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The Huffington Post: Featuring bad science, facile reasoning since 2005

14 Dec

That’s the title of a new blog post by Seth Mnookin, author of “The Panic Virus“. The title is spot on (and could be the the title of a book in its own right): The Huffington Post: Featuring bad science, facile reasoning since 2005.

Seth Mnookin took a look at unscientific thinking that can lead to dangerous results. Not surprisingly, he found that the anti-vaccine movement and the autism-vaccine discussion in particular made an excellent core for his book. In his first blog piece related to Panic Virus, Mr. Mnookin takes a look at how the Huffington Post reported a recent study on mitochondrial dysfunction and autism. The Huffington Post piece, authored by Mark Hyman, made claims well beyond those supported by the paper itself.

A brief quote by Mr. Mnookin:

If you’re confused as to why The Huffington Post would run Hyman’s piece — well, I have my theories, but suffice it to say that the site arguably features more scientific quackery than any other mainstream media outlet.

Is the end of the Omnibus Autism Proceeding near?

2 Oct

The Omnibus Autism Proceeding (OAP or omnibus) is the way the Court of Federal Claims (vaccine court) has been handling the now 5,000+ claims submitted for autism as a vaccine injury. The Omnibus started officially in July of 2002 with Autism General Order #1. Along the way it was decided that the best way to handle the large number of claims was using “test cases”. Three test cases were heard for each of two “causation theories”. The idea was that “general causation” arguments could be made once, and very thoroughly, and the other cases could be decided on the outcome.

The first causation theory was that the MMR vaccine in combination with thimerosal could result in autism. The test cases for this theory were those of Michelle Cedillo, William Yates Hazelhurst and Colten Snyder. Attorneys for the families presented evidence for a mechanism where thimerosal was proposed to reduce the immune response and the MMR vaccine led to a persistent measles infection which, again as proposed, led to symptoms of autism. In all three cases the special masters (judges) ruled against the petitioner families. They found that the evidence did not support the mechanism proposed.

The second causation theory held that thimerosal in vaccines could result in autism. Three test cases were presented, again with individual and general causation evidence. The test cases, Jordan King and William Meade, and Colin Dwyer were heard. Their attorneys argued that mercury from the thimerosal in the vaccines accumulated in the brains and resulted in neuroinflammation which, in turn, resulted in autism. As with the MMR case, the special masters ruled against the petitioner families.

To put it simply: all the data and all the experts that could be put together to support the idea that vaccines cause autism weren’t persuasive. They came up with two stories (MMR and thimerosal) and neither story made a case that was even close (the special master’s word).

Some of the petioners appealed. Some appealed to multiple levels. The appeals were denied.

The Court recently issued an update letter. I quote part of it below:

As described above in part I of this Update, all of the court rulings in the six test cases described above have found no causal link between autism and MMR vaccines and/or thimerosal containing vaccines. Further, the PSC has informed the special masters that no additional OAP test cases are contemplated.

Therefore, the Office of Special Masters has begun discussions with members of the petitioners’ bar and respondent’s counsel about how best to conclude the approximately 4,700 autism cases remaining open on the court’s docket. To aid in that process, some petitioners’ counsel have contacted all of their OAP clients to advise them of the results in the test cases and to recommend a course of action with regard to their claims. Additionally, all petitioners who are not represented by counsel have been ordered to inform the court either that they wish to dismiss their claim or that they intend to proceed with their case. For petitioners who wish to continue with their claim, orders to identify a theory of causation, produce an expert report, and file additional evidence will follow. Petitioners’ counsel who have not yet done so are encouraged to contact their clients and determine how their clients wish to proceed.

The issue of attorneys’ fees and costs for petitioners’ counsel is part of the discussion about how to conclude proceedings on the OAP petitions. Mediation efforts are underway to develop methods to resolve the fees and costs issues, and a report on the progress in these talks is expected at the October judicial conference.

The special masters are assuming that no one will go forward with the MMR and thimerosal theories. Since those theories don’t hold up in court, it seems a good assumption.

Petitioners can still go forward as individual cases, as in any non-omnibus case. They will need to submit records and a theory of causation and support that theory in hearing.

The PSC (petitioner’s steering committee, a group of lawyers which has managed the Omnibus from petitioner’s side) has decided that no additional OAP (Omnibus) test cases are planned.

This is very important. They have no other theories to present. They don’t plan to present “too many too soon”. They don’t plan to present a Wakefield-like theory of persistent measles infections leading to “leaky guts”. They don’t plan to present a “mitochondrial autism” theory.

