Search results for 'vaccinated unvaccinated'

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 study comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated kids is coming…and SafeMinds is concerned

10 Jul

If a discussion of autism goes on long enough in the online parent community, the question of vaccines will almost certainly come up. (I’ll note that in real life it rarely, almost never, comes up). If the vaccine topic takes over the discussion, one is very likely to hear the call for a “vaxed/unvaxed” study: a comparison of health outcomes for kids who were vaccinated compared to kids who were not vaccinated.

There are at least three such studies in the works. Two are being funded by groups antagonistic to vaccines. The self-named “National Vaccine Information Center” is funding a project at George Mason University. Said study is, I believe, run by someone from NVIC. Generation Rescue is funding a project at Jackson State University, “Researching into the causes of autism”. In previous years, Generation Rescue was funding Jackson State for a project “vaccination status and health outcomes among homeschool children in the United States”, which is likely the same project just with a different name. Perhaps that’s the same study that the founder of “Focus Autism” is complaining about here. Either way, there are two, maybe more, vaccinated/unvaccinated studies that have been underway for a few years, funded by groups generally antagonistic towards vaccines.

As an aside–in online discussions, the people calling for a vaxed/unvaxed study are connected to Generation Rescue and NVIC. And yet they act like no one is doing such a study.

Back to the topic at hand: there is another vaccinated/unvaccinated study in the works. A large study. In discussions at an IACC meeting this year, Tom Insel responded to a statement about a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study:

Dr. Insel: So I might add, we have just done that study looking at, in this case, tens of thousands of children in a large health care system — younger siblings, many of whom did not vaccinated. So we could, whether you like it or not, compare what the risks are, both the risk for autism and the risks for medical consequences for not being vaccinated versus being vaccinated in children who have presumably some genetic risk because they’re young sibs.

And those data are submitted for peer review. We should — maybe by July we’d be able to have that presented here. So I’ll be happy to, since we’ve funded that through, be happy to ask the authors to come and talk to us about the results.

That statement was in April. We just had the July IACC meeting but the results were not presented. The study is in the works, though. At the time Dr. Insel made that statement it struck me that this study was likely a part of a project by the Lewin Group. The Lewin Group presented at the IACC in early 2013. That project has not yet been published, but the results presented last year were very interesting, so I’ll take some time to go through those results here. Keep in mind that it’s possible the upcoming vaccinated/unvaccinated study is not by the Lewin Group.

The Lewin Group study population was large and included a large cohort of siblings of ASD kids:

lewin1

When I read or hear “comorbid conditions” discussed by advocacy groups or parents, they are almost always those conditions which those groups feel are part of their “vaccines cause autism” picture. Gastrointestinal complaints–falsely linked by Andrew Wakefield to the MMR vaccine and autism. Mitochondrial/metabolic disorders, brought to prominence by a famous vaccine court case.

Yes, in this study metabolic dysfunction and gastronintestinal/nutritional conditions are about 4.5 times more common in ASD kids. About 20% of kids are in the gastronintestinal/nutritional conditions group (I wonder how that breaks down into GI and nutritional as separate groups). About 5% have metabolic conditions.

But what if I were to tell you that these are not the most common comorbid conditions in ASD children (and ASD adults are yet another story)? Not by a long shot.

lewin2

About 70% of ASD kids have neurological disorders. About 70% have mental health conditions.

70%. 24 times higher than the general population for each condition.

You just don’t hear that from groups promoting vaccine causation. Groups like SafeMinds. Which brings us back to the vaccinated/unvaccinated study SafeMinds is concerned about. SafeMinds is preparing its readers for the vaccinated/unvaccinated study. Although they’ve been calling for this study for a long time, a fact they remind us of this fact in their article: The NIH is slated to release the results of a study on autism in vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and non-vaccinated children. Here’s what you need to know BEFORE it comes out.

SafeMinds begins their article comes with what I consider a rather ironic graphic:

SafeMindsBlowsAnIronyMeter

Why is this ironic? SafeMinds relies upon poorly done research to support their arguments about vaccines, mercury and autism. For example, their non-peer reviewed Autism: A Novel Form of Mercury Poisoning is one of the papers that first made me question the purported vaccine/autism link. It was never very good and really should be discarded. As another example, if you go the SafeMinds web page
Correlation Between Increases in Autism Prevalence and Introduction of New Vaccines you will find this graph:

california-autism-prevalence

If you think that graph looks old, you’d be correct. It’s at least 10, if not 15 years old. It takes California Department of Developmental Services (CDDS) administrative data, pretends it’s actually autism prevalence, and graphs it against the mercury exposure from infant vaccines during the 1990’s and leads the reader to the idea that mercury exposure and autism are correlated and also related. But they aren’t correlated. That’s what happens when you use a 15 year old graph. California removed thimerosal from infant vaccines, even the flu shots, and also for vaccines for pregnant women. And what happened to the autism rate? It kept going up. Schechter and Grether published this in 2008 in Continuing increases in autism reported to California’s developmental services system: mercury in retrograde. In 2013, I showed that the increase was still going on. But SafeMinds is acting like the last decade didn’t happen. They tell us:

Autism prevalence increased rapidly in the late 1980s. The epidemic increased simultaneously in states across the United States, indicating that U.S. children were exposed to toxins in a consistent manner across the entire country. Due to the high adherence amongst the states to the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule, vaccines typically introduce a new exposure to children simultaneously throughout the country.

For people who actually looked at the CDDS data, we know the idea that autism was rising in the same way in various locations wasn’t true. The whole basis for a universal exposure causing the rise in identified autism was false. It’s one of those facts that made me question the vaccine hypothesis long ago. CDDS data even in 2000 showed autism rates varied wildly across the state of California and the increase was not the same from region to region within the state. Special Ed data (which has major limitations but is likely the data SafeMinds was using to make the above statement) showed large variation from state to state in the number of people getting services under the autism label. There is not and never was data to support the assertion SafeMinds makes above that the rates of autism increased simultaneously across the US.

All this is my long-winded way of saying, I find it more than ironic that SafeMinds wants to warn me about flawed research leading to bad conclusions.

So, let’s ask ourselves: why would SafeMinds be concerned enough about this new vaccinated/unvaccinated study? Well, siblings of autistic kids are (a) more likely to be unvaccinated and (b) more likely to be autistic, like 20 times more likely to be autistic (here and here)

The Lewin group reported that younger siblings were less likely to be vaccinated:

lewin3

In addtion, an unpublished study from 2011 compared vaccination status among ASD kids, their siblings and non-relatives. The authors found:

Instead, because siblings of children with autism were less likely to be vaccinated according to the recommended schedule, both correlations and multiple regressions revealed a significant relationship between higher rates of vaccination and non-ASD behavioral outcomes.

Or, to put it simply, if you look at younger siblings, they get fewer vaccines than the general public and have a higher rate of autism. If correlation is causation, this would mean that vaccines prevent autism. Which, in at least one case, is true. Correlation is not causation, though. The new study will likely find that delaying or forgoing vaccines does not reduce autism risk. And that, in my view, would concern SafeMinds. Enough that they want people prepared in advance for what to them will be “bad” news.


By Matt Carey

A vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study and, guess what, vaccinated kids do better on tests

22 Jan

One statement people make a lot on the internet is “where’s a study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations?” Well, here’s one: The effect of vaccination on children’s physical and cognitive development in the Philippines.

When comparisons between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations are proposed, we usually think of the U.S. and trying to work with the small unvaccinated population in a larger vaccinated population. Here we see the reverse: a smaller vaccinated population in a majority unvaccinated population.

What did they find? Here’s the abstract:

We use data from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS) in the Philippines to link vaccination in the first 2 years of life with later physical and cognitive development in children. We use propensity score matching to estimate the causal effect of vaccination on child development. We find no effect of vaccination on later height or
weight, but full childhood vaccination for measles, polio, Tuberculosis (TB), Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus (DPT) significantly increases cognitive test scores relative to matched children who received no
vaccinations. The size of the effect is large, raising test scores, on average, by about half an SD.

That’s right. Test scores are increased in the vaccinated population. Higher. They did better.

The study highlights many of the difficulties in doing a vaccinated/unvaccinated population comparison: how to control for confounds. The population that choses the minority approach, be it vaccinating (in the Philippines) or not vaccinating (as in the U.S.) are likely different in other respects as well. Small sample sizes also a limitation. The authors acknoweldge this:

While our results are statistically significant, the sample size is relatively small due to the restriction of the sample to the common support. In addition, the matching of treatment and control groups may be imperfect if there are unobserved confounding factors that affect both vaccination and cognitive development. We therefore do not see our results as definitive. However, the results do however highlight the potential significance of vaccination as a human capital investment and suggest that further research in this area is warranted.

So, let’s consider this question: if there is a real correlation, is it the vaccination itself (unlikely in my opinion) or preventing the diseases (much more likely)? Since as I’ve indicated, I tend towards the latter explanation, let’s consider this: another effect of herd immunity might be cognitive. Since my family and the vast majority of families in the U.S. vaccinate, many diseases are not seen here. Even the unvaccinated are protected.

So, when Jenny McCarthy or others say, “I’d take measles any day over autism”, aside from making the huge mistake of assuming that autism and vaccination are linked, she may be saying “I’d take a half-standard-deviation drop in cognition over vaccination”.

