing grammar.

    I was typing it while listening on the phone to Dr. Deth give his testimony today.

  3. alyric May 14, 2008 at 15:57 #

    It seems they’re trying for some mileage from Dr Bernadine Healy’s interview with Atkinsson and Imus – why the Imus interview I don’t know. Healy’s interview leaves a lot to be desired – to the point that if we were handing out prizes for the worst pander on offer at the moment, Healy should win hands down. Her points were political basically while claiming to be scientific. As I recall and do correct me if I got this wrong, her main point was that of the 300 recipients of vaccine injury payments, there has been no research done to look for causality. That may be true and if so someone should check it. Note that 300 over the life of the vaccine court is a really small number given the numbers vaccinated over the same period. If Healy’s figures weren’t pulled out of thin air, what does that say to the outcomes of the Omnibus proceedings? Should we assume that maybe 10 of the 5000 may be really vaccine damaged, given the combination of Healy’s figures and the sample bias inherent in the money-grab basis to this case? Meanwhile back at causality, Healy assumes that the government isn’t looking at the vaccine issue, having prematurely dismissed the possibility, because the results may prove embarassing. Maybe, but if the Poling case was any yardstick, I think there is a distinct possibility that the Courts have failed public health interests abysmally by granting claims on nothing but association.

    Also, given the rarity of vaccine damage, how does Healy think she’s going to screen for the tiny, tiny number who have conditions that look as if they’ve been vaccine damaged without bankrupting the country?

    I did find it strange that she was recommending this probably catastrophic public health strategy without offering anything beyond conjecture. Her vague references to mouse studies and mercury weren’t particularly compelling. If she was referring to Horning’s mouse study, then the woman has some difficulties assessing the merits of scientific publications. According to the lone medico on the Huffington Post, she also managed to muddle incidence and prevalence and that is surely something out of the ordinary for a public health official. But then, from what I can work out, she’s also made an assumption that I don’t think she’s entitled to make about epidemiology. Now the anti-vaccine establishment and Healy along with them make the pronouncement that epidemiology is too crude a tool to pick up associations in small subsets of the population. Given the figures that the Omnibus crowd is talking about I doubt that that is true simply because of the huge numbers in the samples analysed thus far. Epidemiology managed to pick up some weird association with a vaccine where the incidence was 1 in 38,000. Can’t remember the paper but I could unearth it I think:) In these very large sample sizes, the small subset of ‘regressive autism’ (whatever that means) cases should appear, yes?

  4. alyric May 14, 2008 at 16:07 #

    Oh yeah, forgot to add that the question mark over Healy’s critical thinking skills took flight after hearing her say that the public would not give up on vaccines because they knew what polio could do and what tetanus looked like. That was a very strange conclusion to reach considering the headlines about resurgent measles and so on. It was also the ultimate in pander.

  5. Ms. Clark May 14, 2008 at 21:42 #

    Very rare vaccine outcomes have been spotted in the public and the CDC has responded. If I am reading the report correctly they could attribute Guillan Barre syndrome to vaccines in 1 in 100,000 people who got the swine flu vax in the 1976/77. And that’s in spite of the fact that unvaxed people do get Guillan Barre and they could have all said that it was the typical background rate… since they were counting carefully they could see that this was above the background rate.

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