This last bit is very important. The Hannah Poling case made a lot of news when it was leaked that the government had conceded her case as a table-injury MMR encephalopathy. She was supposed to be one of the three thimerosal test cases. At the time of the concession and since, it was asserted that her case was “not rare” and that the attorneys were prepared to go ahead with the mitochondrial disorder story. It would appear that there are not many (if any) other “Hannah Poling” cases out there. There is at least one family pursuing a variation of the mitochondrial disorder theory. Alexander Krakow was scheduled to be a test case for the thimerosal theory and his family pulled out of the Omnibus to pursue the mitochondrial theory.

While there may be a case or two that we hear about from here on out, it appears that the Omnibus, the “class action” type phase, is over.

Donald Triplett – Autism’s Patient Zero

27 Sep

Donald Triplett is (for he is still alive) Kanner’s Case 1. Recently the story in a lovely portrait in The Atlantic, Donald has also had the sad misfortune to slowly but inexorably become a poster child for the autism/anti-vaccine movement. As one of the leading autism/anti-vaccine proponents, Ginger Taylor, writes:

While Kanner’s other cases had poor outcomes, Donald did not. It turns out Donald received a medical treatment that Kanner never recorded when, as a boy, he fell victim to crippling juvenile arthritis. Donald was treated with gold salts and his brother reported that as a result, Donald not only recovered from the arthritis, but “the proclivity to excitability and extreme nervousness had all but cleared up.”

Donald began to recover from “autism.”

This is highly relevant to the autism debate because gold has an extreme affinity for mercury and pulls it from the body. It is also significant because arthritis links his “nervous disorder” to his autoimmune disorder. It is historical evidence that the claims that parents have been making, that their children with autism had regressed after their mercury-containing vaccines, and that treating them for their autoimmune symptoms makes their “autism” better.

Sigh. And so we see the same old merry-go-round that has engulfed Hannah Poling – a determination to see one end and one end only for causing autism – vaccines.

And yet…theres no evidence Donald Triplett was ever vaccinated with anything. Certainly not thiomersal. Indeed, those who ‘discovered’ that Donald was treated with gold salts – Messers Blaxill and Olmsted, had to find another method of Donald being exposed to mercury. They claim that Donald:

…lived in an area where a water-soluble form of mercury was first used in forestry.

Bit of a stretch much?

There are a few reasons I really think this is debatable at best.

1) Why was Donald Triplett the _only_ person in Forest, Mississippi to ‘get’ autism from pesticides used in Forestry?

2) The only person who has suggested Gold Salts could theoretically chelate mercury is one Boyd Haley. In fact as Prometheus said way back in 2005:

The gold used to treat Donald T’s RA was a salt – the gold was an ion and not able to amalgamate with metallic mercury. In addition, mercury in animal tissue is also either ionized or chemically bonded with organic groups (e.g. methyl, ethyl, phenyl…) and also not able to form an amalgam.

3) Lets say that the gold salts performed the impossible and chelated the mercury. Why didn’t Donald Triplett simply ‘get’ autism straight away since mercury continued to be used in the Forestry industry? Chelation is not a preventative.

So here is this young boy who’s exposure to water soluble mercury seems in extreme doubt to me, who’s vaccination record seems to be zero but who was also autistic.

I’m afraid that only points one way to me.

Hannah Poling and the Pediatrics thimerosal study: two “big” stories with little press response

18 Sep

Two stories which are “big” news in some segments of the online autism community are the settlement amount for Hannah Poling and the recent study showing no link between autism and thimerosal in vaccines. While these have caused a fair amount of discussion on blogs (like this one), they didn’t generate that much press coverage.

We broke the Hannah Poling award story here on LeftBrainRightBrain on September 3. The story was ignored, even by such pro autism-as-vaccine-injury blogs as the Age of Autism until September 9th, when Sharyl Attkisson (who has some connection to the people at the Age of Autism blog) wrote about it for CBS.

There are a couple of dozen entries in Google News on Hannah Poling. Few major outlets. One that did carry it is the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the home town newspaper for the Poling family. In Settlement reached in autism-vaccine case the AJC quoted Dr. John Shoffner:

Dr. John Shoffner, a neurologist and national expert who has conducted research on autism and its causes, said researchers have found no link between vaccines and autism. And he said he strongly favors vaccination.

“The preponderance of data shows that vaccines are important and safe for children to prevent preventable and sometimes life-threatening infectious diseases,” Shoffner said. “I certainly am in favor and support the CDC’s as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of vaccination.”

Shoffner is a co-author of a journal article that describes Poling’s case without naming her.

Edited to add: I forgot to include this quote from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

“It’s critical to remember that the government has never compensated, nor has it ever been ordered to compensate, any case based on a determination that autism was actually caused by vaccines,” said Martin Kramer, communications director for the Health Resources and Services Administration. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is part of the administration. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims decides who will be paid damages for injuries that result from vaccines, under a 1988 law that created a program.