I await the inevitable, “we asked for a comparison of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations, but not that comparison”.


By Matt Carey

The Amish may not be a great population for a vaccinated/unvaccinated study

10 Aug

The recent attempt to legislate brought back the subject of the Amish, vaccination and autism. It’s an old idea, made popular by a journalist whose work was, shall we say, less than complete.

House Resolution 1757 (still stuck in committee) states:

” Target Populations- The Secretary shall seek to include in the study under this section populations in the United States that have traditionally remained unvaccinated for religious or other reasons, which populations may include Old Order Amish…”

Whenever the Amish are brought forward as a population for vaccinated/unvaccinated studies, people present many reasons why such an idea lacks rigor.

1) The Amish do vaccinate. They have no prohibition against vaccination. (i.e. the statement that “because the Amish have a religious exemption from vaccination” is incorrect).

2) “The” Amish is a bit of a misnomer. Amish is more of a plural, as in a group of basically island populations which have been developing somewhat independently genetically for a few hundred years.

3) Talking about studying the Amish as though one has the right to just force them to submit is very disrespectful. And a bad assumption. One does not tell a community that they have to be study subjects. One asks. The Amish may very well not want the entire population screened for autism.

There are more arguments. Valid arguments. But without some cold, hard, numbers the response that usually comes up is, “Ah, you are afraid of what we will find!”

No, if one is going to do a study, one should be rigorous. One should get as close to the correct answer as possible. Studying the Amish as an “unvaccinated” population with “no” (or little) autistic subpopulation is to start out with little chance for success.

But how about some cold, hard numbers (I mean, beside from the fact that the Amish vaccinate and there are autistic Amish).

Here’s a talk presented this summer by the DDC Clinic in Ohio. This clinic is following the model of the cleverly hidden “Clinic For Special Children” that a certain journalist failed to contact before publishing his conclusions. In the description of the Clinic you will find:

A 501(c) (3) non-profit organization located in
Middlefield of Ohio, Geauga Amish settlement
• Total population ~95,000, Amish ~14,000 (15%)
• 50% of developmental disabilities are from Amish
• One hour (but a world) away from world class healthcare

Yes, they are 15% of the local population but account for about 50% of the developmentally disabled population for their community.

In other words, the prevalence of developmental disability is more than five times that of the general population.

Do you still want to compare this population for long term health outcomes and vaccination status? Do you want to say, “hey, here’s a population that doesn’t vaccinate and they have more developmental disability than the rest of the population?”

That’s what people have been pointing out for years in stating that genetically the Amish are somewhat distinct from the rest of the U.S. population. The proposed study will run into big problems.

Why does the Clinic for Special Children (and similar clinics) exist? They aren’t just there because the Amish are likely to be underserved in general since they lack insurance (which, I’ve been told, is something the Amish avoid). The Clinic’s mission statement is:

The Clinic for Special Children was established in 1989 as a non-profit medical service for Amish and Mennonite children with genetic disorders. The Clinic serves children by translating advances in genetics into timely diagnoses and accessible, comprehensive medical care, and by developing better understanding of heritable diseases.

Again, they are a small, island-like population. Many genetic conditions are more common in their communities. Many are metabolic conditions. (Dr. Morton’s talk at the conference was “Approach to Care for Patients with Metabolic Disorders”). Conditions which put people at greater risk of harm from infections, hence the reason that people have been working to increase vaccine uptake in the Amish over the past 3 decades.

The Clinic for Special Children has been an example of how focusing on genetic conditions can have major impacts on the well being of those with the conditions. Over the past 30 years, the Clinic has pioneered efforts which have resulted in better health and longer lives for their patients. Too often we hear in the autism communities that genetic conditions mean “no hope”.

I’ll leave you with the words of Dr. Holmes Morton of the Clinic for Special Children. Words from the Clinic’s main page:

“Special children are not just interesting medical problems, subjects of grants and research. Nor should they be called burdens to their families and communities. They are children who need our help, and if we allow them to, they will teach us compassion. They are children who need our help, and if we allow them to, they will teach us love. If we come to know these children as we should, they will make us better scientists, better physicians, and thoughtful people.”


By Matt Carey

Internet survey shows high autism rate in unvaccinated children

31 Aug

Informal surveys are fraught with problems. There can be all sorts of biases. Many ways for the data to be skewed one way or another. A great example of this was the Generation Rescue phone survey. The results were all over the map, and clearly flawed. Many of the results pointed to higher autism rates in partially vaccinated over fully vaccinated children.

That was four years ago. Recently an internet survey was undertaken to explore vaccine questions. The survey results can be found on the site vaccineinjury.info. People with agendas certainly can do surveys, but they shouldn’t be surprised when their agendas are pointed out. I won’t go into the survey or results in detail. I have a suspicion the results will be analyzed elsewhere. Rather, let’s just look at the autism results.

Here is the age distribution of the (mostly) children reported on in the study. Very skewed towards the very young.

Here is the distribution of an age distribution of the fraction of kids in each group reported to be autistic (click to make bigger)

If you are wondering, “did they just publish a graph showing high autism ‘prevalences’ in unvaccinated kids?”, you are correct. They are showing that in some age groups the fraction of unvaccinated autistic kids is about 2%. The current prevalence estimate for the U.S. and the U.K. is about 1%.

Do we really want to put any weight on this result? No, not really. It is a nicely packaged internet survey, but it is an internet survey after all. Can we speculate a little as to what this means? Sure. It could mean that the groups that were recruited for this survey included more families with autistic children. Given the high recurrence risk of autism (i.e. the high chances that a younger sibling of an autistic kid would be autistic) it is not only reasonable, but predicted, that such a survey might show a high fraction of autistic kids.

Keep something in mind–the number of autistic kids is small. If I did the math correctly, there are only 37 autistic kids total. [edit to add–this is incorrect. There are 44. I left out two age groups in my total] That means big uncertainties (error bars) in the “results”. Results which, as we’ve already discussed, are pretty skewed just by the design and limitations of the survey.

Must be unexpected for the people doing the survey. Rather than show a low autism prevalence, they show a high one. For those who claim (sometimes over and over) that there are no unvaccinated autistic kids, here is another piece of evidence that they are wrong.

It’s clear enough that even commenters at the Age of Autism blog have noticed it. From “Sarah”:

Help! What am I doing wrong trying to read these graphs? The one titled autism in UNVACCINATED children shows autism percentages above the commonly accepted level in vaccinated children, but in the full study, which also shows a similar graphic, they say only 4 children in the study had severe autism. Are the graphs supposed to be the levels in vaccinated children? What am I missing here? Does this study show higher rates of autism among the unvaccinated?

Yes, Sarah, you are seeing correctly. The study shows higher rates of autism amongst the unvaccinated. That’s what the >1% values for ages 3-12 means when compared to the 1% value currently reported for the United States.

And, you can see people trying to “interpret” these results in interesting ways:

Sarah, I see 0.57% for autism roughly half of the rate seen in vaccinated children.
Note also that many who are not vaccinating are doing it because they have a child with autism already and these families have an increased likelihood of another child having autism as well. These numbers could be much lower in a larger survey and the cases are less severe as noted already. I hope this helps.

Yes, if you want to water down the results by averaging, including infants too young to be reliably diagnosed, you can get a lower prevalence. Of course, to do that one has to ask: what is the prevalence of diagnosed autism amongst infants? We don’t know.

The website notes:

Due to the fact that the majority of children in the survey are between 0 and 2 years of age and some diseases generally do not appear in this age group, the results are subdivided into different age groups (click on the graphic). Information about country, gender, age, age distribution, breastfeeding, preferred tretment[sic] can be found here.

And they are correct. There are no autistic kids in the age 0-2 group reported. Looking at just the ages 3-18 kids, there are 4326 kids, making a “prevalence” of 0.85, if you want to average. That would be within the error bars of the current autism prevalence estimate in the U.S..

As I’ve noted, the Age of Autism blog has already discussed this (thanks to those who sent me the link). I doubt this will get much play from these groups as the results are really not good from their point of view.

Generation Rescue’s Vaccinated/Unvaccinated Study

8 Jun

Generation Rescue and other groups have been calling for an independent study of health outcomes comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. They recently announced at the AutismOne conference that they had announced that they had procured funding for the project. They had been trying to get funding for this project from a settlement from a lawsuit against Airborne. The funds from that lawsuit have not been distributed yet. So if Generation Rescue has funding, it is from some other source.

That said, documents filed in Generation Rescue’s bid for the Airborne settlement money gives us a chance to see their proposed study design. Let me pull some of the highlights out for discussion.

The “purpose” of the grant is listed as:

Funding for study on vaccinated verse (sic) unvaccinated children to ensure the safely and well being of children worldwide.

They request $809,721 for the project.

