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An autism parent’s gratitude to the Kennedys for speaking out

9 May

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P. Kennedy II, Meave Kennedy McKean: thank you. We in the disability community owe much to the Kennedy family. We don’t forget the gains in special education and other areas that the Kennedy family championed for us.

With that in mind, it’s been especially hard to watch Robert Kennedy Jr. spread vaccine misinformation. More, it’s been painful to see him use my community, the autism community, as his base and his weapon in his campaign.

I know it took courage to step forward and speak out against the misinformation your family member, Robert Kennedy Jr, has been spreading. Thank you.

For readers who are unaware, members of the Kennedy family wrote a piece published on Politico:

RFK Jr. Is Our Brother and Uncle. He’s Tragically Wrong About Vaccines.

Here’s a paragraph:

These tragic numbers are caused by the growing fear and mistrust of vaccines—amplified by internet doomsayers. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—Joe and Kathleen’s brother and Maeve’s uncle—is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases. He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.

To the Kennedys: I am a father. I have an autistic child. Robert Kennedy positions himself as an ally, a champion of parents like myself. Let me make this clear: Robert Kennedy does not speak for me. He does not speak for more than a few autism parents. He certainly doesn’t speak my son or other autistics. He has been part of the effort to weaponize fear of disability to frighten people about vaccines. As such, he has added to the stigma my son faces.

There is another aspect to this you may not be aware of: the anti-vaccine community is closely tied to the worst in the alternative medicine movement. Robert Kennedy regularly speaks at autism parent conventions where therapies that can only be called abusive are promoted as “cures for vaccine injury”. Mr. Kennedy could speak out against these therapies. He could stand up and make himself heard and stop this abuse. Instead, he has remained silent.

In a few weeks, Mr. Kennedy will once again be speaking at the Autism One convention in Chicago. Here are some of the therapies that have been promoted at Autism One:

Chemical Castration. Mr. Kennedy’s allies in promoting the failed idea that mercury in vaccines cause autism promoted an idea that Lupron could help remove mercury from the brain, somehow treating autism. Lupron shuts down the body’s production of sex hormones. It’s basically chemical castration. (See Disability Scoop: Chemical Castration Drug Peddled As Autism Treatment). Chemical castration of disabled youth, how can anyone not see this as abuse?

Bleach Enemas. Sounds so ridiculous that it couldn’t be true, right? But there are people, presenting at the same place as Robert Kennedy Jr, claiming that a bleach solution, either as a drink or an enema, can cure autism. Somehow this treats vaccine injury, in their logic. Disabled children are exposed to enough of this bleach (Chlorine Dioxide) that they pass the lining of their intestines. These are called “worms”. It’s abuse.

Unregulated stem cell transplants. Parents have been flying their children to foreign countries to have “stem cell” infusions. This is nothing short of medical experimentation.

Chelation. Mr. Kennedy’s main theme for years involved mercury from vaccines. When my son was first diagnosed, one couldn’t get into an online autism discussion without chelation coming up. Autistic children were misdiagnosed with “mercury poisoning” by various, frankly fraudulent, tests. These tests were used to justify chelation, without the supervision of actual toxicologists. These children were never mercury intoxicated. Animal studies have shown that chelation, applied when there is no intoxication, causes cognitive decline. Think of that, disabled children may have lost cognitive gains because people believed Robert Kennedy’s message.

The list goes on and on. “Autism as Vaccine Injury” is used to sell all sorts of fake and, sometimes, abusive therapies. And no one in the anti-vaccine community, and that includes Robert Kennedy Jr., stand up to counter this movement. Instead they accept these charlatans and frauds as allies. As long as vaccines are blamed, charlatans know they can stand up in places like Autism One and not hear criticism.

Robert Kennedy could have slowed or stopped these abuses. He could have shown courage. Instead he’s been using my community as a weapon in his attack on vaccines.

To the Kennedy family: I know this is tough to read. Believe me, if anything, I’ve downplayed the harm the “vaccines cause autism” message has caused to my community. You are the people who might be able to get Robert Kennedy Jr. to stand up and start correcting the damage he’s help inflict.


By Matt Carey

Here’s one part of Brian Hooker’s “reanalysis” that shows just how cynical the anti vaccine movement is

18 Dec

When my kid was diagnosed autistic I started reading research papers (I am a Ph.D. researcher by profession) and the raw data. One thing that struck me immediately was the fact that minority children are much less likely to get a diagnosis than white kids. And minority kids are diagnosed later.