Another so-called “big” story from the last few weeks is the study on autism and thimerosal in Pediatrics, Prenatal and Infant Exposure to Thimerosal From Vaccines and Immunoglobulins and Risk of Autism. Sometimes when an important paper comes out (that I am aware of) I watch Google News as the embargo is lifted. I did so with this paper. Nothing happened. OK, I think Disability Scoop had a story out right at midnight (this one, if I recall correctly). Heck, it wasn’t until Friday that the CDC added the study to their website (it isn’t mentioned on the main webpage). Even SafeMinds (who are, in cases like this SafeBet–as in, it is a safe bet they will put out a critique of the paper) didn’t respond for days.

Sure, I was interested. And, yes, these stories sparked some of the most active conversations on this blog in a while. But I am still left with the basic conclusion: the general public has already absorbed these stories. The government conceded the Hannah Poling case 2 years ago. It isn’t new. The idea that mercury in vaccines cause autism–no longer part of the front line public discussion.

I’m not the only one to make this comment. The Washington Post had this to say four days after the paper was made public:

But when the journal Pediatrics published on Monday a study that found no increased risk of autism among more than 1,000 babies who’d been exposed prenatally or in the first 20 months of life to ethylmercury from vaccines, it was met with a general shrug. Neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times even reported on it, though the Los Angeles Times did, in its Booster Shots blog.

Sure, these stories will never completely go away. The vaccine/autism story will never go completely away. But the heyday is over.

Sharyl Attkisson blogs the Hannah Poling settlement

10 Sep

I had forgotten Sharyl Attkisson. She is a reporter for CBS news who has covered vaccines in the past, but has been silent on the issue for the past year or more.

Her recent piece shows exactly the sort of reporting that frustrated me in the past: Family to Receive $1.5M in First-Ever Vaccine-Autism Court Award

In that piece she links to her piece from 2008 on the Hannah Poling case: Vaccine Case: An Exception Or A Precedent?

Here’s a quote from that earlier piece:

While the Poling case is the first of its kind to become public, a CBS News investigation uncovered at least nine other cases as far back as 1990, where records show the court ordered the government compensated families whose children developed autism or autistic-like symptoms in children including toddlers who had been called “very smart” and “impressed” doctors with their “intelligence and curiosity” … until their vaccinations.

They were children just like Hannah Poling.

What’s still being debated is whether the Poling case is an exception … or a precedent.

So, which is it? Were there children “just like Hannah Poling” or is this the “First-Ever Vaccine-Autism Court Award”?

Actually, it is neither. This isn’t the first vaccine court award involving autism, and the other cases are not “just like Hannah Poling”.

For real information on the other nine cases, read Kathleen Seidel’s piece on Few, professional or amateur, can compare the the thoroughness of Kathleen Seidel. For example, one case (the first I read involving autism from the vaccine court) is Suel v. HHS. Young David Suel had tuberous sclerosis, a condition known to be associated with autism and epilepsy. Epilepsy occurs in about 60 to 90% of individuals with TS. Autism occurs in about 25-50%. David Suel’s case was declared to be a “table injury” wherein the seizures began within a set period after his DPT vaccination. What is notable about that is the table for DPT was later changed–when it was shown that DPT was not responsible for inducing seizure disorders. In other words, had David Suel been vaccinated, or just filed, after the change in the table, he likely would not have been awarded damages.

“They were children just like Hannah Poling”? Is tuberous sclerosis just like mitochondrial disease? (answer: not even close).

Shall we go on? In her recent piece, Ms. Attkisson states:

In 2002, Hannah’s parents filed an autism claim in federal vaccine court. Five years later, the government settled the case before trial and had it sealed

Not accurate. The court did not “settle” the case in 2007. They conceded the case, and they were in the process of completing the settlement when someone leaked the information to the press. The government did not “seal” the case–it is standard procedure to keep this information confidential until the settlement is completed.

But that doesn’t make a good story, does it?

Ms. Attkisson goes on:

In acknowledging Hannah’s injuries, the government said vaccines aggravated an unknown mitochondrial disorder Hannah had which didn’t “cause” her autism, but “resulted” in it. It’s unknown how many other children have similar undiagnosed mitochondrial disorder. All other autism “test cases” have been defeated at trial. Approximately 4,800 are awaiting disposition in federal vaccine court.

Mito-autism was a big thing for a while there. David Kirby took the story and ran with it–making a lot of mistakes along the way and propagating a lot of misinformation. It is unknown how many other children have similar disorders–but the researchers who studied cases like Hannah Poling have stated that cases such as hers are “rare”.

“All other autism “test cases” have been defeated at trial”.