Here is a segment of the statement of the problem to be addressed:

The U.S. and many other countries appear to be experiencing a silent pandemic with 1 in 5 children now suffering from learning disabilities, sensory deficits, and developmental delays. Neuro-developmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mental retardation, and cerebral palsy, are increasingly common, very costly, and cause lifelong disability. In 2003, the National Survey of Children’s Health reported that 0.5% (I in 200) children ages 6-17 had autism, 11.5% had learning disabilities, 8.8% had ADHD, and 6.3% had behavior problems. By 2007, the prevalence of autism in the U.S. had risen to 1 in 150 children (Rice et aI., 2007). There are a number of physical ailments that children with Childhood Neuro-developmental Disorders (NDs) typically manifest including: food allergies and eczema, general gastrointestinal distress, constipation and diarrhea, yeast overgrowth, immune system deregulation, sleep disturbances, and high levels of environmental toxins.

Why study vaccines? According to the proposal:

What could be causing these increases in NDs and disability among children in the US.? Hypotheses proposed to explain these increases have included changes in diet coupled with reduced physical activity and/or increased sedentary behavior, low birth weight, stress, medication use in pregnancy, infections and environmental toxins. Although it remains widely debated, certain routine childhood vaccinations have been suggested as contributing to the increase in neuro-developmental disorders. A recent examination of the vaccinating practice of other countries showed that the United States vaccinates children on average double that of all other first world countries; the U.S. uses 36 compared to 18 at other countries. In fact, the United States utilizes more vaccines than any other country in the world yet it has the worst mortality rate among children 5-years-old and under of the top 30 developed countries. Coincidently, some of the countries with the lowest vaccination rates also report the lowest rates of autism. It has been theorized the child’s body is overwhelmed by the combination of heavy metals (mercury, lead aluminum), live viruses (particular from their vaccines), and bacteria. These serve to slow or shut down normal biochemical pathways leading to NDi physical and mental manifestations.

I believe the “recent examination of the vaccinating practice” mentioned in the above paragraph refers to the pseudo-study Generation Rescue generated “AUTISM AND VACCINES AROUND THE WORLD: Vaccine Schedules, Autism Rates, and Under 5 Mortality”, which I discussed at length here. Generation Rescue’s “examination” was amazingly manipulative. For example, they compared a recent study on the autism rate in the U.S. for children born in 1994 to a French study from 1997 on children born between 1976 and 1985. Of course the rate in the US was higher than the rate in France. That doesn’t have anything to do with their current vaccine schedules.

What are Generation Rescue’s research credentials?

Research Programs: With some of the top scientists in the world, research is dedicated to finding more of the causative factors and treatment approaches for children with NDs.

Sort of vague there. I note that Generation Rescue decided not to tout their phone survey as an example of their research efforts. Given that in many cases the survey showed exactly the opposite of what Generation Rescue claimed in their cherry-picked publicity, this is understandable. It is still interesting that Generation Rescue seems to realize that the survey was not an asset.

That said, who are “some of the top scientists in the world”? Although not named in the proposal, it is worth checking who these “top scientists” might be. From their website, here is s Generation Rescue’s “Science Advisory Board”?

Richard Deth, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Northeastern University, Pharmaceutical Sciences

Brian Hooker, Ph.D.
Principle Consultant
Brian Hooker Consulting

Jerry Kartzinel, M.D.
Pediatric Partners of Ponte Verde

Woody R. McGinnis, M.D.
Research Coordinator, Behavioral Nutrition

I’ll leave it to you to look these gentlemen up, but they are perhaps not what most people would call “top scientists in the world”. Their papers are not very highly cited autism. Also, Generation Rescue does not appear to be using their “top scientists” for this project. Which begs the question: what is the actual project?

I. Project’s Primary Purpose, and the Need it Addresses. The goal of this project is to test the association between vaccinations and both acute and chronic neuro-developmental disorders and the efficacy of preventive health strategies. This will be achieved by conducting a retrospective cross-sectional study comparing the incidence of chronic illnesses (i.e., asthma, obesity, and eczema), neuro-developmental disorders (i.e., autism, ADHD and learning disorders), and overall health and well-being among a random sample of vaccinated and unvaccinated children (5-18 years of age). The study will obtain information from a random sample of two populations: I) children being horne-schooled and belong to the National Horne Educational Research Institute (NHERI); and, 2) children among the 30,000 unvaccinated patients being provided health care at the Homefirst Health Services in Chicago. Data will be collected from medical charts and parental reports via website health surveys and the standardized measures including the Autism Diagnostic Questionnaire.

The project proposal is vague and very brief. But let’s consider some details presented.

Not surprisingly, they chose to work with the Homefirst clinic in Chicago. Homefirst comes up quite often in discussions of proposed vaccinated/unvaccinated studies. This results largely from the fact that the director of Homefirst, Dr. Mayer Eisenstein has stated with no equivocation that there are zero autistic children who were born in his clinic and didn’t receive vaccines.

There is some confusion about how many of Homefirst’s patients are actually unvaccinated. Generation Rescue states that 30,000 are unvaccinated, but this is actually the estimate for all the children at Homefirst, vaccinated and unvaccinated:

“We have a fairly large practice. 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,” said Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, Homefirst’s medical director who founded the practice in 1973.

For the moment, let’s take Dr. Eisenstein at his word. What possible biases are there that they should be working around? One example–we don’t know the status of patients who have left Homefirst. Consider the parents who joined Homefirst specifically to avoid autism. After their child is diagnosed, is it conceivable that they not return to Homefirst and would find a different clinic? How do they plan to control for this? Also, one can not minimize the fact that Dr. Eisenstein has a lot riding on the reputation that he has built on the “no vaccines, no autism” slogan.

Even without this, researchers I have been in contact with have questioned how useful clinical notes such as these could be in screening, much less diagnosing, autism. From what I can see, Dr. Eisenstein’s practice does not include psychologists or other staff to test for autism, so that would not be directly included in the notes.

As an aside, the lack of autistics in his practice hasn’t stopped Dr. Eisenstein from joining the alternative treatment of autism. The Chicago Tribune discussed Dr. Eisenstein, his somewhat troubled past and his foray into treatments like Lupron in Autism doctor: Troubling record trails doctor treating autism.

NHERI is a new name to me. I have not heard much about them or their founder in autism discussions before. As an aside, one quote from the NHERI website was quite interesting–“”Whoever has the data controls the policy.” Kay Coles James, Virginia State Cabinetmember”.

The “Autism Diagnostic Questionnaire” is not a standard diagnostic instrument by any means. In fact, it is difficult to find out what it is at all. A google search for “Auism Diagnostic Questionnaire” gives only two hits (or did before I published this piece). The questionnaire appears to be this worksheet from the Autism Research Institute (DAN). I can find no information on how it is scored or how accurate it is.

One thing missing in this proposed study is actual contact with the children. “Standard measures” could mean a lot of things, but if they were planning on screening children and then testing probable cases using an ADOS and ADI-R (which one might argue would be “standard”), wouldn’t they mention that? If so, wouldn’t they mention who would perform such tests. None of the staff assigned to this study appears to be a psychologist, for example. The Staff for the project are listed as:

Project Stafjing: The Project Director will have a Masters’ degree and will be responsible foroverseeing the implementation, quality assurance and reporting of this project. Dr. A. Mawson is Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), and Principal Investigator of the Mississippi Study Center for the National Children’s Study. Dr. B. Ray is President of the National Home Education Research Institute and an experienced researcher in home education. Dr. S. Buttross is Professor and Chief of the Division of Child Developmental Disorders in the Department of Pediatrics; UMMC; and Dr. W. May is Professor of Biostatistics, Department of Medicine, UMMC. The combined experience of these investigators ensures the highest standards of quality and scientific rigor.

Generation Rescue and others have often called for an “independent” research. Left unvoiced is whether “independent” means “independent of the government and pharmaceutical companies” or whether “independent” includes being free from ties to the vaccines-cause-autism groups.

The “Project Director”, Dr. Mawson, is a vocal supporter of Andrew Wakefield. Below is a letter by him you can find in multiple places on the web. Note this was not included in the research proposal:

Dear Dr. Crippen,

I would like to point out that Trisha Greenhalgh’s assessment of Andrew Wakefield’s paper was itself seriously flawed!

You do a disservice to Wakefield and the scientific community by perpetuating this myth of the flawed study and the paper that should have been “rejected” by The Lancet.

The paper is actually excellent–a superb case study that will join the ranks of other famous case studies, such as the link between rubella infection and congenital rubella syndrome (Gregg 1941) and between exposure to thalidomide and embryopathy (McBride 1956).

Greenhalgh states that the paper set out to test a hypothesis that was unstated –of a causal relationship between exposure to MMR and autism — and the design of the study was all wrong. She starts out with an incorrect assumption about the nature of the study and then continues to build on her incorrect foundational argument. Her argument may look impressive to the layman and most medical practitioners perhaps, but not to anyone who knows anything about study design, i.e. epidemiologists, and the reviewers of the paper for The Lancet, who clearly understood that the paper was not an hypothesis-testing paper but a hypothesis-generating paper. It was, in short, a case series analysis.

The paper, once understood in this light, as case series analysis, is truly remarkable, well written and brilliantly documented. It concluded by stating the hypothesis, based on parents’ reports, that the children’s’ signs and symptoms were temporally connected to MMR vaccination. Subsequent studies may not have substantiated the hypothesis; but that does not detract from or invalidate the merits of the paper as a case series and as, essentially, a hypothesis paper.

Anthony Mawson.