This inequity really bothers me. Accurately identifying the needs of a disabled child can focus the appropriate therapies and supports on that child. The need to rectify this inequity is 100% accepted within the autism advocacy and research communities.

This inequity poses a problem to people who claim that autism is an “epidemic”. If we are not identifying all the autistics in any given group (we aren’t), autism prevalence numbers are inaccurate. Being inaccurate, how does one compare, say, one CDC prevalence number with one 2 years later and claim a “real” increase?

One can’t. Plain and simple.

So, for years, groups like those promoting the idea that autism is caused by vaccines have not only ignored this inequity, they have actively denied it. They are stuck between accepting that the data can’t show an epidemic, or accepting that minorities have some sort of protection from this supposed “autism as vaccine injury”.

When was the last time you read something from, say, the Age of Autism blog or Andrew Wakefield calling for efforts to end this inequity? You haven’t. They don’t do it. When have you heard from someone like Brian Hooker that we should study minority populations to see what “protects” them from “vaccine injury”? You haven’t.

Who is Brian Hooker? Brian Hooker is a parent of an autistic child. Brian Hooker strongly believes that vaccines cause autism. He can back this up with his observations of his child’s development. Observations which are contradicted by his child’s medical records. I discussed this before as Double checking Brian Hooker’s story in VAXXED. A Special Master (a judge in the vaccine court) put it very strongly:

After studying the extensive evidence in this case, I am convinced that the opinions provided by Petitioners’ experts in this case, advising the Hooker family that there is a causal connection between SRH’s vaccinations and either the initial causation or aggravation of SRH’s ASD, were quite wrong.

In the original, the Special Master emphasized “quite wrong“.

So, we have someone who believes vaccines cause autism to the point of ignoring the facts in front of him.

A few years ago Mr. Hooker “reanalyzed” some data from an old CDC study, suggesting that evidence showed that the MMR vaccine might increase risk in African American boys. That was discussed in great detail here and elsewhere. (for example: Brian Hooker proves Andrew Wakefield wrong about vaccines and autism and MMR, the CDC and Brian Hooker: A Guide for Parents and the Media).

Mr. Hooker’s study was retracted. In the research world thats a big deal. As in, embarrassingly bad.

Recently, as in 4 years after his original study, Mr. Hooker republished his “reanalysis”. In the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. I’d be completely embarrassed to have a paper in that journal, to be blunt. A lengthy discussion of this reappearance of the study can be found at Respectful Insolence as Brian Hooker’s antivaccine pseudoscience has risen from the dead to threaten children again.

Let me just focus on how Mr. Hooker, in my view cynically, abuses the African American community in order to attack vaccines. From the website of an organization Mr. Hooker belongs to (the ironically–to be polite–named “Children’s Health Defense”), we read this:

Main Points from Reanalysis:

The rate of autism diagnoses has increased alarmingly in the U.S., and is about 25 percent higher in black children. Boys are far more likely than girls to receive this diagnosis.

This is not only wrong, it’s wrong in a way that points to incredible dishonesty.

This first point is that autism is about 25% higher in black children. A “main point from the reanalysis”.

Tell me, when you read that did you think, “this study found that autism is more prevalent in African American children”? If so, you were misled. The 25% higher prevalence is from a different study than Hookers. And that other study says something completely different.

From the Hooker study:

However, one study showed that prevalence of autism in African-Americans was approximately 25% higher than that of whites when the data were adjusted for socioeconomic factors[7].

Reference [7] is Socioeconomic inequality in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder: evidence from a U.S. cross-sectional study.

The Socioeconomic Equality study states:

Also notable is that, although the overall ASD prevalence was higher among non-Hispanic White and Asian children than among non-Hispanic Black or African-America and Hispanic children, when the results were stratified by SES, we saw that the racial/ethnic differences in prevalence varied by SES (Table 3). The lower prevalence among non-Hispanic Black or African-American and Hispanic children was seen only in the low SES category, and the fact that more non-Hispanic Black or African-American and Hispanic children live in poverty contributed to the lower overall prevalence among these groups.

Emphasis mine. Overall ASD prevalence was lower for African American children. Not 25% higher. This lower prevalence was due to lower socioeconomic status. I.e. poverty.

Want to see this a different way? Here’s a figure from the paper (click to enlarge):

The overall prevalence in White non-Hispanic kids was 6.9/1000. For black non-Hispanic kids it was 5.7/1000. About 20% lower. Not 25% higher as Mr. Hooker claims.

Fewer African American kids are getting autism services. Not because they aren’t autistic, but because their poverty keeps them from getting a diagnosis.