What is conspicuous about the other “test cases” is that in none of them was it argued that the children were like Hannah Poling–i.e. the attorneys did not argue that a mechanism of autism through mitochondrial dysfunction aggravated by vaccines existed. In fact, one child named as a test case was pulled from that slot in order to argue that mitochondrial based case. The expert report filed for that child (since pulled from the Omnibus website) did not argue mitochondrial disorder or dysfunction at that time. In other words, the idea of a mitochondrial disorder being linked to autism was so alien from the cases being made by the attorneys for the families in the Omnibus that this child had to argue the case separately.

It is often pointed out that many autistics may have mitochondrial dysfunction. This is based largely on studies out of Portugal. It is left implied, and it is often believed that mitochondrial dysfunction means vaccine injury in these cases. This was the impression that David Kirby put forth and it was clearly wrong. First, mitochondrial disorders are a very broad spectrum. The type that Hannah Poling has is not the same as those detected in most autistics. Second, most reports of mitochondrial disorders and autism, including the Portugal studies, do not involve regression. Third, even amongst those children reported by the groups that identified Hannah Poling, regression was often idiopathic or followed fever clearly independent of vaccination.

I do not expect Ms. Attkisson to present the following (quality) information, so I will repeat it here:

Here are the answers to some questions posted to mitochondrial medicine experts and their answers:

When asked, to respond to the position: ‘‘I view the risk of vaccination in known metabolic disease patients to generally be outweighed by the risk of the infectious diseases being vaccinated against”

63.2% strongly agreed
31.1% agreed
0.9% disagreed
and 0.9% strongly disagreed.

Asked about the opinion that the risk of vaccination in metabolic disease was ‘‘greater than the risk of the infectious diseases being vaccinated against”

52.9% strongly disagreed
40% disagreed
3.5% agreed
and none strongly agreed

Damages awarded in the Poling case?

3 Sep

A document has recently been posted the Court of Federal Claims website, describing an award in a vaccine injury case. The document is redacted, but the following paragraph indicates to me that this involves the case of Hannah Poling:

Respondent has conceded that petitioners are entitled to compensation due to the significant aggravation of Child’s pre-existing mitochondrial disorder based on an MMR vaccine Table presumptive injury of encephalopathy, which eventually manifested as a chronic encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder and a complex partial seizure disorder as a sequela.

The amount involves 4 parts: (1) a payment of about US$1.5M for life care, future earnings and pain-and-suffering, (2) a lump sum payment of about US$140,000 for past unreimbursable expenses, (3) a lump sum payment of about $7,800 to cover a medicaid lien and (4) an undisclosed amount to purchase an annuity to cover items in the life care plan.

The award amount seems larger than typical to me. I don’t put this out as a criticism. Rather the opposite. If we as a people are going to compensate those injured by vaccines, as we should, we should compensate highly. We can not fully compensate a person or a family for injury. For example, the cap on pain and suffering damages has not been increased in the roughly 25 years that the vaccine program has been in place.

It is not easy to write this piece, and I hesitate to publish it. Assuming this document refers to the Poling family, they chose to redact information.

I will end with this statement from the Special Master who wrote the decision:

Based on the persuasive factors supporting petitioner’s vaccine claim and respondent’s election not to challenge petitioner’s claim, the undersigned finds that petitioner is entitled to compensation under the Vaccine Program. Accordingly, a determination of damages is appropriate.

Special fevers, mitochondria and autism

30 Dec

Thats right, its back.

Ginny Hughes, writing for the Simons Foundation writes about new methods of detecting mitochondrial damages that may lead to autism. Of course, since last year that inextricably calls to mind Hannah Poling.

Just as a quick refresh, Hannah’s case was compensated by US Gvmt who accepted that vaccines caused a fever which triggered an underlying mitochondrial dysfunction which in turn led to ‘autism like symptoms’. This is oppose to ‘vaccines caused her autism’ which you’ll find a lot of people claiming.

The crux of the matter is fever. Mitochodrial dysfunction appears to be largely triggered by fever. Without the fever there’s no dysfunction. Without the dysfunction theres no autism.

Jay Gargus, professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of California, Irvine who’s studied mitochodria for 20 years makes a very telling point in this piece:

“It terrifies me that people will be making arguments [from this work] that further enhance the panic about vaccines,” Gargus adds. “Obviously, getting a vaccination will sometimes give you a fever, but the kid’s going to get a fever sooner or later anyway. It’s not like it’s a special fever.”

All kids get ill. They’re going to get fevers. In fact a lot of the things that vaccines try and prevent cause fevers. Flu for example. What vaccines don’t do is give a child a ‘special’ autism causing fever. Thats because there _is_ no special autism causing fever and no special autism causing vaccines either.

Fever Plus Mitochondrial Disease Could Be Risk Factors for Autistic Regression

24 Sep

Autism, regression, mitochondrial disease and vaccines. With a combination like that, this paper is likely going to be very important.