I’d be interested in Prof. Mawson’s take on the quality of the Wakefield Lancet article now that it has been retracted. More to the point, the fact that the study is not a true “case series” in the fact that the subject selection was highly biased. There is an “Anthony Mawson” who is a signatory on the “We Support Andy Wakefield” website.

Dr. B. Ray is the President of NHERI, the homeschooling group involved in the research and is not a medical professional nor an epidemiologist.

Dr. Susan Buttross appears to be rather reasonable. The website for a clinic she is affiliated with has links to sites like the CDC and the AAP when discussing vaccines and autism. She worked on the Mississippi Autism Task Force, whose report can be found here. That report does not discuss vaccines one way or the other. It does discuss that toxins have been “implicated”:

To further complicate the findings, there is mounting suspicion that environmental factors play a role in many cases. A genetic predisposition may cause certain individuals to be more sensitive to environmental toxins. Specific environmental toxins have not yet been identified, however, lead, mercury, and other chemical toxins have been implicated. There has been concern that certain dietary components may be a causative factor in some cases. Viral infections including rubella, measles, and CMV (cytomegalic virus) have also been linked to ASD. Illicit drugs and alcohol used by the mother during pregnancy are also known to increase the risk of a child developing ASD.

Interviews with her can be heard here, here and here.
Mississippi Autism Task Force

Dr. W. May is, I believe, Warren May. I have no real details on what connection he may have to the autism communities and to the question of vaccines.

In the introduction I pointed out that Generation Rescue was attempting to get funding for this project from the Airborne settlement. The Ariborne suit was brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). CSPI was not supportive of the Generation Rescue proposal, noting that the project was vague and the sample groups likely heavily biased and that Generation Rescue was not actually conducting the study, but was managing it, building in overhead costs that might not be warranted.

I tend to agree with CSPI that the proposed study is far from being strong enough to be very convincing, one way or the other, on the question of vaccines and autism. There are some potentially reasonable people associated with this proposal. But I would think that any active involvement by Dr. Mayer Eisenstein would seriously taint the study. Further, should Dr. Mawson still support Andrew Wakefield, given Wakefield’s multiple ethical lapses and clearly biased study design, I would think that too would cast somewhat of a pall on the study.

Can an study comparing outcomes of unvaccinated and vaccinated populations be performed? Like any study, a lot depends on how definitive the answer you want is. Prometheus at the Photon in the Darkness blog has discussed the limitations of these studies and, also how they could be done. One early example is in his post “Let’s put on a Study!” Dr. David Gorski goes into the details as well in The perils and pitfalls of doing a “vaccinated versus unvaccinated” study. I agree with his conclusions:

Still, if the government caves and decides to do such a study, it is up to us in the scientific community to make sure that it’s done by no one but the best epidemiologists, in other words, that it’s a proper study that correctly controls for confounders and can answer the question being asked, not the dubious study custom designed to have the maximal chance of a false positive result, which is of course what the anti-vaccine movement really wants.

The questions raised by a vaccinated/unvaccinated study are far to important to be handled by anything less than the best researchers with access to the best data. I fear that Generation Rescue’s plan doesn’t meet either count.

A vaccinated vs unvaccinated study

6 Jun

For as long as I can recall, this has been one of the clarion calls of the autism/antivaccine/pro-disease groups – that the only way to know if vaccines cause autism is to do a ‘simple’ study of vaccinated vs unvaccinated populations. Indeed, Generation Rescue carried out an ill-fated phone survey that in reality meant absolutely nothing so badly was it put together and carried out. But even if it _had_ been well designed and carried out the results were not good for pro-disease anti-vaccine autism believers:

Number of boys and girls with Aspergers
Unvaccinated: 1% of total
Partially vaccinated: 2% of total
Fully vaccinated: 1%
Fully and Partially combined: 2%

Conclusion: you are 1% more likely to have Aspergers if you have been partially vaccinated than unvaccinated. If you are fully vaccinated your chance of being Aspergers is no greater than if you were unvaccinated.

Number of boys and girls with PDDNOS
Unvaccinated: 2% of total
Partially vaccinated: 2% of total
Fully vaccinated: 1%
Fully and Partially combined: 1%

Conclusion: you are 1% more likely to have PDDNOS if you are unvaccinated. If you are fully vaccinated your chance of being PDDNOS is 1% less than if you were unvaccinated.

Number of boys and girls with Autism
Unvaccinated: 2% of total
Partially vaccinated: 4% of total
Fully vaccinated: 2%
Fully and Partially combined: 2%

Conclusion: you are 2% more likely to have autism if you have been partially vaccinated. If you are fully vaccinated your chance of being autistic is no greater than if you were unvaccinated.

Number of boys and girls with all ASD’s
Unvaccinated: 4% of total
Partially vaccinated: 6% of total
Fully vaccinated: 3%
Fully and Partially combined: 3%

Conclusion: you are 2% more likely to have an ASD if you have been partially vaccinated. If you are fully vaccinated your chance of being autistic is 1% less than if you were unvaccinated.

Overall conclusion: the best way to avoid being diagnosed with an ASD is to be fully vaccinated according to the CDC schedule.

And in September of last year, you may recall the announcement of yet another study that demonstrated there was no link between MMR and autism. During the press conference that launched that study David Kirby asked the lead author – Ian Lipkin – what his thoughts were about a vaccinated vs unvaccinated study. His answer was:

http://webjay.org/flash/dark_player

Very difficult if not impossible.

Given that, the US NVAC vaccine safety group released a draft of their latest thinking on the issue of vaccine safety which touched on the idea of doing this sort of study. The entire section related to this is quoted in full below:

Feasibility study of Vaccinated/Unvaccinated/Alternatively Vaccinated Children

Members of the public, stakeholders, and the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) have articulated interest in a study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children to determine if there are differences in health outcomes between groups with varying exposures to vaccines. The Working Group considered drafting a recommendation for an IOM review of the science, epidemiology and feasibility of studies of unvaccinated, vaccine delayed, and vaccinated children. The Writing Group Draft Document on Gaps in Research Agenda further developed this idea. The Working Group wishes to clarify several points on this topic. *First, the Working Group believes that the strongest study design, a randomized clinical trial that includes a study arm receiving no vaccine or vaccine not given in accord with the current recommended schedule, is not ethical, would not pass IRB review, and cannot be done*. The type of study that is being suggested would be an observational study of populations looking at natural variation in vaccination schedules including some children where vaccination is declined through parental intent. All children in the study should be recommended to receive the standard immunization schedule. The Working Group endorses the Writing Group’s recommendation for an external expert committee, such as the Institute of Medicine, with broad methodological, design, and ethical expertise to consider “strengths and weaknesses, ethical issues and feasibility including timelines and cost of various study designs to examine outcomes in unvaccinated, vaccine delayed and vaccinated children and report back to the NVAC.

The Working Group does not necessarily agree with all of the language in the Writing Group’s statement, but with its general intent. The process should be open and transparent, engaging individuals from a broad range of sectors. Considerations as outlined by the Writing Group and modified by the Working Group are as follows:

– This review should consider strengths and weaknesses, ethical issues and feasibility including timelines and cost of various study designs and report back to the NVAC

– Consideration should be given to broad biomedical research including laboratory studies, and animal studies.

– Consideration should also be given to study designs comparing children vaccinated by the standard immunization schedule with unvaccinated children (by parental intention), and possibly partially vaccinated children or children vaccinated by alternative immunization schedules

– Outcomes to assess include biomarkers of immunity and metabolic dysfunction, and outcomes including but not limited to neurodevelopmental outcomes, allergies, asthma, immune-mediated diseases, and other developmental disabilities such as epilepsy, intellectual disability and learning disabilities.

– The inclusion of autism as an outcome is desired. This review should also consider what impact the inclusion of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) as an outcome would have on study designs and feasibility, as referenced in the IACC letter to NVAC.

– This review should be conducted expeditiously, in a transparent manner, and involving broad public and stakeholder input.

So, as per a straight ‘vaccinated vs unvaccinated’ study, Ian Lipkin and NVAC Working Group agree that it can’t be done in the most scientifically accurate way and even if it could, it wouldn’t be ethical due to the requirement of excluding children from vaccination.

What they are saying is that a group like the IOM therefore should write up a feasibility study as to how such a study _could_ be done. Without this, its extremely unlikely that a vax vs unvax study will ever fly.

Amusingly, the way that the NVAC Working Group words a possible solution – vaccinated vs unvaccinated via parental choice – sounds pretty much like the Generation Rescue phone survey. And we know how that ended up.

Vaccinated Children Not at Higher Risk of Infections or Allergic Diseases, Study Suggests

10 Mar

Seems German science has asked and answered the question everyone who believes vaccines damage the immune system wanted answering:

Do vaccinations put too much strain on or weaken children’s immune systems? Roma Schmitz and her colleagues from the Robert Koch Institute investigate exactly this research question in the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.

Their data are based on the results of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS).

In their study, the authors compare the occurrence of infections and allergies in vaccinated and unvaccinated children and adolescents. These include bronchitis, eczema, colds, and gastrointestinal infections.

The evaluation showed that unvaccinated children and adolescents differ from their vaccinated peers merely in terms of the frequency of vaccine preventable diseases. These include pertussis, mumps, or measles. As expected, the risk of contracting these diseases is substantially lower in vaccinated children and adolescents.