This is something we should be working towards fixing. No question. But don’t look to the anti-vaccine community to care or act. It’s an inconvenient fact for their epidemic story.

I guess he has such a low level of respect for the people in his own community (those who believe vaccines cause autism), that he thought no one would check this.

By the way, this paper isn’t the only one that shows a lower autism prevalence among African Americans. You know those CDC autism prevalence reports that come out every two years? Every single one has reported a lower prevalence among African Americans. Every one.

Here’s a line from the latest report:

Previous reports from the ADDM Network estimated ASD prevalence among white children to exceed that among black children by approximately 30% in 2002, 2006, and 2010, and by approximately 20% in 2008 and 2012.

When I saw the claim on Hooker’s organization’s website I figured he must have cherry picked a study that shows what he needed to make his story work. It’s just such common knowledge in the autism community that African Americans get diagnosed less frequently. It’s in every CDC report. I didn’t know he wasn’t cherry picking, he was just misrepresenting the study entirely.

I discuss this as a scientist. He “misrepresented the study”. My father had a word for that sort of behavior: lying.

OK, Brian. You’ve read the studies and decided to do nothing about the fact that many autistic African American kids aren’t getting identified and getting appropriate services. I get that, you have your own cause. But, really, is that community so much of a nothing to you that you can just use them like this? I ask rhetorically. You and your community have always acted with callous disregard.

I once had hope that as it because completely obvious that you and your community were wrong (and that was many years ago), you’d join the actual autism community and put your advocacy to use. I now know that will never happen. And, frankly, we don’t need dishonest people.


By Matt Carey

Study claims gluten free diet leads to higher levels of heavy metals like mercury

6 Mar

One of the purported treatments for autism is the Gluten-Free/Casein-Free (GFCF) diet. Studies have failed to find a benefit, but the idea persists. Especially among those who believe that autism is a vaccine injury (it isn’t) and that mercury in vaccines contributed to the rise in autism rates (it didn’t).

So there is a huge irony in the possibility, as a recent study suggests, that people on a gluten-free diet have higher levels of mercury and other heavy metals

The study is The Unintended Consequences of a Gluten-Free Diet.

The full study doesn’t appear to be available. This looks like a conference abstract.

That said, check out this table:

table

Total mercury in the blood is 1.7 times higher in people in the gluten-free diet group than in the overall population.

Now, it looks like the units in the table are ng/l, so a total mercury level of 1.3ng/l (that in the gluten-free group) is still well within the normal range (<10ng/l).

Of course it is also worth mentioning that those who promote the gluten-free diet for autistics often have the attitude that no mercury level is safe (which is tough, since there is mercury at some level in just about everything).

So, yeah, ironic but not dangerous. By pushing the gluten-free diet, people may have pushed autistic kids into higher levels of mercury in their blood.

Do we expect Robert Kennedy, SafeMinds, Mark Blaxill, JB Handley, Generation Rescue or any of the others in what was once called the “mercury militia” to inform their groups about this? Sure, if they are really about autism and not about attacking vaccines.

Which is to say, I doubt it.

By Matt Carey

Court Clarifies: Hannah Poling case “does not afford any support to the notion that vaccinations can contribute to the causation of autism”

8 Jul

One of the most common arguments in the “vaccines-cause-autism” discussion involves the case of Hannah Poling. Miss Poling is autistic and was compensated by the government through the vaccine-court system. Online discussions usually end up going around in circles with people explaining why the concession doesn’t mean the government has stated that vaccines cause autism, and the other side saying “but it does”.

Well, the Court has clarified the situation. Here is a footnote from the decision in Brian Hooker’s case.

I am well aware, of course, that during the years since the “test cases” were decided, in two cases involving vaccinees suffering from ASDs, Vaccine Act compensation was granted.
But in neither of those cases did the Respondent concede, nor did a special master find, that there was any “causation-in-fact” connection between a vaccination and the vaccinee’s ASD. Instead, in both cases it was conceded or found that the vaccinee displayed the symptoms of a Table Injury within the Table time frame after vaccination. (See Section I above).

In Poling v. HHS, the presiding special master clarified that the family was compensated because the Respondent conceded that the Poling child had suffered a Table Injury–not because the Respondent or the special master had concluded that any vaccination had contributed to causing or aggravating the child’s ASD. See Poling v. HHS, No. 02-1466V, 2011 WL 678559, at *1 (Fed. Cir Spec. Mstr. Jan. 28, 2011) (a fees decision, but noting specifically that the case was compensated as a Table Injury).

