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Flu vaccine given to pregnant women doesn’t cause autism. Is anyone surprised?

3 Mar

I happened to run across this study from last year: Maternal Influenza A(H1N1) Immunization During Pregnancy and Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Offspring : A Cohort Study and thought it worth highlighting. The anti-vaccine movement has been good at moving goalposts and one of their lines in recent years has been that vaccines are dangerous for pregnant women. One line of “logic” holds that as mercury was phased out of vaccines, the influenza vaccine was given to pregnant women. Thus, we are told by anti-vaccine activists, explains why there was never their predicted drop in autism rates as thimerosal was phased out of vaccines.

The conclusion of the study is one line:

This large cohort study found no association between maternal H1N1 vaccination during pregnancy and risk for ASD in the offspring.

Will this convince the remaining anti-vaccine activists? Of course not. Is this surprising? No.

But it is worth noting another study which debunks their dangerous misinformation.


By Matt Carey

I got my second dose of COVID vaccine.

19 Feb

I am very fortunate that my state classified parents of high risk disabled kids (young adults, in my case) as “health care workers” and granted us access to the COVID-19 vaccine. 4 weeks ago I got dose one, and today I got dose 2.

As a short PSA–nurses like food and nothing stops you from showing them some gratitude. Here I am with the nurse who administered my shot, handing off a bag of chocolate.

“High risk” isn’t just a phrase. It’s a reality. My kid has a higher chance of complications or death than others. So I do this to protect them. And hospitals don’t have the capacity to handle a high support individual in the best of times. With a pandemic, the idea that my kid could end up strapped down and/or sedated has been very much on my mind.

So if I can reduce the chances of my kid getting sick, I’m taking it.

And I will admit, I am pleased to have the protection for myself. One of the phrases you will hear attributed to parents of disabled kids is “what will happen when I’m gone”. Well, this is a big step to make “when I’m gone” happen later. COVID kills.

As the parent of an autistic person I am well aware that many of my fellow parents are actively anti-vaccine. That’s a big reason why I speak out against their misinformation. The harm they do is very real.

I look forward to a time when we have COVID-19 under some control. Not so I can stop wearing a mask or eat at a restaurant. So I can rest with the confidence that my kid and other people are safer.

By Matt Carey

As of March 15 people with developmental disabilities can qualify for COVID vaccines in California

18 Feb

California is opening access to COVID vaccines to more people. As part of this they have issued “Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Guidelines” which includes guidance on vaccines for people with developmental disabilities. Access will start March 15. Individuals must be 16 years or older, and meet these requirements:

1) The individual is likely to develop severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection
2) Acquiring COVID-19 will limit the individual’s ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to their well-being and survival
3) Providing adequate and timely COVID care will be particularly challenging as a result of the individual’s disability.

Here is a quote of the guidance:

Vaccinating those at higher risk

Beginning March 15, healthcare providers may use their clinical judgement to vaccinate individuals aged 16-64 who are deemed to be at the very highest risk to get very sick from COVID-19 because they have the following severe health conditions:

Cancer, current with weakened immune system
Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent
Down syndrome
Solid organ transplant, leading to a weakened immune system
Pregnancy
Sickle cell disease
Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (but not hypertension)
Severe obesity (Body Mass Index ≥ 40 kg/m2)
Type 2 diabetes mellitus with hemoglobin A1c level greater than 7.5%

OR
If as a result of a developmental or other severe high-risk disability one or more of the following applies:

The individual is likely to develop severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection
Acquiring COVID-19 will limit the individual’s ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to their well-being and survival
Providing adequate and timely COVID care will be particularly challenging as a result of the individual’s disability.

This is a very welcome change. Caregivers were allowed access to the COVID vaccines earlier (Family members of some people with developmental disabilities declared “health care workers” and are eligible for COVID vaccines in California). Now we can extend People with disabilities are at high risk from COVID and getting this protection is a big step forward.


By Matt Carey

Xavier Becerra please seat a new IACC quickly

7 Dec

Xavier Becerra, the news is reporting that you will be nominated to be the new head of the Department of Health and Human Services. Congratulations. You will have a lot to do when you get started. One of those tasks is to seat a new Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.

Please do this quickly. Please.

The IACC serves a very important mission, and we really could have used them this year to address the unique challenges of the pandemic. Not having an IACC in place hurts our communities, our people.

