One of the main talking points for the idea that autism is a “vaccine induced epidemic” is the case of Hannah Poling. Hannah Poling was chosen as one of the test cases for the Omnibus Autism Proceeding (OAP). But before the case went to hearing, the Department of Health and Human Services conceded her case on the grounds that she met the criteria for a table injury. If you want more details there are a lot of discussions online, including a lot of misinformation. But basically a table injury means that Miss Poling met certain criteria in a prescribed time frame after receiving vaccines, so she is presumed vaccine injured. One can go into length about how this isn’t “the vaccine court decided vaccines caused her autism”, but that’s another story (if you are interested, Prof. Dorit Reiss discusses it in Vaccine Injury Compensation and Mitochondrial Disorders).
At the time, the Poling concession was big news, on CNN and elsewhere. The story broke when David Kirby released some of the details of the concession (the Rule 4c report, a report written by Department of Justice attorneys on behalf of HHS describing the concession.) Kirby was journalist/PR man working with groups promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism. Much of his writing was problematic at best, much more PR than journalism. Kirby stayed with the Poling story for some time, pushing the idea that mitochondrial disorders are highly prevalent in the autistic population and suggesting that these disorders were caused by vaccines. As part of that PR effort, he wrote this article:
In February, I leaked news of the Federal government’s admission that vaccines had triggered autism in a little girl named Hannah Poling. The stunning revelation, though still reverberating around the world, was roundly downplayed by US officials, who insisted that Hannah had an extremely rare, genetic case of “aggravated” mitochondrial disorder, with zero bearing on other autism cases.
Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rushed to the airwaves, exhorting parents to adhere to the nation’s intensive and virtually mandatory immunization schedule, and brushing off their legitimate anxieties by saying: “We’ve got to set aside this very isolated, unusual situation.”
Well, the days of setting aside are over: Hannah Poling is neither isolated nor unusual.
In fact, the boy who was selected to replace Hannah Poling as the first-ever thimerosal “test case” in so-called Vaccine Court, has just been found with many of the same unusual metabolic markers as… you guessed it, Hannah Poling.
You see, Hannah Poling was supposed to be a test case for the OAP. One of the arguments the families and attorneys were going to argue in the OAP was that autism is a form of mercury poisoning caused by thimerosal (which used to be in infant vaccines as a preservative.) That idea (and the Wakefield inspired MMR causes autism and bowel disease) failed to even come close to the rather lenient standard of proof of the vaccine court. No one knew for sure before the OAP hearings that the thimerosal argument would fail so completely. Those involved actually had a great deal of confidence. But even with this confidence, some families decided to leave the OAP when the Poling concession was made public. Most notably Robert Krakow (an attorney and activist in the autism-is-vaccine-injury community) pulled his son’s case from the OAP. His son was to be one of the three thimerosal test cases and is the one Mr. Kirby was discussing in his “Not Isolated, Not Rare” article quoted above.
In many ways it was a strange decision on the part of Mr. Krakow. The expert report on the Krakow boy (made public as part of the OAP and since pulled) made no mention of mitochondrial dysfunction. Also, the court hadn’t decided that the idea that vaccines aggravate mitochondrial disorders causes autism. While many deny this, as an attorney Mr. Krakow must have known this point. Miss Poling was compensated because she showed signs of an encephalopathy soon after vaccination, so it was presumed that encephalopathy was caused by the vaccines. The Krakow boy’s history did not show this.
In another recent case, a vaccine court Special Master noted,
In Poling v. HHS, the presiding special master clarified that the family was compensated because the Respondent conceded that the Poling child had suffered a Table Injury–not because the Respondent or the special master had concluded that any vaccination had contributed to causing or aggravating the child’s ASD.
So the situation for the Krakow boy (and Hannah Poling) was very, very different than David Kirby painted (as was often true). This wasn’t another Poling case. Mr. Krakow and his attorneys and experts would have to show that (a) his son had real signs of mitochondrial dysfunction, (b) the hypothesis that vaccines vaccines contribute to causing autism was valid (recall, it hadn’t been decided by hearing), (c) this hypothesis applied to his son even though his son didn’t show signs of encephalopathy following vaccination.
As you will see, none of these points were valid.
Mr. Krakow pulled his son’s case in 2008. The case dragged on for 7 years as the Krakows tried to put together their argument. And it appears that they did not win. Based on the facts presented, these documents appear to be the final decision and a ruling on motions in the Krakow case. These have been anonymized so it is possible that these are not a discussion of the Krakow case, but since the facts so closely match, I will write as though it is the Krakow case for brevity and clarity.
The decisions are lengthy. This case is as involved–if not more–than those in the OAP itself. It’s as if this is the test case for a third OAP argument.
Here is a key paragraph from the documents:
“Petitioners have failed to show that A.K. had an underlying mitochondrial disorder. They have also failed to show that the onset of A.K.’s ASD was in any way related to his influenza vaccinations. Indeed, respondent persuasively presented significant evidence indicating that A.K.’s ASD onset predated his vaccinations. Nor did petitioners establish by preponderant evidence that A.K. experienced any regression of skills related to his ASD or his vaccinations””
The Krakow boy’s history is in no way similar to that of Hannah Poling. Since her case was conceded, we don’t know if she showed signs of autism before vaccination. We do know now that the Krakow boy did show signs of autism. Poling regressed. Krakow didn’t. Poling has evidence of mitochondrial disease. Krakow doesn’t.