Second, in Wright v. HHS, No. 12-423, 2015 WL 6665600 (Fed. Cl. Spec. Mstr. Sept. 21, 2015), Special Master Vowell concluded that a child, later diagnosed with ASD, suffered a
“Table Injury” after a vaccination. However, she stressed that she was not finding that the vaccinee’s ASD in that case was “caused-in-fact” by the vaccination–to the contrary, she
specifically found that the evidence in that case did not support a “causation-in-fact” claim, going so far as to remark that the petitioners’ “causation-in-fact” theory in that case was “absurd.” Wright v. HHS, No. 12-423, 2015 WL 6665600, at *2 (Fed. Cl. Spec. Mstr. Sept. 21, 2015).

The compensation of these two cases, thus does not afford any support to the notion that vaccinations can contribute to the causation of autism. In setting up the Vaccine Act
compensation system, Congress forthrightly acknowledged that the Table Injury presumptions would result in compensation for some injuries that were not, in fact, truly vaccine-caused. H.R. Rept. No. 99-908, 18, 1986 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6344, 6359. (“The Committee recognizes that there is public debate over the incidence of illnesses that coincidentally occur within a short time of
vaccination. The Committee further recognizes that the deeming of a vaccine-relatedness adopted here may provide compensation to some children whose illness is not, in fact, vaccine related.”

While the arguments may still not convince those who wish to believe, the conclusion is clear: The compensation of these two cases, thus does not afford any support to the notion that vaccinations can contribute to the causation of autism.

The Special Masters (basically the judges in this special court) are not only the experts in the decisions (they work every day in the court and write the decisions), they are legally bound by the decisions. If a case sets a precedent, they must follow it. Or they will be overturned by higher courts.

I agree that following the logic takes time and effort, but, again, if you don’t have the time to go through that, the conclusion is very clear. And repeated again for emphasis

The compensation of these two cases, thus does not afford any support to the notion that vaccinations can contribute to the causation of autism.


By Matt Carey

Double checking Brian Hooker’s story in VAXXED

7 Jul

One of the arguments so often given for “vaccines cause autism” is that of “then why do so many parents tell exactly the same story?”

Well, they don’t. As we saw with JB Handley (Which is it, Mr. Handley?) even a single parent can shift and change stories over time. And he’s just one example. But we have also seen many times that once the stories we are told are compared to the facts, like say the medical records or videos in vaccine court, parent recollection is shown to be wrong.

Well, now we have Brian Hooker’s two stories. We have what he says in Vaxxed, and we have his recent vaccine court case. An in-depth legal analysis is provided by Prof. Dorit Reiss as BRIAN HOOKER’S VACCINE INJURY CLAIM DENIED BY NVICP.

From the video from Vaxxed, we hear Brian Hooker describe his son’s story starting at 3:26.

My son [SRH] was born in [month] of [year].

(home video with Brian Hooker saying: “[SRH] what does the cow say?”).

(second home video: Brian Hooker: “tweet tweet”, SRH vocalizes which parents interpret as “doggie”).

“Two weeks after his 15 month vaccines, then he lost all language. He lost all eye contact. You would pick him up and he would just hang limp.”

That’s pretty dramatic. And the sort of story that convinces many that, yes, indeed, vaccines might cause autism.

But ask this question, if this happened, why doesn’t Brian Hooker’s son’s medical record say anything like that?

From the Court’s decision, we see that the medical records show that Brian Hooker’s son was already delayed at 15 months. In fact, he was already showing signs of delays at 4 months. First, to be clear: Brian Hooker’s argument before the Court changed with time, and this can lead to some confusion. He first argued that one set of vaccines caused his child’s autism. When the Court informed Mr. Hooker that his cases was filed after the statute of limitations (filed more than 3 years from when the alleged vaccine injury occurred), Mr Hooker amended his complaint to add the claim that the 15 month vaccines (the ones he appears to be referring to in Vaxxed) “aggravated” the ASD as well. Since this event was later, it was not “untimely filed”.

In the end the court found that Mr. Hooker’s claims failed on their merits, so timely or untimely filed didn’t matter.

That all said, here’s an excerpt from the Court’s decision that discusses the 15 month vaccinations:

SRH received his 15-month well child examination on [DATE], and was found to be “healthy.” (Ex. 35, p. 13.) However, at this visit his developmental progress chart indicates that SRH had not achieved most of the expected milestones. (Id., p. 24.) His Denver II developmental progress chart indicates that he could not speak six words, could not run or climb stairs, could not remove garments or use a spoon, and could not stack two cubes, — indeed, he failed all but one of the developmental milestones for 15 months. (Id.) Following a physical examination of SRH, Dr. Heller-Bair administered the usually recommended vaccinations — i.e., DTaP #4, Hib #4, and OPV. (Id., pp. 13, 26.) (These vaccinations of [DATE], were the vaccinations that Petitioners now allege to have “significantly aggravated” SRH’s autism.)