Fever Plus Mitochondrial Disease Could Be Risk Factors for Autistic Regression

Here is the abstract:

Autistic spectrum disorders encompass etiologically heterogeneous persons, with many genetic causes. A subgroup of these individuals has mitochondrial disease. Because a variety of metabolic disorders, including mitochondrial disease show regression with fever, a retrospective chart review was performed and identified 28 patients who met diagnostic criteria for autistic spectrum disorders and mitochondrial disease. Autistic regression occurred in 60.7% (17 of 28), a statistically significant increase over the general autistic spectrum disorder population (P < .0001). Of the 17 individuals with autistic regression, 70.6% (12 of 17) regressed with fever and 29.4% (5 of 17) regressed without identifiable linkage to fever or vaccinations. None showed regression with vaccination unless a febrile response was present. Although the study is small, a subgroup of patients with mitochondrial disease may be at risk of autistic regression with fever. Although recommended vaccinations schedules are appropriate in mitochondrial disease, fever management appears important for decreasing regression risk.

The authors note neurologic regression in general (not just autistic regression) is observed with patients who have metabolic diseases:

Patients with mitochondrial diseases, like many patients with metabolic diseases, are at increased risk of neurologic regression in conjunction with stressors such as fever, infection, and dehydration.

They studied 28 patients who met DSM-IV criteria for autism and diagnostic criteria for mitochondrial disease.

They define regression and whether it is related to fever thusly:

Autistic regression was defined as loss of developmental skills that included speech, receptive skills, eye contact, and social interests in individuals ❤ years of age. A relationship between fever and autistic regression is defined as regression beginning within 2 weeks of a febrile episode without the suggestion of infectious meningitis or encephalitis.

One comment–the definition of regression is somewhat vague to me. What is also critically important in this discussion is whether there were any signs of autism before the regression. Or, as some may put it, is this regression into autism or autistics undergoing regression? Is there a mix of pathways?

They state that 17 of the 28 patients studied underwent an autistic regression. This is higher than the roughly 25% value for autistic regression they assumed for the general autism population, and statistically significant.

In other words, they are saying that autistic regression may occur more often with kids with mitochondrial diseases.

They note that some of the fevers could be linked to vaccination:

The 17 individuals with autistic regression could be divided into 2 groups, those who regressed with fever (70.6%, 12 of 17) and those who regressed without identifiable linkage to fever or vaccinations (29.4%, 5 of 17).


No individual showed regression with vaccination unless a febrile response was present.

They discuss the concerns with vaccination in the conclusion, noting that vaccination is still recommended for children with mitochondrial diseases. My experience in discussing this issue with mitochondrial disease experts is that they find vaccination to be extremely important. If, for some reason, they decide to not vaccinate a child with mitochondrial disease, they insure that all family members are vaccinated to protect the child.

Children with identified mitochondrial diseases are routinely managed carefully by their physicians with aggressive fever control and hydration. In this context, vaccination of children with mitochondrial diseases is recommended. In our experience, the vast majority of patients with mitochondrial diseases receives a full vaccination schedule according to American Academy of Pediatric guidelines without consequences, particularly when physicians are sensitive to fever control and hydration. In our patients with mitochondrial disease and autistic spectrum disorders, the vaccines did not appear related to the neurologic regression.

I will note again that I feel autistic regression as defined is too vague. Were the patients on the spectrum before the regression? Were they typically developing before the regression?

At least two children were noted to have multiple regressions (a sibling pair). That indicates that at least in some cases, regressions occurred in people already autistic. There just isn’t other information on this.

Another area I would like to see discussed further is on siblings:

Affected siblings were identified in 35.7% (10 of 28).

Affected how? Mitochondrial disease. But, are they also autistic? It would seem not since they included one sibling pair.

This is a big question to me. While the spotlight has been shown on the possibility of mitochondrial disorders being linked to autistic regression, the more general question is more important: could fevers induced by vaccination result in any regression (autistic or otherwise) in people with mitochondrial disorders.

Another question in my mind in this study. Are there patients who underwent regression from non-autistic to autistic) after age 3? According to the Johns Hopkins group, this doesn’t happen. According to them, there is an age window where the regressions could result in autism. This is a very important question in how these patients might fit in to the broader spectrum of autism.

It’s time for David Kirby to disavow the autism epidemic

3 Aug

The idea that mercury caused an epidemic of autism is both wrong and very damaging to the autism communities. Many contributed to this damaging notion., but David Kirby without a doubt carries a good quantity of the blame for his book “Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy” and efforts since.

Mr. Kirby often tries to hide behind the notion that he is just “trying to spark a national debate”. Sorry, but that is nonsense. He actively promotes the idea that vaccines cause autism. It is unclear to this reader whether Mr. Kirby is currently being paid for his efforts. In the past he cherry picked information and packaged it in seemingly self-consistent packages to convince people that an epidemic did occur.