The law reinstating the IACC was signed on Sept. 30, 2019. Over a year ago. Nominations for members was held between November 19, 2019 and February 21, 2020. So HHS has had those nominations for over 9 months. I’m sure your staff can put the names of good candidates in front of you on day one. This should be an easy task to get done, do it quickly. Please.


By Matt Carey

Mr Trump, Mr Azar, your inaction is hurting autistic people

1 Oct

You took credit for it, but it is meaningless if it isn’t implemented. You are short changing people with disabilities.

Mr. Trump, a year ago you signed the Autism Cares Act into law. September 30, 2019. That law calls for the formation of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (the IACC). Which has yet to be named and start work.

That is clearly your responsibility. Both of you, President Trump and Secretary Azar, both of you. I know, I served previously on the IACC. I was appointed by then Secretary Sebelius.

Six months after signing that bill, you took credit for it. You noted the IACC in your press release.

Last year, I was proud to sign into law legislation reauthorizing the Autism CARES Act, approving more than $1.8 billion in funding over 5 years to research and develop new treatments and therapies, and enhancing support services for those with ASD throughout their entire lives. This legislation also expanded the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee to include representatives from 17 Federal agencies and stakeholders from throughout the autism community. The enhanced public-private partnerships made possible by these efforts are providing support to those with ASD.

It has been another six months and still nothing has been done to form the IACC and push forward the mission of the Autism Cares Act.

I am sincerely grateful that you and Congress put that law into the books. You took credit for it, but it is meaningless if it isn’t implemented. You are short changing people with disabilities.

Mr. Trump, Secretary Azar, select the new IACC. Get them started right away.


By Matt Carey

Trump’s strategy in the debate was to abuse Biden’s disability. That should sicken any real American.

1 Oct

Biden is a stutterer. He’s learned how to communicate clearly but that involves focus. There’s a great story in The Atlantic on this: John Hendrickson’s What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say. Here is one paragraph discussing possible ongoing strategies Biden has:

Eric S. Jackson, an assistant professor of communicative sciences and dis­orders at NYU, told me he believes that Biden’s eye movements—the blinks, the downward glances—are part of his ongoing efforts to manage his stutter. “As kids we figure out: Oh, if I move parts of my body not associated with the speech system, sometimes it helps me get through these blocks faster,” Jackson, a stutterer himself, explained.

I watched the start of the presidential debate last night, and watched more segments through the night. Everyone could see the interruptions and it’s natural to assume that this was Trump’s attempt to dominate the conversation. And Trump wanted to appear stronger than Biden, to be bullying him. And, of course, to try to get Biden angry. All of these are probably true.

But there’s another aspect to this. Watch Biden, he clearly focuses on what he’s saying to get through the stuttering. Trump’s team clearly saw this and saw this as a way to derail Biden. So the strategy emerged: keep interrupting, keep chattering while Biden is talking. This will throw Biden off. If Biden interrupts in kind, as he did some times, it won’t work as well because, frankly, Trump doesn’t think while he talks. And it is a way to get under Biden’s skin. Keep poking at that stutter–without being completely obvious–and Biden will get angry.

As I read John Hendrickson’s piece I realized a few things. I realized how lucky I am. Lucky that my speech issues were caught early, and that since special education had started being offered in schools, I was able to get help early. But I also realized how I need focus to speak on important issues, and how interruptions make that so difficult.

So, yeah, I think this is real. Team Trump saw an opening. A disability in an opponent. And they planned their attack to use that disability.

These are the people running the country today. This is why I can’t sit back and watch 2016 happen again.


By Matt Carey

So where is that economic miracle, Donald?

30 Sep

There’s a reason why Trump isn’t talking GDP growth these days. It’s because he failed by that measure.

Four years ago Donald Trump was able to sell America that the economy was in bad shape (it wasn’t) and that he, a businessman, could help. Many Trump supporters have told me then and now how we need a president who can run the country like a business. I’ve never gotten any real detail on that argument, they have just repeated Trump’s slogan.

We’ve recently learned from Mr. Trump’s taxes that he’s not very good at business. It wasn’t a big surprise given his failures in so many businesses over the years. We now know that his businesses have been kept afloat by his reality show and endorsements. And big, big loans.

So, we have a showman president, not a businessman president. Which anyone watching the past few years already knew.

But how about that economic miracle? What about the turnaround we were promised (since the economy was doing well under Obama, we didn’t need a turnaround, but let’s keep going). One way we can measure Mr. Trump’s success is with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The recovery from the great recession was slow, we were told. Trump can do better. This was also a key to his sales pitch for his tax cut: the economy would grow so much that the tax cut wouldn’t increase the deficit. He’s promised 4%, 5% even 6% quarterly growth in GDP.