OK, that’s the 15 month vaccination visit. But as to “two weeks after his 15 month vaccines” that Mr. Hooker describes in Vaxxed? What does the record show happened? The Court transcript reads:

Nineteen days later, on [DATE], both parents accompanied SRH to the pediatrician’s office, where she recorded that his temperature was 101.8°, and that both tympanic membranes appeared normal. (Ex. 35, p. 14.) She included the following description.

One-year-old with 1-day history of low-grade fever, irritability, decreased appetite, nasal congestion. Child has a history of recurrent ear infections. Is scheduled for typanostomy tube placement by Dr. Fong in about 4 days’ time. Mom is concerned that he may have an ongoing ear infection prior to surgery.

(Id.) No other recent symptoms were noted. Dr. Heller-Bair determined that SRH had a viral upper respiratory infection — in other words, “a cold” — and reassured the parents that he did not have an ear infection. (Id.)

Emphasis added. And now repeated: no other recent symptoms were noted. Not “he lost all language”. Not “he lost eye contact”. Not “he was hanging limp”.

As to signs of autism before the vaccines in question, we read this (Dr. Leventhal was an expert witness for the government):

Also included in Dr. Leventhal’s list of early symptoms of developmental disorders was another symptom particularly indicative of ASD — “evidence of language delay and reports of social interaction problems” at age 12 months. (Ex. C, p. 30, para. g.) Language delay and social interaction problems, are classic symptoms of autism.

Of course, many will discount this as coming from the government’s expert (even though he’s reporting the medical record).

So, what did the parents have to say?

Third, several representations by the Petitioners themselves indicate that SRH was suffering from developmental problems, likely early symptoms of his ASD, well prior to [DATE–about 15 months]. For example, SRH’s parents reported that at one year of age (about [DATE]), he seemed “delayed in interactive skills.” (Ex. 2, p. 46.) On [DATE], SRH’s parents reported that they had been worried about developmental delays “for about 6 months,” which would put the onset around [DATE–about 13 months]. (Ex. 6, p. 19.) And on occasions, SRH’s parents identified the onset of SRH’s developmental problems as occurring about the time of his MMR vaccination, which took place on [DATE–about 12 months]. (See Ex. 5, p. 30 (SRH lost eye contact “after his MMR shot”); Ex. 14, p. 38 (“delays, deterioration of verbal skills coincidental [with] MMR”)).

Emphasis in the original.

Parents reported loss of eye contact at about 12 months. But in Vaxxed Brian Hooker says his child lost eye contact two weeks after the 15 month vaccinations. So again we see that the stories don’t match up. And recall that Brian Hooker apparently didn’t mention this loss of eye contact to the doctor nor did the doctor notice 19 days after those 15 month vaccines.

Finally, it’s worth noting that pretty much the time that Vaxxed has been touring, Brian Hooker and the rest of those doing personal appearances have known that the Hooker case failed. And let’s not downplay this, the case was not even close. The Court decision includes in the conclusion:

After studying the extensive evidence in this case, I am convinced that the opinions provided by Petitioners’ experts in this case, advising the Hooker family that there is a causal connection between SRH’s vaccinations and either the initial causation or aggravation of SRH’s ASD, were quite wrong.

emphasis in the original.

The experts were quite wrong. The science was the same as was extensively argued in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding, and which failed to come close to being convincing then. The case history showed no sign of vaccine injury or developmental regression. On every count, Brian Hooker’s case failed. But we don’t hear that in the public talks. Why would Brian Hooker, Andrew Wakefield and the rest want to tell the public that not only are the “facts” in Vaxxed wrong, but the science had also been tested yet again and failed yet again? I mean, it’s not like they are calling this a “documentary” or anything. Except that’s precisely what they claim.


By Matt Carey

Andrew Wakefield releases the trailer for his William Thompson video. Slick production and dishonesty

22 Mar

Remember the disasterous “Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis” movie? That’s the one where Andrew Wakefield was trying to create an autism reality TV show where he would swoop in with his “A”utism TEAM and solve problems for families and show that he was right all along. Except that after the “A”utism team filled a family with false hope, Alex’s mother and godmother brutally murdered Alex. Wakefield took on no blame. Instead he shifted blame from those who committed the act to mainstream medicine. Basically whitewashing a gruesome murder of a disabled young man.