He has now moved to a tag-team approach for presentations to the US congress. He presents information to support the idea that vaccines could cause autism. He then let’s Mr. Mark Blaxill take over to promote the epidemic with the old, tired arguments.

It’s like Mr. Kirby still wants to be able to say, “I never really said there was an epidemic. I was just sparking a discussion.” It’s Mark Blaxill that is actually calling it an epidemic.


This has been bothering me for some time. It came up again strong when Mr. Kirby commented on a blog piece. David Kirby doesn’t generally participate in the online discussions-even to the point of not answering comments on his own blog pieces. He broke that tradition recently in a blog piece on the Mother Jones website: Breaking: Vaccines still don’t cause autism

My response to Mr. Kirby incorporated much of what I was considering for a future blog post. So, rather than paraphrase what I wrote, here it is in full:

Mr. Kirby,

I see your usual arguments above. I see, also, the usual gaps in your discussion. Over the years, you have gone from promoting the “vaccines caused an epidemic of autism” to dancing around the subject of the false “epidemic”, neither stating that there was an epidemic, nor admitting your mistake. Could you comment somewhere, on the record: was there an “epidemic” of autism caused by mercury? You seem to leave that to your colleague, Mr. Blaxill, giving yourself some form of plausible deniability. It is irresponsible.

You rely heavily now on the NVAC recommendations. Why do you leave out so many comments by NVAC?

The NVAC is assured by the many epidemiological studies of the effects of mercury exposure done in a variety of populations, which have demonstrated that thimerosal in vaccines is not associated with autism spectrum disorders in the general population.

Are you prepared to agree with NVAC that the data are in and that there has been no epidemic of mercury caused autism? It would be the honest thing to do.

You rely heavily on the idea that mitochondrial disorders are related to autism. You pushed heavily on your blog the idea that mitochondrial disorders are caused by mercury, without substantiation. In fact, this idea is strongly rejected by the very experts you rely upon.

Further, you leave it implied that children with mitochondrial disorders and autism indicate a link to autism as a vaccine injury. This is clearly not the case.

Why do you leave out the fact that most children with mitochondrial disorders and autism do not show regression. Without regression, it is clear that vaccine injury is not causing autism in these individuals?

Why do you leave out the fact that in the one study of children with mitochondrial disorders and autism, it is clear that vaccines are not causal in the vast majority of cases, and could be questionable in the one case cited so far?

You cite that there could be a sizable population of autistics who have a mitochondrial dysfunction. Yet you leave out the public statements by one of the very doctors who supported the Hannah Poling case in vaccine court that any such injuries are rare. This from the few doctors who support the idea of mitochondrial disorder as a vaccine injury. Other specialists have stated that it is far to early to draw a conclusion that mitochondrial disorders caused by vaccination is even “rare”.

Why have you not removed your blog piece that was so erroneous that you were forced to rewrite it within a day, with an admission that you seriously erred? Isn’t that a form of dishonesty?

Are you prepared to join Rick Rollens, one of the strongest proponents of the vaccines-cause-autism notion, in stating that the idea that MMR causes autism has been tested and MMR is no longer suspect?

I will ask again, if you are going to cite NVAC, are you willing to join them and state that mercury did not cause an “epidemic” of autism?

Would you at least be willing to include quotes from NVAC that are, shall we say inconvenient, to the notion of a vaccine induced “epidemic” of autism? Quotes such as:

Vaccination almost certainly does not account for the recent rise in ASD diagnoses; however, public concern regarding vaccines and autism coupled with the prevalence and severity of ASD warrant additional study in well defined subpopulations.

This quote makes it clear that
a) NVAC does not support the idea of an autism “epidemic” caused by vaccines
b) NVAC is not calling for studies of vaccines and autism due to evidence presented so far, but, instead, by public concern.

Mr. Kirby, your half truths and misleading arguments cause great harm to the autism communities, as well as to public health. You personally are responsible for much of the public’s misconception that mercury caused an “epidemic” of autism. Don’t you agree that you personally should publicly refute your previous stance?

Being wishy-washy on the epidemic question and letting your colleague Mark Blaxill push the idea in your tag-team briefings is just dishonest. Either you still believe in the mercury-caused-epidemic (and you are wrong) or you should be clear that it was a mistake.

It was a mistake. Earn some respect. Admit it.

An open letter to Jim Carrey

22 Apr

Today on The Huffngton Post, actor Jim Carrey posted his thoughts about autism and vaccines. With his very first paragraph it became apparent how little Carrey understood the issues involved:

Recently, I was amazed to hear a commentary by CNN’s Campbell Brown on the controversial vaccine issue. After a ruling by the ‘special vaccine court’ saying the Measles, Mumps, Rubella shot wasn’t found to be responsible for the plaintiffs’ autism, she and others in the media began making assertions that the judgment was in, and vaccines had been proven safe. No one would be more relieved than Jenny and I if that were true. But with all due respect to Ms. Brown, a ruling against causation in three cases out of more than 5000 hardly proves that other children won’t be adversely affected by the MMR…

Point one Mr Carrey. The vaccine issue is only controversial to adherents of your belief system. Within scientific, medical, legal, autistic and parental circles its not even slightly controversial.