We don’t hear him talk GDP much now. We don’t hear him brag how he grew the economy so much that we can pay for the huge deficits he created with his tax plan. Makes me want to know if he succeeded (OK, I know he failed, makes me want to quantify it).

With that in mind I pulled GDP data from here to check. Here it is: a table of the percent change in GDP by quarter going back to part way through the Obama administration:

I’ll be fair: I won’t include those quarters affected by the pandemic. Sure, I could also argue that with Trump’s epic mismanagement the economic hit has been far worse than it should have been. I could argue that convincingly. But let’s just look at the quarters before the pandemic. Trump had 11 quarters as president, back to Q1 2017 when he was inaugurated. For compariso, I then counted 11 quarters back to average for Obama.

Average GDP growth in Trump’s first 11 quarters was 2.5%. For the previous 11 quarters, under Obama, it was 2.4%. Trump did no better than Obama. And–this is important–that is with the short term jolt he got with his tax cuts.

So the only way Trump did as well as Obama was at the huge cost of a big deficit.

There’s a reason why Trump isn’t talking GDP growth these days. It’s because he failed by that measure.

By Matt Carey

Looking back 4 years: the rise of Trump, aided by faux autism advocates. I won’t be quiet again.

29 Sep

I still can not fathom how parents of disabled kids, of autistic kids, would support Trump. But this election, I’m not going to remain quiet. I have no illusions that my voice will make a significant difference. But I will not stand by silently while that charlatan tries for another 4 years of damaging America

Four years ago I stopped wanting to write. There were many reasons, but one was the rise of Donald Trump. Even when it looked like he wouldn’t win, the fact that so many Americans could support this man was horrible. Donald Trump, who had no disability platform. Donald Trump, who thought it funny to mock a disabled reporter (Serge Kovaleski) at one of his rallies.

The excuse offered–he has used acting disabled like that to mock people in the past. Or, as Ann Coulter put it, he was doing a “standard retard”.

Oh, that makes it soooo much better. Because to America, using disability to insult and mock others is allowed. It’s expected.

Anti vaccine autism parents long ago showed us their priorities: attacking vaccines. They demonize autistics, playing them up as burdens and worse. Their children’s disability is a weapon in their war against vaccines. Ironically, this group which fights efforts to bring acceptance to people with disabilities crave, absolutely crave acceptance for their views against vaccines. So it wasn’t surprising that they’d support Donald Trump, a man who had tweeted about the vaccines-cause-autism lie (So Anti Vaccine Crowd, how did that campaign for Trump thing work out for you?)

Quite frankly, these are not good people. I needed them out of my head. So I stopped writing, countering their misinformation by blog. Instead I counter their message in life, showing my community what a beautiful human my kid is.

But we are back, another election. Trump wants more time. More time to make the world even harder for my kid and other people with disabilities.

I still can not fathom how parents of disabled kids, of autistic kids, would support Trump. But this election, I’m not going to remain quiet. I have no illusions that my voice will make a significant difference. But I will not stand by silently while that charlatan tries for another 4 years of damaging America.


By Matt Carey

Did Jake Crosby close “Autism Investigated”?

25 Sep

There is/was a blog called “autism investigated”. If you are unaware of it, consider yourself lucky. It is/was a cesspool. Take one of the worst of the anti-vaccine bloggers (so bad that even the Age of Autism blog split with him), add a hefty level of misogyny, and then go full Trump supporter and you had Jake’s “autism investigated”.

As of now autisminvestigated.com website gives this:

As noted Jake became an ardent Trump supporter, in addition to his anti-science and anti-vaccine views. He also took on a very self-defeating view of why he was unsuccessful socially.

WaPo Wants Autistic Men to Fuck Even Less

What autists need to do is get over their extreme anxiety when it comes to women, not worsen it by worrying about make-believe “boundaries” established by feminists and “autistic” cuck reporters. It’s almost as if the author wants everyone else to be as dry as he is down there; he’s just picking autists as an easy target.