Yes, California children are dying of measles. Today. It’s called SSPE. Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, Polly Tommey, stop lying about it.

2 Nov

One of the very frustrating aspects of the vaccines-cause-autism myth is that my community–autism parents–are largely responsible for spreading the misinformation and the fear. One need only look at Jenny McCarthy, Generation Rescue, the National Autism Association, TACA (Talk about Curing Autism), Polly Tommey, and almost any online discussion about vaccines to see the misinformation being spread by autism parents.

Listen to someone spreading the fear about the MMR vaccine and you will almost always hear, “measles doesn’t kill”. I’ve heard it a number of times from Andrew Wakefield. Remember him? He’s the guy whose unethical research 20 years ago fueled the fear we have today. His current effort is a fake documentary called “Vaxxed”. His team includes Del Bigtree (a former actor and low level producer for daytime TV) and Polly Tommey (an autism parent and Wakefield ally). As part of their PR tour for their film, they’ve given a number of personal appearances and posted video to Facebook. Watch them a few times and you will see Wakefield’s team–especially Del Bigtree–that measles is not a fatal disease. That no one has died of measles in California, they say. Del Bigtree focuses on California a great deal. He’s from California. California had a sizable outbreak recently and, partially as a result of that, changed their laws on vaccines for students.

Del Bigtree is wrong, as he usually is. Measles does kill. The death rate in France over the past decade has been about 1 in 2000, And that’s the number for people killed during the infection. The recent outbreaks in California have not resulted in immediate deaths, but we haven’t had outbreaks as large as those in France. However, measles is killing people in California right now. It’s killing them with the long-term infection called SSPE. People in California have died in recent years, and one is currently dying of SSPE. SSPE is incurable. It’s a slow, agonizing death.

Want more facts about SSPE?

What is Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis?
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a progressive neurological disorder of children and young adults that affects the central nervous system (CNS). It is a slow, but persistent, viral infection caused by defective measles virus.

and read more from that same site:

What is the prognosis?
Most individuals with SSPE will die within 1 to 3 years of diagnosis. In a small percentage of people, the disease will progress rapidly, leading to death over a short course within three months of diagnosis. Another small group will have a chronic, slowly progressive form, some with relapses and remissions. A very small number (approximately 5 percent) may experience spontaneous long term improvement and regain lost function. Prevention, in the form of measles vaccination, is the only real “cure” for SSPE.

You can read more but here’s what we are talking about: in addition to the people who die from measles infections, measles infects the brain in some people and they die. They die over years, slowly losing function. Spending years knowing death is coming.

And a recent study shows that SSPE has been happening in California. People have died in recent years. Someone is dying right now of SSPE.

There are a number of news stories about this. Below is the abstract from the conference.

Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis: the Devastating Measles Complication is More Common than We Think

Background: Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a fatal complication of measles. Thought to be rare, SSPE incidence decreased with routine measles vaccination, but infants with measles remain at highest risk of this complication. We reviewed SSPE cases in California from 1998-2016 to understand current risk factors for SPPE.

Methods: SSPE cases had a clinically compatible illness and either 1) measles IgG antibody detection in the cerebrospinal fluid; 2) characteristic pattern on electroencephalography; 3) typical histologic findings in brain biopsy; or 4) medical record documentation of SSPE-related complications. Cases were identified though a state death certificate search, reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or through investigations for undiagnosed neurologic disease. Measles IgG detection was performed using indirect enzyme immunoassay at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) or by immunofluorescence assay at clinical laboratories.

Results: Seventeen SSPE cases were identified. Males outnumbered females 2.4:1. Twelve (71%) cases had a clinical history of a febrile rash illness compatible with measles; all 12 had illness prior to 15 months of age and measles vaccination. Eight (67%) children were living in the United States when they had measles. SSPE was diagnosed at a median age of 12 years (range 3-35 years), with a latency period of 9.5 years (range 2.5-34 years). Many cases had long-standing cognitive or motor problems prior to diagnosis. Among measles cases reported to CDPH during 1988-1991, incidence of SSPE was 1:1367 for children < 5 years, and 1:609 for children < 12 months at time of measles disease.

Conclusion: SSPE cases in California occurred at much higher rate than previously published among unvaccinated children who were infected with measles in infancy. Protection of infants younger than 12-15 months of age, when measles vaccine is routinely administered, requires avoidance of travel to endemic areas, or early vaccination prior to travel. Clinicians should be aware of the possibility of SSPE in patients with compatible symptoms, even in older patients with no specific history of measles infection. SSPE demonstrates the high human cost of “natural” measles immunity.

Let’s pull that last sentence out for emphasis:

SSPE demonstrates the high human cost of “natural” measles immunity.

The study above is based on something called data. Del Bigtree bases his arguments on a Brady Bunch episode.

No, I’m not making that up, Del Bigtree claims that since there was a Brady Bunch episode about measles, it must not have been a big deal in the 1960’s. That’s about as logical as saying, “well, there was this TV show about being in the Marines called ‘Gomer Pyle’. So, obviously, the Vietnam War was no big deal.”

I have zero belief that Del Bigtree (or Jenny McCarthy, Generation Rescue, the Age of Autism blog, Andrew Wakefield, or any of the rest) will change their claims that “measles is no big deal”. Why? Because Del (and the rest) are cowards. It takes guts, serious courage, to stand up and say, “I was wrong”. It takes guts to break from your community and say, “people, this position is dangerous”.

It takes the sort of courage that Del Bigtree and the rest just do not have.


by Matt Carey

An Interview with Andrew Wakefield

16 Feb

Andrew Wakefield recently participated in a cruise/meeting called the ConspiraSea cruise.  Among the audience was Colin McRoberts, a skeptic.  He reported back during the cruise and, as you will see below, interviewed Dr. Wakefield.  Since much of the interview involves William Thompson, Mr. McRoberts asked for my input.

The interview is below.  Mr. McRobert’s words are in black, Mr. Wakefield’s in red and mine in green.  (If there are any mistakes in that formatting below, they are mine.)

The original interview can be found at  An Interview with Andrew Wakefield at


 

Andrew Wakefield and I were both on the ConspiraSea Cruise in January 2016. By the last full day of the cruise, we’d had a few encounters ranging from standing in the same line for coffee to a fairly tense exchange during one of his lectures. I asked Wakefield after that lecture if he would answer a few questions regarding the so-called “CDC Whistleblower.” He consented, and this is the interview that resulted. Wakefield was aware that I was recording and that I am a critic of his position on vaccines and autism; he did not refuse to answer any of my questions.

2016-01-29 15.13.13
Wakefield lecturing on the cruise

This transcript is my own work, and I welcome any corrections. I’ve edited it slightly to make it more readable and remove irrelevant dialog. I have also added parenthetical comments to note where a statement is inaudible on the recording, which is not of high quality, and provide my best guess at what was said in a few places. I have not changed the substance of any question or answer.

Wakefield answered several questions before I turned the recording on. According to my memory and my notes, I asked him questions about the Thompson documents such as what specific deviations there were from the approved study plan (as he had alleged such deviations in two lectures). He referred me generally to his letter of October 2014, written with Brian Hooker and attorney James Moody, and directed to the federal Office of Research Integrity. He indicated both that he had documents from Thompson at the time he wrote that letter, and that Congressman Posey subsequently received additional documents from Thompson. At that point I began the recording.

I am not an expert in the documents Wakefield discussed. So in order to provide context for these answers, we have asked Matt Carey of Left Brain Right Brain to provide commentary. Carey is a published scientist, a parent of an autistic child, and extremely familiar with the Thompson documents. He has written an in-depth analysis of the Thompson documents and was able to provide an important counterpoint to Wakefield’s claims. Please read that excellent analysis prior to this interview if you are not familiar with the affair. The questions and answers will make little sense without context.

My questions are in black, Wakefield’s answers are in red, and Carey’s comments are in green. We welcome your own comments as well.

So the Posey documents that were released are, as far as you know, the documents Posey was given? He hasn’t held anything back?

I think he has probably given Posey more documents than he’s given me. The reason for that is that I’ve just been given the Posey documents, and they’ve been released and they’re available to anyone—you can get them.

I’ve got them.

And I have not been through them as yet, so I do not know to what extent they overlap completely with the documents I’ve got. And the reason I say that is that there may be additional documents he provided to Posey on Thimerosal or other things, because he was involved in two other vaccine safety studies. I have (inaudible: “all the”?) documents relevant to the MMR studies.

The two thimerosal studies were much larger studies and are more significant than the DeStefano MMR study in the evidence against the idea that vaccines cause autism. Given that, it’s interesting that there isn’t much on the thimerosal studies in the Thompson documents. In Thompson’s personal statement he makes no indication that the results of those studies are anything but valid or that the CDC team acted in any way other than ethically in performing those studies.

 

And then do you know if there are documents you have from Thompson that Posey does not?

I have documents that Posey does not because Thompson and I were in private correspondence.

And when you say that, are they documents that were that correspondence, or were they documents from the DeStefano days?

They are correspondence between us.

So do you have documents from the research or from his work at the CDC that Posey doesn’t have, other than the correspondence?

I don’t know, because I haven’t been through Posey’s documents yet.