Point two, the three cases chosen were chosen – by the plaintiffs legal team – to represent their absolute best chance of winning. If they had won, there was an excellent chance all the cases that were suggesting MMR as causation would have just ‘won’ automatically. Thats why its called an Omnibus.

Point three, regarding the MMR, it has been firmly established that:

a) The data supporting the MMR hypothesis was fixed.

b) The science supporting the MMR theory was badly wrong – both badly done and exposed to contaminants.

You might also note that the court was not attempting to see if the children were ‘adversely affected by the MMR’, it was looking to see – using the three cases the legal team representing the families thought were the absolute best – if MMR caused autism. It didn’t. Thats probably why your Campbell Brown found it easy to say the MMR hypothesis was dead and buried.

You go to say Mr Carrey that:

Not everyone gets cancer from smoking, but cigarettes do cause cancer. After 100 years and many rulings in favor of the tobacco companies, we finally figured that out.

Yes, we did – and do you know how? With _good science_ – just like the science that established in the three MMR test cases that the MMR didn’t cause autism. And its fascinating that you bring up this parallel to the smoking issue and then later in your blog post invoke the name of Bernadine Healy. Healy – who’s ‘more sensible voice’ you say you’d rather listen to. Did you know Healy used to be a member of TASSC:

TASSC was created in 1993 by the APCO Worldwide public relations firm, and was funded by tobacco company Philip Morris (now Altria)….

According to Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber in their article How Big Tobacco Helped Create “the Junkman”, one of the forerunners of TASSC at Philip Morris was a 1988 “Proposal for the Whitecoat Project,” named after the white laboratory coats that scientists sometimes wear. The project had four goals: “Resist and roll back smoking restrictions. Restore smoker confidence. Reverse scientific and popular misconception that ETS (passive smoking) is harmful. Restore social acceptability of smoking.”

[own inserts]

Is that what you consider a sensible voice Mr Carrey? Someone who supported the tobacco agenda?

Moving on, you say:

If we are to believe that the ruling of the ‘vaccine court’ in these cases mean that all vaccines are safe, then we must also consider the rulings of that same court in the Hannah Polling and Bailey Banks cases, which ruled vaccines were the cause of autism and therefore assume that all vaccines are unsafe. Clearly both are irresponsible assumptions, and neither option is prudent.

First and foremost, the vaccine court did not rule at all in the Hannah Poling case. HHS conceded. And what they conceded was that Hannah Poling was damaged by vaccines resulting in ‘autism like features’. In fact, when we look at the the one piece of medical science carried out on Hannah Poling (co-authored by her own father), we see that only three of the symptoms described as being the result of vaccine injury appear on the DSM (IV) diagnostic criteria for autism.

As for Bailey Banks, this is a perfect illustration of both how the vaccine court in the USA was designed to work and also how terrible the evidence was in the three MMR test cases.

The Banks ruling (subtitled ‘Non-autistic developmental delay’ by the way) drew a line of causation from vaccine to PDD-NOS. It is able to do this as the burden of proof for any science presented to the vaccine court is ‘50% plus a feather’. In other words, it just has to be plausible, no causation needs to be shown.

What doesn’t seem in doubt is that Bailey was injured by a vaccine which resulted in a condition called ADEM. The judge in the case then went on to accept the plaintiffs position that the ADEM in turn caused PDD-NOS. He did this seemingly because there was no evidence to the contrary – e.g. no evidence that ADEM *doesn’t* cause PDD-NOS.

In any scientific situation – including civil court in the US – this would never have been accepted. The plaintiff would have had to have demonstrated that ADEM *did* cause PDD-NOS. And a search of PubMed reveals nothing for ‘ADEM autism’ or ‘ADEM PDD’.

So, in the Banks case, because there was no evidence that ADEM does not cause PDD-NOS, they won. In every situation bar the vaccine court, the Banks’ would not have won their case. There is no science to support the idea ADEM causes autism.

Bearing this ‘50% plus a feather’ concept in mind it is clear just how utterly dreadful the evidence was to support the idea MMR caused autism. Not only could plaintiffs not provide any evidence that MMR causes autism, respondents produced reams of evidence to show it clearly doesn’t.