I will note that in the trailer for “Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis”, Wakefield spliced video from a completely different story.

Or, remember when Brian Hooker published a paper claiming that CDC data shows that vaccines cause autism and Wakefield followed up with a YouTube video that was so over the top bad that he claimed that non only were the CDC (including a civil rights pioneer) were engaging in a new Tuskegee Experiment, but that they were worse than Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot? Because, you see, those brutal dictators were at least sincere. No, I’m not making that up.

Wakefield has been working for some time to make a feature length film out of the Brian Hooker/CDC story. He has an early trailer for “Feast of Consequences” (as it was called then). Just as with the Alex Spourdalakis story, this trailer includes video unrelated to his actual story (the video of a police standoff and the pictures of the girl in the wheelchair appear to be from the Maryanne Godboldo story).

Well, not to be deterred from the film making business, Mr. Wakefield is at it again. This time with the full length movie, now called “Vaxxed”. Here’s the trailer:

The trailer starts with what appears to be a reenactment of a conversation between Brian Hooker (vocal advocate for the failed idea that vaccines cause autism) and William Thompson (CDC researcher):

Brian Hooker:

My phone rings and it’s Dr William Thompson

This is followed by recordings of a phone call with William Thompson:

“you and I don’t know each other very well. You have a son with autism, and I have great shame now.”

Then a narrator.

“There’s a whistleblower from the CDC who is going to come out and say that the CDC had committed fraud on the MMR study and that they knew that vaccines were actually causing autism”

Sit back for a moment and consider what your first impressions of this intro are. I know mine–they seem to be setting this up as the first or perhaps one of the early phone calls between Thompson and Hooker. Since the actual audio clips from Thompson weren’t that sensational, the narrator is quickly pulled in to tell us what really happened.

But this is Andrew Wakefield. And if we’ve learned anything about Andrew Wakefield over the years it’s that you have to check every single detail of what he’s saying. He does a lot of leading you to the conclusion he wants you to believe, whether the facts say something entirely different or not.

Let’s start with a small detail. I suspect many have already wondered why I referred to the clips from Thompson in the plural. It’s because that 10 seconds or so of audio is actually two different comments from Thompson spliced together. And taken out of context. We know this because a book was released with the transcripts of the calls that Brian Hooker secretly recorded.

“You and I don’t know each other very well” is from this part of a conversation. Well into the second call that Hooker secretly recorded. And Hooker didn’t start recording calls until later in their relationship, so this isn’t an introduction at all. We will get into the discussion of what Thompson meant later:

You and I don't know each other very well

“You have a son with autism, and I have great shame now.”

I have great shame

OK, the two clips are from completely different parts of a phone call that happened well into the Hooker/Thompson relationship. Wakefield spliced them together to create a story and, just in case we missed his point, brought in a narrator to tell us what the story “really” is.

So, documentary producer/director he is not. But we didn’t really expect that, did we?

Let’s take a look at those two exchanges in a bit more detail, shall we?

First, “we don’t know each other very well”, was Thompson saying that even after multiple previous exchanges, Hooker doesn’t understand Thompson’s motivations and fears. Hooker appears to be digging for dirt. Something about the behaviors of people at CDC. Likely to smear them later. This seems to be a bit of a trigger for Thompson as he has battled mental illness. He’s not comfortable because he can already see the day when people will say, “Well, he’s [Thompson] mentally ill and why would you believe anything he says, it’s just hearsay”. Hooker assures him that it’s none of their business, and that “I [Hooker] don’t want that to happen, period.”

That’s a heavily ironic thing to read now. Why? The only reason people know about Thompson’s personal medical history is that Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield made it public. Hooker and Wakefield filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services and included this statement from William Thompson:

Ya know, I’m not proud of that and uh, it’s probably the lowest point in my career that I went along with that paper and I also paid a huge price for it because I became delusional.

And this exchange between Hooker and Thompson

Dr. Hooker: Did you raise that…did you raise that issue at the time?
Dr. Thompson: I will say I raised this issue…I will say I raised this issue, the uh…two days before I became delusional.

and

Dr. Thompson: It is one of the reasons I became delusional because I was so paranoid about this being published.

So, not only is “you and I don’t know each other very well” not a “Hi, you don’t know be very well, but I’m about to spill the beans” sort of statement, it’s basically Thompson saying that one of his big fears is, well, exactly what Hooker did to him: out his struggles with mental illness.

With friends like Brian Hooker…

So, the second part of the spliced statement that Wakefield included in his trailer, what is that in context? “You have a son with autism, and I have great shame now.” Is it, as the narrator leads us to think, a statement about fraud and that vaccines are proved to cause autism?