There are other interesting statements in these documents. Here are a few. First:
“The measles, mumps, and rubella [“MMR’] vaccines are ordinarily administered in a combined MMR vaccination, but A.K. received his in three separate vaccinations administered on December 1, 2000 (mumps); December 19, 2000 (measles), and January 2, 2001 (rubella), when he was between 13-14 months of age”
Yes. The Krakow family was following the Wakefield-recommended “separate the MMR into single vaccines” schedule. Didn’t prevent autism. This seems like valuable information for the autism community, but Mr. Krakow chose to hold this information back.
The Special Master took on the general idea that vaccines trigger regression in people with mitochondrial disorders. The evidence is very much lacking and “remain speculative”.
Here, petitioners’ experts strained to stretch the idea of mitochondrial regression to encompass vaccines as triggers of such regression. As described above, that extension is completely unsupported by any scientific literature; it was presented in this case almost entirely through the opinion of Dr. Kendall, supported by one case report (Poling, Res. Ex. MM, Tab 14). Doctor Kendall’s and Dr. Shafrir’s further reliance on the Shoffner and Weissman papers was misplaced and their opinions that vaccines can act as triggers of mitochondrial regression were unpersuasive. Evidence that regression in ASD, a well-described phenomenon involving the loss social communication and behavior, “looks like” mitochondrial regression was also nearly non-existent. “Mitochondrial autism” may someday be accepted as a descriptor for co-morbid autism and mitochondrial disorder diagnoses, but there is little evidence that autism itself is caused by such disorder, and no evidence that autism causes mitochondrial disorders. While Dr. Kendall is one of the few mitochondrial disorder specialists in the U.S., her opinion that vaccines can trigger either onset of a mitochondrial disorder with symptoms looking like ASD, or ASD via a mitochondrial regression are insufficiently supported and remain speculative.
We parents are often hit with testimonials about how alternative medicine works wonders on autistic kids. With the OAP cases we heard about a child who had adverse reactions to chelation. In this case we hear that these alternative therapies just didn’t work:
Doctor Boris recommended a gluten-free, casein-free diet for A.K. and began therapies such as chelation, supplements to counteract the effects of his MTHFR gene defect, and autoimmune medications. Tr. at 168-69. He testified that A.K. “did not respond very well to most of the treatments [he] administered.”
In an interesting twist, The Krakow boy’s geneticist recommended he get vaccinations:
I [the special master] noted that the geneticist who had been seeing A.K. had specifically recommended that he continue to receive vaccinations and indicated that he was a “good candidate” to receive seasonal vaccinations, such as influenza.
Many people have been trying to characterize the “vaccine court” (the Court of Federal Claims) as highly adversarial. But Mr. Krakow writes that “The tenor of VICP proceedings is exceptionally hostile and adversarial”. The record show the Court was far from hostile and adversarial.
Consider this. The record shows that Robert Krakow (an attorney who appears in the vaccine court) and the attorney he chose to take over his son’s case were not proactive in prosecuting their case:
Other than the filing of medical records, petitioners did little to advance their claim during the period in which [A.K.’s father] was attorney of record.
However, the glacial pace of progress toward a causation hearing continued for many months thereafter. Mr. McHugh’s representation has been marked with missed deadlines, repeated requests for delays, late filings, and difficulties in properly designating and filing exhibits. His failure to meet deadlines nearly cost petitioners the opportunity to fully litigate their son’s claim.
That last sentence refers to the fact that after years of delays and missed deadlines, the court was finally forced to dismiss the case for inaction:
Accordingly, after petitioners missed the deadlines set forth in my August 18, 2010 order, I ordered them to show cause why their case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute and comply with court orders. See Order to Show Cause, issued Sept. 3, 2010 (ECF No. 98). After petitioners ignored the deadline in the show cause order, I dismissed their petition on October 13, 2010.
The Court allowed the family to petition and re-enter the vaccine program. Not only that, but the Court granted the motion to redact parts of the dismissal. The dismissal was available on the vaccine court website (where I found and read it) but was pulled.
Many in the “autism is a vaccine epidemic” community call for a repeal of the vaccine act and a return to the time when vaccine manufacturers could sued directly. How many cases in regular court are dismissed and allowed back in?
We could go on as the decisions are lengthy but instead let’s get back to the key points above. When David Kirby wrote his article he concluded “And there are many more Hannah’s out there, waiting to be counted.” Just not so. First off, the real Hannah Poling case isn’t what Kirby claimed. The Court has stated that neither they nor the government “…concluded that any vaccination had contributed to causing or aggravating the child’s ASD.” More importantly, this new case isn’t about a child with mitochondrial disorder, or even regression. It is a case of a child who showed signs of autism before the vaccines the parents claim caused autism.
This is a case of one of the most vocal proponents of the idea that vaccines cause autism misleading the public. Mr. Krakow probably believes the story he tells of his child’s development. He probably believes the story about how contentious the vaccine court is. But the facts tell a very different story.
I am often asked why I can not support the idea that vaccines cause autism. Thousands of parents tell the same story, I’m told. The problem is that the parents stories don’t match the facts. We saw this with Jenny McCarthy. We saw this with the Omnibus Autism Proceeding test cases. We’ve seen this with more vaccine court cases. We’ve seen this with parent stories shifting in online discussions. And now we’ve seen this with “the next Hannah Poling”.
By Matt Carey