One has to ask why he has not yet been through those documents? They’ve been public for some time. I put them online January 4th, nearly 3 weeks before the cruise. A journalist announced he had received the documents from Representative Posey’s office. That was in November of last year. Dr. Wakefield could have submitted his own request then. If Dr. Wakefield felt there was a possibility of evidence of misconduct in these documents, wouldn’t he have read through them at his first opportunity? In his role as creating a documentary about these events, why isn’t he jumping at the chance to add to or confirm his story?

 

That will answer a lot of my questions, actually. So, Hooker’s study came out, and again, I’m not a scientist—I’m not qualified to review or really have intelligent commentary on a statistical research study. Do you support the conclusions Hooker drew? Do you endorse them?

Do I –

It would be interesting to know what conclusions Dr. Wakefield is thinking of when he responds. There are the conclusions in the paper and there are the conclusions Dr. Hooker has stated publicly since. The last sentence of Dr. Hooker’s retracted study is “Additional research is required to better understand the relationship between MMR exposure and autism in African American males.” That’s quite different from concluding that the study shows a causal link between the MMR vaccine and autism. I believe both Dr. Wakefield and Dr. Hooker have made the latter claim publicly. It is worth noting that an epidemiological study like Hooker’s cannot, on its own, show a causal connection even if the correlation found is strong. The African American males/autism correlation in the Hooker reanalysis is far from strong.

Do you endorse the conclusions Hooker drew in his study based on the DeStefano research?

Yes, I do. I know, and I know you’re going to say it was retracted. It was retracted on the basis that the did not disclose a conflict of interest. There was absolutely no – on the initial basis, the initial rationale for the retraction was nothing to do with the scientific analysis. Which was a very simple analysis, a very simple statistical manip- analysis, which replicated what Thompson found. It was withdrawn on the basis that there was an undisclosed conflict. And that’s why it was withdrawn. There was no undisclosed conflict, and I suspect that there was pressure on the journal to withdraw [inaudible].

First, as I noted above, we aren’t entirely sure what conclusions he stands behind.

As to the retraction, Dr. Wakefield only gives part of the reason why the Hooker study was retracted. Here is the full statement from the journal:

The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article [1] as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings. We apologise to all affected parties for the inconvenience caused.

The editors were concerned about the validity of the methods and analysis and “no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings.” That’s a pretty stinging rebuke of the study itself in a retraction and completely avoided by Dr. Wakefield.

But you don’t know that.

No I don’t.

I’ve heard, and again I’m not qualified to even understand the criticism, that Hooker misunderstood how to analyze case control studies. Are you familiar with that criticism?

No I’m not. The criteria for the, if you go to the criteria for the journal, Translational Neurodegeneration, it says papers will be published on the basis of expert peer review. And only when they pass that expert peer review will they be published. The paper went expert peer review which included a statistical analysis and whether he used appropriate methodology. So it passed muster on the basis of the journal’s own rigorous criteria. That gives me cause for concern, because there was nothing in Hooker’s analysis which substantiates or supports the contention that he did not know how to analyze a case control study.

Again, look to the retraction statement by the Journal: Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings. Peer review specifically looking at the statistical analysis found the paper lacking.

I’ve peer reviewed many papers, and even edited the proceedings of a large conference. Some peer reviewers are more rigorous than others. We don’t know what “statistical analysis” Dr. Wakefield is claiming that the reviewer(s) performed. A referee could not replicate Dr. Hooker’s analysis as the data are not in the paper. And datasets like these are not “public use”, they are intended only for those who have shown in their application to be “qualified researchers.” Dr. Hooker should not be sharing the dataset with referees or others.

Also, one question that has been in a lot of people’s minds was who did the first peer review of the paper. Often an author can suggest to a journal potential referees and can use that to get people involved who would be favorable to the authors and/or their conclusions. I can’t say for certain that this occurred in this paper, but it is a possibility.

And of course it’s possible that the peer review was just not very rigorous. A while back a peer reviewed paper included the parenthetical comment, “should we cite the crappy … paper here?” That inappropriate comment made it past referees, editors, type setting, and proofs.

 

Would it be fair to say that you’ve analyzed the statistical work Hooker did, or –

No I didn’t. I’m not a statistician, although I’ve been involved in a lot of statistical analyses, I would not consider myself an expert in statistics and I am not qualified, certainly over and above the expert who clearly was involved in peer review of the paper, to approve or disapprove of it.

Brian Hooker is also not a statistician. Like many of us in research, Dr. Hooker has some knowledge of statistics, but his own statements (for example, “I reanalyzed the datasets using what’s in a very, very simple statistical technique”) show that he is not an expert in the field.

First, in statistics simple is not always the most valid approach. In this case it certainly is not the most valid approach. Second, and more importantly, this isn’t a statistics study. It’s an epidemiological study. In epidemiology strong studies are those that correct for factors that can lead to false conclusions. Here’s a simple example: rich people can afford healthcare and, as a result, tend to see doctors more often. They are more likely to be diagnosed for many diseases because they seek out healthcare. If a study ignores such factors—takes a “simple statistical technique” it could erroneously conclude that rich people get some diseases more than poor people. Dr. Hooker’s analysis is not only too simplistic statistically, it is too simplistic from an epidemiology standpoint.

Here are two technical critiques of the statistical analysis Dr. Hooker used:

Analysis and Reanalysis: The Controversy Behind MMR Vaccinations and Autism, part 2

Directed Acyclic Graphs and the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism

If you’re comfortable saying so, are you still in contact with Thompson?

No. When we – let me qualify that. I write to Thompson. Updating him on our progress. I do not anticipate a response. Because in getting him or encouraging him to get a whistleblower lawyer, his lawyer advised as any good lawyer should that he should make no further comment until a congressional hearing or the equivalent. And therefore I have not heard back from him.

If Dr. Thompson has whistleblower protection, why does he need to only comment in a congressional hearing? The vast majority of whistleblowers are not called before congressional committees.

More to the point, if Dr. Thompson felt that there was ongoing harm—that there was strong evidence of an actual connection between vaccines and autism–he would be ethically compelled to come forward and speak out. In fact, in his public statement Dr. Thompson made it very clear that parents should vaccinate:

“I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.”

And just to make sure I understand, is that what you understand what his lawyers have told him to do or what you expect his lawyers would tell him to do?

He has said something to that effect in a text. I can’t remember precisely what it is, but he said based upon my lawyer’s advice, I can now have no further contact. So it’s explicitly based on his lawyers.

I’m not surprised. You made a comment that I hadn’t heard before, that it was not true that the data Thompson released showed a protective effect for on-time MMR vaccinations in non-African American male children.

Sorry…

It’s an awkward question. So I had understood that the Thompson data showed a protective effect for on-time MMR vaccinations in non-male, non-African American children. And in your first –

Quite the opposite, quite the opposite. This is the greatest, one of the most misleading things of all, is when the head of science over Autism Speaks, Dr. Wang, was interviewed by Ronan Farrow, that was precisely what he said and what he took from the fraudulent paper. And that underlines just how deceitful the paper was, that the head of science for an organization which is the biggest autism charity in the world, gets it completely wrong when presenting in national media, that giving MMR vaccination on time appears to be protective against autism is the most egregious of all of the sins that they committed.

Dr. Wakefield appears to be misremembering the interview. The Paul Wang/Ronan Farrow interview can be found here. In discussing the DeStefano study, the one that Hooker reanalyzed, Paul Wang stated:

“If you look at children who got the vaccine on time, there is no increased risk.”

Not that there is a “protective effect” but that there is “no increased risk.”

Later in the interview, discussing a different study, Wang mentioned the “protective” effect found. A good discussion of this can be found at Forbes. Allow me to include a few paragraphs from that discussion because it makes an important point about why simplistic statistical analyses can lead to possibly false findings:

Even more surprising was the relative risk among children who had an older sibling with autism: in this smaller group, children with 2 doses of MMR were just 44% as likely to be diagnosed with autism as unvaccinated children. This statistically significant finding indicates, unexpectedly, that vaccines might actually protect children from autism.

The authors were quick to note that there are other good reasons for this apparent protective effect of vaccines: in particular, if parents of autistic children withheld vaccines from their younger children, this could explain the effect. Why? Because we know that autism has a genetic component, and that if one child has autism, his younger sibling is more likely (because they share many genes) to have autism as well. Jain and colleagues explained that if these parents withheld vaccines–because of fears spread by the anti-vaccine movement–then their children could contribute to the apparently lower rate of autism in children who were vaccinated. The authors couldn’t rule out a protective effect of vaccines, but scientifically it seems unlikely, and they wisely offered an alternative explanation.

The “protective” effect is likely an artifact of the study design and the authors acknowledged it. The first thing a good researcher does when she/he finds a result is to challenge it, test it. “If I do a more in-depth analysis, does this finding hold up?” “Is there an alternate explanation that could be causing this and make this result spurious?” Simple is not elegant, as Dr. Hooker asserts. Simple is the first step. And if you don’t take the next steps, your study is weak and your conclusions more likely to be wrong.

This may also be in the letter you told me to look up, but the destruction of documents—are you aware of specific documents that were destroyed, or types of documents that were destroyed? Or was it just an allegation that documents were destroyed?