No. Or, in Thompson’s own words:

“No, no, no, no. Here’s what I shoulder. I shoulder that the CDC has put the research 10 years behind. Because the CDC has not been transparent, we’ve missed 10 years of research because the CDC is so paralyzed right now by anything related to autism.”

It’s a statement that in William Thompson’s view, the CDC hasn’t done enough vaccine/autism research. It’s a sentiment that I disagree with, given how much effort has been spent on researching the failed idea that vaccines are a primary cause of autism. But let’s move on.

Let’s instead move to the narrator. Recall his statement

“There’s a whistleblower from the CDC who is going to come who is going to come out and say that the CDC had committed fraud on the MMR study and that they knew that vaccines were actually causing autism”

So, what about Thompson saying the CDC committed fraud on the MMR study? Didn’t happen, that’s what. Yes, he had criticisms. He starts his one voluntary public statement with, “I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. ” But let’s stick to what we know Thompson said, rather than what Wakefield and Hooker claim he said in regards to fraud, shall we? What makes the decision to not report a finding “fraud” over a scientific decision? Well, Thompson never says in his statement that there was fraud or misconduct by the CDC team. He does say “Reasonable scientists can and do differ in their interpretation of information.”

Let’s back up a bit, what is the Hooker/Wakefield claim of fraud? In a nutshell, they claim that the CDC team found a result they didn’t want to make public and then changed the research plan/protocol so they wouldn’t have to report that. In this exchange from a phone call we can see Hooker apparently trying to get Thompson on tape saying this. Trying because Thompson refuses to say it:

Dr. Hooker: And then you basically deviated from that particular plan in order to reduce the statistical significance that you saw in the African American Cohort.

Dr. Thompson: Well, we, um, we didn’t report findings that, um…All I will say is we didn’t report those findings. I can tell you what the other coauthors will say.

As to the claim by the narrator that Thompson stepped forward and stated that …”that [The CDC] knew that vaccines were actually causing autism”. Nope.

Consider this part of the public statement by Thompson, a statement I doubt will be prominent in Wakefield’s movie

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.

That is not the statement of a person who believes that vaccines have been shown to cause autism and that the studies to the contrary are “fraud”.

Also, Thompson provided a summary statement to Member of Congress Bill Posey. That was made public along with a great deal more documents when I released them here. What does Mr. Thompson have to say about the study in question showing that vaccines “actually cause autism”?

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.

Let’s give this finding the greatest benefit of the doubt. Let’s ignore that it is an incredibly weak and almost certainly spurious result. Even then, it doesn’t show causation. A study like this can’t. And anyone who has done scientific research (such as Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield) should know that.

But, hey, let’s just make this simple–if Thompson had said something clearly claiming fraud, clearly claiming that the CDC knew vaccines cause autism, Wakefield would have included that in his video. Instead he splices disparate conversations together and has his narrator tell us what we should think.

In other words, if Wakefield had the facts, he’d use them. Instead all I see is more smoke and mirrors.

And that’s just the beginning. The first 30 seconds. We could go on and on, dissecting the trailer frame by frame. It’s that bad. And this is just the trailer. He has a full film out now.


By Matt Carey

A look at the “Garbage Can Quote” in full context

6 Jan

Last summer Representative Bill Posey read a statement in the House regarding William Thompson of the CDC. In it was a quote from a statement that quickly became known as the “garbage can quote”. The statement basically said that the CDC got rid of a number of documents related to one of their MMR studies, that William Thompson thought this was inappropriate, and that he had retained copies of the documents.

I obtained copies of the documents provided to Representative Posey’s office, posted them online and discussed them here at Left Brain/Right Brain.

Here is the “garbage can quote” as discussed at Emily Willingham’s column at Forbes.com last summer.

At the bottom of Table 7 it also shows that for the non-birth certificate sample, the adjusted race effect statistical significance was huge. All the authors and I met and decided sometime between August and September ’02 not to report any race effects for the paper. Sometime soon after the meeting, we decided to exclude reporting any race effects, the co-authors scheduled a meeting to destroy documents related to the study. The remaining four co-authors all met and brought a big garbage can into the meeting room and reviewed and went through all the hard copy documents that we had thought we should discard and put them in a huge garbage can. However, because I assumed it was illegal and would violate both FOIA and DOJ requests, I kept hard copies of all documents in my office and I retained all associated computer files. I believe we intentionally withheld controversial findings from the final draft of the Pediatrics paper

The statement in its entirety is in the package provided by Representative Posey’s office, so I was able to read it in context. Let’s take a quick look, shall we?

