Robert F. Kennedy Jr. not holding a press conference on Monday

9 Apr

My guess is that you are reading this thinking: this is news? Doesn’t pretty much every day go by without Robert F. Kennedy holding a press conference? Well, yes. But there was a press conference planned for Monday. Yes, the man who brought you “Deadly Immunity” (an article promoting the mercury/autism link that was so flawed that it was retracted by Salon.com and quietly removed from the Rolling Stone website) has something so new and important that he wants to tell the world about it from in front of the White House.

The subject? A study purportedly showing that many autistic kids have been compensated over the years by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (a fact that has been public knowledge for 9 years or more). The article, under review by his University’s law journal, appears to be the one which was touted as ongoing a few years ago (I recall this being on a piece by David Kirby on the Huffington Post before he focused on his new project of food safety).

That press conference, from what I’ve heard, has been put off until after the paper is actually accepted and published.

Here’s the background history:

1) The US adopts a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in the mid-late 1980’s.

2) Autistic kids are amongst those compensated.

3) The concept of a vaccine-induced autism epidemic gains momentum in the late 1990’s.

4) Enough cases are submitted to the Program that an Omnibus proceeding is started to cover all the cases.

5) The first item added to the docket, Autism General Order #1, tells attorneys to be aware that autistics with table injuries should be handled outside the Omnibus for faster processing. (year 2002)

One important caveat, however, is drawn to the attention of all petitioners and their counsel! There may be cases involving autistic-like disorders which manifested following an injury defined in the Vaccine Injury Table. That is, a vaccine may have suffered an episode involving a severe acute encephalopathy within 72 hours after a pertussis vaccination (DTP or DTaP), or 5 to 15 days after an MMR vaccination. If so, such an acute encephalopathy and any residual effects thereof would be presumed to be vaccine-caused pursuant to the Vaccine Injury Table.

and

Autism cases involving Table Injuries have been compensated under the Program. If in a particular case there exist medical records demonstrating that such a qualifying “acute encephalopathy” occurred within the appropriate time frame, petitioner or counsel should bring that to the assigned special master’s attention so that, if appropriate, the case can be processed without delay as a Table Injury.

6) The government concedes Hannah Poling’s case as a table injury (late 2007) and the Hannah Poling concession was leaked while still in process. (Feb. 2008).

7) Given the news focus generated, then Chief Special Master Gary Golkiewicz was quoted:

“Years ago, actually, I had a case, before we understood or knew the implications of autism, that the vaccine injured the child’s brain caused an encephalopathy,” he said. And the symptoms that come with that “fall within the broad rubric of autism.”

And there are other somewhat similar cases, Golkiewicz says, that were decided before autism and its symptoms were more clearly defined.

8) Kathleen Siedel found a number of cases which were in the public record involving vaccine injury cases compensated. This list then appeared in many places, including a journal paper.

9) it was signaled that a new study was in the works where the prevalence of autism was notably higher amongst people compensated in the vaccine-injury program.

10) The autism prevalence estimate in the US was increased to 1 in 100, up from 1 in 150. Whether this had an impact on the apparent delay of (9) I can’t say.

Short form: we’ve been waiting for years for the study which will show us that the fraction of kids compensated by the Court is higher than expected. Now it appears that the study is in process and in a law journal. And that Robert F. Kennedy wanted to tell us all about it on Monday. But that won’t happen now, apparently. Apparently even law journals have embargoes.

Even though the press conference seems to be canceled for now, I guess that sometime in the near future Robert F. Kennedy will confirm what is and has been public knowledge. This will be followed by a blog storm acting as though this is news. Perhaps I’ll be surprised and something new will be in the announcement.

So far, the fraction of children with ASD diagnoses who have been compensated by the Autism Omnibus Proceeding is 1 in 838. This isn’t a fair estimate of what the final fraction will be, as many of those cases dismissed are for procedural issues like failure to prosecute and timeliness of filing. For that one compensated case, there is the note:

*May include case(s) that were originally filed and processed as an OAP cases but in which the final adjudication does not include a finding of vaccine-related autism.

**HHS has never concluded in any case that autism was caused by vaccination.

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