Well, what I have are all of the serial outputs of the data covering that period during which the documents were destroyed, and what was quite clear was that the data tables showing highly significant association between autism and vaccination [inaudible: “on time”?] were there before the alleged destruction of documents and were gone afterwards. In other words, the documentary evidence provided by Thompson confirms exactly what he said, that data were destroyed.

This is the story made public in the “garbage can quote” read into the Congressional record by Representative Bill Posey. That can be found in the statement by William Thompson included with the document provided by the Representative to me (and made public by me). Here’s the end key paragraph quoted by Representative Posey. Note that the last line was not read into the record:

However, because I assumed this was illegal and would violate both FOIA laws and DOJ requests, I kept hard copies of all my documents in my office and I retained all the associated computer files. This included all the Word files (agendas and manuscript drafts), Excel files with analysis and results, and SAS files that I used to generate the statistical findings. I also kept all my written notes from meetings. All the associated MMR-Autism Study computer files have been retained on the Immunization Safety Office computer servers since the inception of the study and they continue to reside there today [emphasis added].

Emphasis added. All the files have been retained. If printouts were shredded but the files kept, what’s the controversy? Dr. Hooker and Dr. Wakefield appear to have been claiming that Hooker recreated the CDC team’s analysis solely using the dataset maintained by the CDC and provided upon request to qualified researchers. So, again, what data was deleted?

One might think, well personal notes were shredded and those could show actions that indicate wrongdoing on the part of the CDC team. We don’t know what notes the other researchers retained. But we do have William Thompson’s notes—notes by the person most likely to record wrong doing. We don’t have statements in his personal notes–taken while the study was ongoing–that suggest fraud. In fact one of the few notes that goes to the mindset of the research team states, “we all have good intentions.”

I don’t understand what that means in this context. You have a report of what’s on the servers? Or you have a report of what was in file cabinets? Or you have –

No, I have printouts, or well, sorry, I have email documents. These are documents generated in Word with a date of creation, so that you can confirm that those documents were created contemporaneously with when Thompson said they were created. And they reflect meetings that took place on a serial basis every month, or twice monthly, between the group, the coauthors for that paper. And in September 2002, when Thompson alleges these documents were destroyed, then the African American effect, for example, and the isolated autism effect, were there. And then afterwards, they were completely gone. So that would support Thompson’s contention that documents were destroyed.

The story is much more mundane than Dr. Wakefield is implying here. What is clear in these documents is that this timeframe–around Sept. 2002–is when the research phase of this project ended. Dr. Wakefield tells us, “And then afterwards, they were completely gone.” When you go through the documents you see that after September 2002 there are pretty much no more research group meetings. There were a handful of meetings after this, but the analysis was over and the figures basically finalized. A preliminary draft of the study manuscript is dated Oct. 2002. So the idea that the team met to discuss what to archive and what to shred, and that the figures were finalized about this time is not only not surprising, it’s expected.

And this is where it’s good to have the actual documents. Dr. Wakefield did not share the documents he had, only quotes and screenshots. Bits that supported the arguments he was making. When we see the actual documents we see a different story. When I put up my own analysis of the documents, I made the documents publicly available so people could form their own opinions. From what I can see Dr. Wakefield did not do this.

Speaking of mundane, yes the documents “reflect meeting that took place on a serial basis” as Dr. Wakefield states. In one folder there are about 500 pages of agendas, tables and graphs for those meetings. And when one goes through these documents one finds they are very redundant. The same talking points, the same graphs and tables meeting after meeting. We are asked to be shocked that the CDC team discarded documents. I’ve posed this question publicly–what in those documents needed to be kept? Do we really need multiple researchers archiving every meeting agenda? The answer is simple: no, we don’t. I not only expect them to discard much of this paperwork, I hope they aren’t hanging on to all this paperwork for every project they work on.

I still don’t understand quite what this means. So there was a word document, and in that document, it refers to the African American effect, the isolated autism effect –

It shows the data. It shows the data table.

And in later versions of that document, those tables are gone?

I’ll give you an example. All of the data are contained in a table called Table 5. That table is there in September and it’s gone in October. Never to be seen again.

The last one of these documents– that has “table 5” is, as Dr. Wakefield says, in September 2005. So is Table 8, which includes things like variables “M_AGEC11” and “B_MULTB.” Why is that important? Because those are variable names important to the researchers but were obviously not intended for the final study. The fact that Table 8 (or table 5 for that matter) got cut isn’t a smoking gun, just evidence that these were preliminary tables and that study hit the turning point of finalization.

Most of the attention in this discussion goes to the African American effect. Let’s consider the “isolated autism” effect. “Isolated” autism means autism without other disabilities. What happened to that? The CDC team published it. They narrowed it down to autism without MR, but it’s basically the same thing as “isolated.” They also showed that in the simple analysis (the sort that Dr. Hooker claims is “elegant”) there is an apparent association, but that association disappears when one does a more rigorous analysis. Aside from debunking the controversy over “isolated” autism, this serves as another example of why simple isn’t the best.

But the data that was used to create Table 5 – was that destroyed?

Very good question, was the data destroyed. No. No it was not. Because it was not – it was intended to be destroyed. All of the – it was Thompson’s claim that all of the hard copy documents, and all of the computer files, relevant to this paper were targeted for destruction. The original data tables or data files from which the tables were generated were preserved by Thompson and are available and can be reconstructed in order to generate the information. As an example, the data tables – the excel – sorry, they were SAS spreadsheets – provided to Hooker, by which he then did an analysis.

Personally, I want to check the source every time Dr. Wakefield or Dr. Hooker claim to be speaking for William Thompson. Thompson has made very few public comments, plus a few conversations secretly recorded by Brian Hooker and since released by Hooker. Given this, let’s ask ourselves: instead of Dr. Wakefield giving his interpretation of what Dr. Thompson said, why not just quote Thompson? For example, consider the very strong claim “it was Thompson’s claim that all of the hard copy documents, and all of the computer files, relevant to this paper were targeted for destruction.” Now Thompson’s statement, “All the associated MMR-Autism Study computer files have been retained on the Immunization Safety Office computer servers since the inception of the study and they continue to reside there today.”

We don’t know what hard copy documents were kept by the other authors. Or what notes were in notebooks they kept. We hear that they discarded some, but we don’t know that they may have kept. Also, consider this: if “all the hard copy documents” were “targeted for destruction” why meet to decide which documents to shred if the decision is to shred them all? Is it so they can watch everyone discard documents? If so, consider this: we know from Thompson’s own statements that one of the MMR study leaders was missing from the “garbage can” meeting. The story just doesn’t make sense.

We should address the question of discarding research documents: is it unethical? I’ve been a researcher for 30 years. It is common practice to periodically decide what documents to keep in my office, which to archive to a warehouse and which to discard. When I would clear out documents my company would provide me large confidential bins. They look like “garbage cans” except the lid is locked and the only access is through a slot in the top so people can’t fish documents out. After these bins are collected they are sent to a confidential shredder. [Colin: Although I’m not a scientist, I’ve seen similar procedures in very many offices where confidential documents like legal or financial files are used.] I would expect the CDC to have a similar procedure. A researcher keeps the documents that are required to recreate the final analysis and, in my case, determine dates of invention.

http://www.lbmedwaste.com/products_confidential_document.html
Bins like these are used to dispose of confidential documents in many offices, to protect privacy when clearing out old hard copies containing things like social security numbers or health records.

As long as we are talking about the few public statements Dr. Thompson has made, allow me to repeat this one:

I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

So that data exists, so far as you know, only in Thompson’s files and not in the CDC’s main files, wherever those may be?

According to Thompson, all of those – he was the only one who preserved all of those records. Beyond that, I do not know the infrastructure of the CDC’s filing system, so I don’t know – I think I’ve probably reached the limit of my knowledge about that. Is there some sort of backup system that retains the original SAS files, I don’t know [inaudible].

“I don’t know.” I believe he should. I see it as ironic that Dr. Wakefield claims to speak for Dr. Thompson (“According to Thompson”) while having not read all the documents Dr. Thompson released to Representative Posey. As I’ve already noted above, Dr. Thompson made it explicitly clear that all the associated MMR-Autism Study computer files have been retained on the Immunization Safety Office computer servers since the inception of the study and they continue to reside there today. At the very least, the raw data exist. Clearly, since Dr. Hooker used those data for his analysis. Also, I’d be curious how Dr. Wakefield knows that Thompson “was the only one who preserved all of those records”. We know that some documents were discarded, but we don’t know what was kept by the other team members.

And then are you referring to statements that Thompson made that have been released, or statements that are still confidential regarding his allegation that those files were deleted?

Both. Both. So his statement to Bill Posey and other documents that I have obtained that are in the documentary. Documents which are not publicly released.

If by the “statement to Bill Posey” Dr. Wakefield means the full statement that Representative Posey excerpted in his House speech, that is indeed publicly released. I released the documents Representative Posey’s office provided to me. I discussed the full statement here.

The full statement is much longer than the excerpts that Representative Posey read. It includes the statement:

“The fact that we found a strong statistically significant finding among black males does not mean that there was a true association between the MMR vaccine and autism-like features in this subpopulation.”

Emphasis added. I’ll be curious to see if this statement (and others that are problematic for Dr. Wakefield’s story) appear in the documentary.

You mentioned that you’ve analyzed the notes, and that you know who the coauthor was who made some handwritten annotations. Would you disclose who that coauthor is?