12. On June 28, 2002, all coauthors met and examined subgroup analyses by RACE for Whites and Blacks. (See page 17 in the Agendas Attachment and handout that includes Table 5).

13. In the Excel File named “describe_results_2002_0702.xls”, Table 7 shows the RACE analyses that I had run using ONLY the BIRTH CERTIFICATE Sample — the unadjusted RACE effect was statistically significant. (OR=1.51, [95%CI 1.02 – 2.24]). At the bottom of Table 7, it also shows that for the NON-BIRTH Certificate Sample, the adjusted RACE effect statistically significance was HUGE. (OR=2.94 [95%CI 1.48 – 5.81). That is the main reason why we decided to report the RACE effects for ONLY the BIRTH Certificate Sample.

14. In the Excel File named “describe_results_2002_0801.xls”, I split Table 7 into three different Tables (Table 7a, Table 7b, and Table 7c) to further investigate the RACE subgroup analyses.

15. All the coauthors met and decided sometime between August 2002 and September 2002 not to report any RACE effects for the paper.

16. Sometime soon after the meeting where we decided to exclude reporting any RACE effects, also between August 2002 and September 2002, the coauthors scheduled a meeting to destroy documents related to the study. Dr. Coleen Boyle was not present at the meeting even though she was involved in scheduling that meeting. The remaining 4 coauthors all met and brought a big garbage can into the meeting room and reviewed and went through all our hard copy documents that we thought we should discard and put them in the large garbage can. 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 to highlight text that appears to have been left out in the speech by Representative Posey.

Note that the last line in what was quoted by Representative Posey, “I believe we intentionally withheld controversial findings from the final draft of the Pediatrics paper”, was in the conclusion. Which was about 14 paragraphs after the rest of the text he quoted. I don’t think that is significant, but it’s worth noting.

I find a few things interesting in this. First, the omission of the sentence about Coleen Boyle (Dr. Coleen Boyle was not present at the meeting even though she was involved in scheduling that meeting.) Without that the paragraph reads as though Thompson was not present for the meeting. Instead, we now see that he was one of the “four remaining authors”. As such, why doesn’t he comment on the criteria for shredding documents? Second, it is very interesting that Coleen Boyle wasn’t there. Wakefield and Hooker have specifically targeted her in their attacks, and the fact that she wasn’t participating in this meeting goes against their narrative. If for no other reason that we don’t have any idea now what Ms. Boyle kept or didn’t keep.

A more important ommission, dare I say a significant omission: “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.”

Many people have claimed that the “garbage can” quote means that the data were deleted. Well, that’s not what Thompson said. It’s also a clearly false claim as Brian Hooker was able to obtain the data for his own version of the analysis. Here’s what Dan Olmsted of the Age of Autism blog had to say just a few days ago (he’s listing his “true” conspiracies) “The conspiracy by William Thompson and his colleagues dumping raw data into a wastebasket after they had twisted it into obscuring a link between the MMR and autism.”

It’s hard to dump raw computer data into a wastebasket, Dan. Delete, sure. Well, unless you are at a government lab that mandates backups of important raw data. Leaving that aside, data weren’t dumped. It appears that they discarded a huge amount of redundant paper based on what Thompson held on to. Most if not all of which could clearly be sent to a confidential shredder without any question of ethical lapse.

Another line of that statement also is of importance to note. Specifically because a lot of people are claiming that Thompson has said that the CDC team found that the MMR vaccine causes autism. He doesn’t:

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.

As to those who think I am skipping over the really important statements like “the adjusted race effect statistical significance was huge”. Let’s consider that a moment. One does adjustments, say with data from birth certificates, specifically in order to make sure that one doesn’t announce a possible association that is spurious. Beyond that, what Thompson doesn’t do is say, “here’s the scientific arguments that were given to not report this result and here is why I disagree.” Instead we are left to assume that the reason was to hide the result. If so, back it up. Where in his contemporary notes does he say, “they are doing this and it is wrong”. He says he’s not comfortable not presenting it, but he also says they all have “good intentions”.

But let’s get back to what the statement does say, rather than what it doesn’t.

Data were not deleted.

Even if the race effect isn’t considered spurious, it does not mean that there is a true association between the MMR and autism.

And some people are telling you that Thompson said the opposite.

Edit to add:

I am in no way suggesting that Representative Posey edited this statement to be manipulative. He may not have even been the one who wrote his statement in the House. But I do think that there is something to learn from the ommitted parts.


By Matt Carey