You carry on Mr Carrey to say:

I’ve also heard it said that no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism has ever been found. That statement is only true for the CDC, the AAP and the vaccine makers who’ve been ignoring mountains of scientific information and testimony. There’s no evidence of the Lincoln Memorial if you look the other way and refuse to turn around. But if you care to look, it’s really quite impressive. For a sample of vaccine injury evidence go to

Your analogy is ridiculous. I could go to any library and find evidence for the Lincoln Memorial without ever seeing it. In fact, what your analogy does is demonstrate exactly how blinkered and able to only face one direction at one time you and your colleagues are.

The evidence you present as that being supportive of evidence between a link between vaccines and autism is equally ridiculous and blinkered. I simply don;t have the time to tackle the mountain of misinformation presented on the page you link to suffice to say there’s not a single section that doesn’t have a major error. Most of them have been tackled on this and other blogs over the years.

Next you say:

In all likelihood the truth about vaccines is that they are both good and bad. While ingredients like aluminum, mercury, ether, formaldehyde and anti-freeze may help preserve and enhance vaccines, they can be toxic as well. The assortment of viruses delivered by multiple immunizations may also be a hazard. I agree with the growing number of voices within the medical and scientific community who believe that vaccines, like every other drug, have risks as well as benefits and that for the sake of profit, American children are being given too many, too soon. One thing is certain. We don’t know enough to announce that all vaccines are safe!

Mr Carrey, *vaccines do not contain anti-freeze* – for goodness sake, even Jay Gordon, Evan’s Paediatrician knows that! Did you also know that (to quote myself):

There’s also Aluminium in breast milk so lets compare the two.

According to this paper (which is from 1990 – any more up to date papers welcomed) the amount of Aluminium in breast milk is 49 ?g/L. The average amount of breast milk expressed per day is 0.85 liters.

This means that 41.65?g Aluminium per day is in breast milk.

Now, according to this paper, there is between 125 – 850?g of Aluminium per dose in a vaccine.

So, for a 6 year old, total Aluminium is between 2,125 – 14,450?g.

In real terms this means that after between 51 and 346 days breast feeding, a 6 year old will have taken onboard the same amount of Aluminium as from the total US vaccine schedule.

Now I couldn’t find out what vaccines contained the lower amount or which contained the higher amount. Even so, this means that if every vaccine a 6 year old has that contains Aluminium contains the highest possible amount, within a year of breast feeding they will have matched that.

Or to put it another way, an anti-vax tree-hugger soccer mom who doesn’t vaccinate her baby will have given him the same amount of Aluminium he would’ve had in six years after one year of breast feeding.

And thats of course, not even touched on the fact that:

In the Earth’s crust, aluminium is the most abundant (8.13%) metallic element, and the third most abundant of all elements (after oxygen and silicon)

And is found naturally occurring in sea water, fresh water, the human body etc etc.

[Regarding Formaldehyde]…There’s also Formaldehyde in Apples, Apricots, Banana’s and….ah, I lost interest. Lots of stuff. Including the human body.

So – how much is in vaccines?

According to this and using it in combination with the US vaccine schedule referenced above, we can see that the total amount of Formaldehyde in vaccines from the vaccine schedule for a 6 year old child is 1.2016mg (again, do your own maths, correct me if I’m wrong).

For comparison to that 1.2mg in all vaccines for a 6 year old, 1 (one) banana contains 16.3mg Formaldehyde.

Mr Carrey, you’ve got to stop throwing these scaremongering nonfacts around. Its damned irresponsible for a start.

Lastly Mr Carrey, you say:

If the CDC, the AAP and Ms. Brown insist that our children take twice as many shots as the rest of the western world, we need more independent vaccine research not done by the drug companies selling the vaccines or by organizations under their influence. Studies that cannot be internally suppressed.

In terms of autism, if you want to make a big deal out of the fact that ‘our children take twice as many shots as the rest of the western world’ then please consider this – the UK has less shots than you. We also have a higher prevalence than you. 1 in 100 vs 1 in 150.

And please also don’t invoke silly conspiracy theories. Think about how science works. A study is done, funded by Eli Lily for example. It is peer reviewed and found to be good quality and it is published in, lets say NEJM. Now, *every single reader of that study* can see exactly what methods and means were used to reach the studies conclusions. I ask you Mr Carrey, how much more independent can you get? How much more transparent? Basically anyone, anywhere can try and replicate that same studies results. If they can and a few others can – the results are good. If nobody can (think Andrew Wakefield) then the results must be bad.

And for goodness sake man, grow up, who is ‘suppressing’ what study exactly? Have you _any_ evidence at all that any study ever has been internally suppressed? Or are you just throwing this stuff out to scare people?

Mr Carrey, I loved the Truman Show but this isn’t it. There’s no god like figure overseeing every aspect of your life and wanting to control it. I ask you – get in contact with an actual scientist and go through your concerns with them. At the very least they’ll be able to stop you saying silly things like there’s anti-freeze in vaccines.