RESEARCH: Autistic Women More Likely To Be Dykes

And, let’s not forget how he characterized gender reassignment surgery as “genital mutilation” (allying with alt-right activist Milo Yiannopoulos)

Facebook Censors Milo Yiannopoulos For Condemning Transgender Genital Mutilation of Autistic People

Apparently he wasn’t alone in sabotaging his own desires to find female companionship. He seems to have allied with a former commenter on this blog (whom I had completely forgotten until I read this): Autism’s Gadfly on Why Nobody Wants to Fuck Us

It looks like his Facebook page is down as well. I hope Jake has indeed moved on. It would be great if he’s decided to analyze his efforts to date and move on. Unlikely, but it would be good for him.


By Matt Carey

Shelter in Place saved lives

25 Sep

When people claim that shelter in place orders didn’t save people, they are just wrong. When people say we didn’t “bend the curve”, they are just wrong. And this sort of misinformation will lead to people dying.

This is obviously a non autism post. Sadly, the same people (many of them autism parents) who have spent years promoting misinformation about autism, autism ‘cures’, and vaccines are now talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. So I felt it appropriate to speak to some of this misinformation.

This is also a lot of graphs.  But the bottom line is simple: we were in a runaway situation.  Cases were doubling every 5 days.  In a few weeks after shelter in place we would have had our hospitals overwhelmed.

There is a push against the shelter-in-place orders that were put in place to slow the spread of the virus SARS-CoV-2. I’m sure we will be debating for years to come what the best plan should have been. But what is not a debate is whether the shelter in place orders limited the spread and, in so doing, saved lives.

I live in Santa Clara County, which was one of the first counties to institute shelter-in-place (SIP) on March 17, 2020. While I was surprised by the order, the reasoning was already becoming clear: the virus was spreading in our county at an alarming rate. I had been watching the numbers day by day, and we were seeing a case count doubling every 5 days. New York City was clearly seeing the start a huge outbreak at this time.. In a little over a month previous Italy had seen deaths rise from near zero to 6,000 per day. That’s one month.

I pulled the data to see what happened here in Santa Clara county.  And, more importantly,  what could have happened.

Here’s a graph that would have faced the public health staff in Santa Clara County in mid March:

COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County as of March 17

Looks like an exponential, and this is exactly what it is.   Cases were growing fast.  Here’s a fit to those data using an exponential growth curve:

That’s a very good fit to the data. Cases were doubling every 5 days. With that sort of growth, we were not very far behind NYC. Keep in mind, this is just a count of who was being diagnosed with COVID-19.  A lot of cases were not, so there was a lot more COVID in the community than these few hundred cases.  The shelter in place order is at day 25.

Put yourself in a public health official’s place. You see these data, what does that tell you about the future? Well, since it’s an exponential, we can use the fit to  predict. Consider 4 weeks out from the date of shelter in place. Ask, how much would the epidemic have grown in that time? The curve tells us: we would have grown to about 93,000 identified cases (assuming testing could keep up).

When you are covering this much of an increase, it’s often helpful to use a semi-log plot.  In that case the exponential curve is a straight line (same data, graphed differently):

Let’s overlay the actual case count on top of this line.  We can ask  ” did we bend the curve”? Absolutely. Here are the data:

Very soon after the shelter in place order (day 25) the case count diverges from the projection.  The curve was being bent.  By 4 weeks out from the shelter in place order, and the number of cases was 50 times lower than what would have happened without any actions to mitigate the spread.

50 times lower.

This is even more clear if we go back to a non log plot:

You can barely see the black line for the case count on this graph.  By day 50, the actual number of cases is well below the prediction. And that means lives were saved.

At the time, the fatality rate was unclear, there were estimates of about 4% of those identified as covid positive dying (the “case fatality rate”). Current statistics put the case-fatality rate in the U.S. at about 2.9% . With 3% case fatality, we were looking at almost 3,000 people dead by a month after the shelter in place . And that number would have continued growing steeply had we not taken measures to mitigate the spread.

It is worth keeping this in mind: if the hospitals were overwhelmed, the case-fatality ratio would have been higher. More people would have died. 90,000 cases would have absolutely overwhelmed our hospitals. Even with the extra capacity in the temporary hospital set up in our convention center. That hospital had only 250 beds. Not all of the 90,000 cases would have required hospitalization. But there would have been enough to swamp our hospitals.

Santa Clara County lost about 150 people in the first wave of the pandemic (it’s hard to say precisely where the cutoff for “first wave” would be, but somewhere about 150-200 looking at the trend). It could have been 10 times higher, or even more than that.

When people claim that shelter in place orders didn’t save people, they are just wrong. When people say we didn’t “bend the curve”, they are just wrong. And this sort of misinformation will lead to people dying.


By Matt Carey