No.

Would you disclose how you did the analysis?

No.

Will that be in the documentary?

Yes.

Both the type of analysis and the name of the author?

As yet undecided. [Inaudible: “As yet”?] a matter of discussion.

I was talking to Nick Begich earlier as he dropped these off [pointing to DVDs], and he kind of referred to the breadth of opinions expressed at the conference. And some – I wouldn’t say alarm, but some surprise at some of the views that have been expressed here. And I know that you haven’t been at all the various panels that haven’t involved vaccines or autism, but I think you’ve heard some relatively wild statements. Would you be comfortable establishing a line at which you feel it’s irresponsible to speculate about the cause of autism, or about conspiracies related to medical care?

So sorry, is there a line –

At which you’d object to some of the speculation that’s gone on at the conference.

My reason for coming, or what persuaded me to come, was that Jeffrey Smith was presenting. And Sherri Tenpenny. The other people I don’t know. I’ve met one other person one time. So I know nothing about any of the other people. But I’ve been someone who’s followed Jeffrey Smith for a long time. And I think his approach to his subject is very thorough, is informed, and very valuable. And so every time I get an opportunity to listen to him then I’m very grateful. Sherri similarly. A great deal of knowledge and understanding of the subject. The others, as you say I haven’t been to the talks. I don’t know what their discussions were about.

I am less interested in his “reason for coming” as for why he didn’t consider association with many speakers a reason for not coming.

I’m thinking for example of Len Horowitz’s discussion of the 528 frequency –

Yeah, I didn’t hear that. [Inaudible: “I wasn’t there”?] I just don’t know. So no, I just don’t know. I wasn’t there. So it would be unfair of me to comment on [inaudible].

I heard you speak in Austin, when we were still living there, at an Autism Speaks conference. [I was mistaken; it was an Autism Trust event called the “Give Autism a Chance Summit.”] You were MCing, I think it was Autism Speaks, at the music center downtown in Austin. There were people on the stage like Dr. Kriegsman, and I can’t think of the other guy’s name, who was instructing parents to turn off their routers and their cell phones so the EM waves wouldn’t hurt their autistic children. And I was hoping at the time you would comment to the parents in the room as to whether you thought that was reasonable advice or not, and you haven’t made a statement on it as far as I know. Is that kind of advice something you think is reasonable?

I don’t – if I do not know the subject, I’m not going to give advice. I’m just not going to do it. It’s irresponsible. I’m not going to give advice that could even be potentially construed as medical if I have not done a thorough analysis of the data. Now that said, I keep my mind open to the possibility that there are co-factors that may influence autism risk [inaudible]. I don’t know what those co-factors are. But I’m never going to advise people on what to do based on something about which I know nothing. I’m going to confine myself to the things which I know and I’ve worked on and I’ve read and understood. And where I don’t know I’m going to say I don’t know. If someone has a competing theory of autism, OK, let them talk about it.

One of the reasons my wife and I came to this country is that has a constitution that includes the values we respect. And god forbid that people should be censored or excluded from expressing opinions. Just like the journalists on this trip feeling threatened, that they couldn’t be in discussions, that’s not right, that’s not the way I operate. I encourage dissent because in the end, it’s only through the presentation of competing arguments that truth is going to win. Just in the same way that I talked to you about how it was not our job to censor the parents’ story just because others found it inconvenient or didn’t believe it. It’s not my job to censor other people expressing opinions that may not concur with my own.

I find this highly ironic given the legal threats Dr. Wakefield has made to journalists. He’s even brought suit multiple times against a journalist. A judge in one case referred to Dr. Wakefield’s use of litigation “as a weapon in his attempts to close down discussion and debate over an important public issue.”

Do you feel that given your high profile, your presence might be an endorsement, or at least perceived that way by people who don’t have a chance to talk to you personally?

Well if that is the case, then I should shut myself in a cave on a high mountain, become a hermit. And that’s not going to happen because that’s not the way in which knowledge is going to spread. If people take it as that then it is because they want to take it as that. Because that’s the spin that’s placed on it.

I wanted to ask just one more question.

Go, one more question.

And feel free not to answer. What evidence would change your mind, about a link between autism and vaccines?

What evidence would change my mind… [long pause] What is my position, firstly let’s define what my position is. That’s very very important. Vaccination should operate from a position of an abundance of caution. What you’re doing is you’re taking healthy children and exposing them to a risk or a potential risk. And you’re doing it on the background of the available data on the safety and efficacy of that vaccine. It’s not like you’re taking patients with end-stage cancer, where you say, “Look, you’ve got a fifty percent chance of dying and a fifty percent chance of living, and there may be some benefit but we don’t know.” You’re taking entirely healthy children and you’re giving them an exposure, which incurs a risk. And the risks are all spelled out in the product insert.

So my position, and the position that medicine should be in, is that you operate from an abundance of caution. If there is even a possible risk of harm, then you do everything in your power to either exclude that risk or stop the vaccination policy. First do no harm.

So my position is not that it’s black and white. It is that you operate from an abundance of caution. You have to be very very clear that what you are doing has a minimal, an absolutely minimal risk, for the maximum benefit.

The interesting thing here is the for years the narrative that I recall from his supporters was that Dr. Wakefield didn’t say that vaccines cause autism. He was just posing questions.

That said, see what Dr. Wakefield has done here? He’s framed the question as though there is only one source of risk–vaccinating (and implies falsely that one of those risks is autism). He doesn’t even approach the question of the risk in not vaccinating and leaving one’s self vulnerable to disease. Ignoring that is hardly an “abundance of caution.” Quite the opposite, it’s an abundance of irresponsibility in my opinion.

The positions and the rhetoric that you’ve taken at this conference make it pretty clear you feel that there is extremely good reason to believe that the MMR vaccine in particular, and possibly vaccines in general, and possibly GMOs as well, have a causative link to autism.

Yes.

What would change your mind?

That is because I’ve sat in this field now for twenty years, and nothing has persuaded me that the science is wrong. And what now convinces me that there is a real cause for concern is William Thompson coming forward and saying that a hypothesis that I put forward in the year 2000 is proven to be correct by the year 2001 and was kept concealed for 13 years. How would you feel in that position? Would you feel that it reaffirmed your concern that the parents’ story was right? Or would you think, well, we can dismiss that because – no. It is quite clear that there is a problem they have covered up. So it makes me feel more strongly than ever that we need good, independent science—and I mean independent, independent of the CDC, independent of influence by government or the pharmaceutical industry—that gives us the answers. Will we ever get that? No. We will not get that. Why? Because the system is so distorted, and that’s very very sad. And I’m a scientist, I’ve published 140 papers and I’ve never committed fraud in my life. And I’ve published papers which suggest my hypotheses is wrong. Very few people do that. I publish them. I publish papers – and you can look them up, in the Journal of Medical Virology, saying “we do not find this virus in these tissues.” Despite that being our hypothesis [inaudible]. So I’m perfectly open to the counter-argument. But nothing so far has persuaded me that there isn’t a link, and Thompson’s revelations have reaffirmed to me that there is a link. There is no question, there is a link, they’ve found it. [inaudible] So there we are.

Let’s take on the most important statement here first:

“But nothing so far has persuaded me that there isn’t a link, and Thompson’s revelations have reaffirmed to me that there is a link. There is no question, there is a link, they’ve found it. [inaudible] So there we are.”

But that is not what Thompson says. Again, I’ll quote him directly:

“The fact that we found a strong statistically significant finding among black males does not mean that there was a true association between the MMR vaccine and autism-like features in this subpopulation.”

 Thompson doesn’t say there is a link. He doesn’t say “without question.” So, there we are.

Also, it’s worth noting that the above response is worthy of a politician. Ask yourself, did Dr. Wakefield ever answer the question (what would change your mind)? If so, I don’t see it.

If I may, let me discuss the general question of vaccines and autism. I’ve taken this very seriously from the start. This is personal to me in a way that it will never be to Andrew Wakefield as I have an autistic child. I am also a researcher, a Ph.D. I’ve immersed myself in the literature—especially that which claims to show a link between vaccines and autism.

Actually it is Dr. Wakefield’s science, and that of many others who purport to show a link, that showed me that there is no substance to the claim of vaccines being linked to autism. And from that I can say this: it isn’t a question of refuting that claim, it’s a matter of the fact that the claim just isn’t strong at all to begin with.

For example, look at Dr. Wakefield’s conclusion here “Thompson’s revelations have reaffirmed to me that there is a link.” He ignores the bulk of even Hooker’s analysis (most groups show no increased risk of autism) and clings to one small subgroup. OK, that’s a weak stance on his part, but it gets worse. He claims that subgroup result shows not only a correlation, but causation. Even though such a study as this cannot show causation. Even though Thompson himself says this finding “…does not mean that there was a true association.”

There is a large body of evidence, epidemiological and biological, that says that the Wakefield MMR/Autism hypothesis is wrong. But the fact is that the Wakefield MMR/autism hypothesis was never very strong. It’s built on arguments such as “Thompson’s revelations have reaffirmed to me that there is a link.” And, ironically, Wakefield’s work is some of the strongest in the “vaccines cause autism” portfolio.

This post has been edited to restore formatting to the links in Carey’s comments.