Search results for 'vaccinated unvaccinated'

A look at the financials for Generation Rescue and the Strategic Autism Initiative

15 Feb

Generation Rescue is a well known charity with a focus on alternative therapies for autism and promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism. The Strategic Autism Initiative was formed by Andrew Wakefield after he left Thoughtful House (now the Johnson Center). Many of these organizations have close ties and, in fact, GR helped SAI get started with a $100k grant its first year.

The most recent tax forms are from 2011 and are below:

Generation Rescue IRS form 990Strategic Autism Initiative IRS form 990

Generation Rescue pulls in a great deal of money, nearly $1.2M. Of which about $240k goes to the “rescue grant” program. About $125k goes to running their website. Another $125k to pay their executive director.

Under grants, Generation Rescue (GR) has two:

$25,000 to the Strategic Autism Initiative
$20,000 to Jackson State University

Both “for researching causes of autism”. We see again the link between GR and SAI. Jackson State is the institution engaged by Generation Rescue and the SAI to perform a vaccinated/unvaccinated study using homeschooled kids. I’ll point out that when I reviewed the GR and SAI tax forms last year, I speculated that they were starting to fund the vax/unvaxed study.

Now consider the SAI’s form 990. SAI pulled in $284k. They paid out $250k in salaries and other compensations. Yep, 88% of intake went to salaries. Luckily they had a bit of a war chest from the year before to draw on. But let’s look at those salaries. Andrew Wakefield is compensated $200k/year for a reported 30hours/week. That’s $270k/year (his salary at Thoughtful House). Terri Arranga ( of AutismOne) was paid $28.8k for reported 15hours/week.

But, as I said, they had a war chest from 2010 (due in big part to a $100k donation from GR). How did they spend that? Well, they appear to have a grant of $25k to Generation Rescue for “research related to the vax/unvax study”. Which strikes me odd as GR gave SAI $25k, so it looks like the money went in a circle.

That said, what expenses did SAI report?

$158k to Dr. “Lenys G. Gonzalez” to work with Arthur Krigsman and Stephen Walker on “molecular and clinical signatures of inflammatory bowel disease and adverse vaccine reactions in autistic children.”

Lenny Gonzalez is a researcher in Venezuela who was funded by Wakefield at Thoughtful House in one of the supposed “independent” replications of Wakefield’s findings. Arthur Krigsman is a former colleague at Thoughful House, with a colorful history. Stephen Walker’s name comes up periodically in regards to a study he presented at IMFAR but never published which supposedly confirmed Andrew Wakefield’s finding of measles virus in intestinal tissues of autistics.

$43k for a study on “vaccination status and health outcomes among homeschool children in the United States”, with Anthony Mawson of Jackson State. Mr. Mawson was named as the lead researcher for this project back when GR was seeking funding from money left over from a class action lawsuit to fund it.

$86k for an “IRB approved” (are the others not?) investigation using the Florida Medicaid database. And, no surprise, this is to look at vaccines. (1) acute adverse reactions to vaccines as predictors of neurodevelopmental disorders and (2) age of vaccination and risk of adverse outcome.

I am curious if the Florida project is the same one the Geiers were attempting to get pushed through approval a few years ago. A t that time a vaccine-causation focused chiropractor and heavy political donor was pushing both access to the Florida medical records and for things like changing a bill to improve access to services for families with autistic children into a vaccine bill.

Many people might be wondering how Andrew Wakefield managed to gather half a million dollars in under two years. I can’t say for sure but I can put out some information for speculation.

One of his board members is Elizabeth Avellan. She also serves on the board for Mr. Wakefield’s “Autism Trust”, which lists her accomplishments as including ” highly successful film producer and co owner of Trouble Maker studios “. Troublemaker Studios has the “Spy Kids” franchise.

Another board member is Phil Rawlins. There was a Phil Rawlins in Austin who owned a soccer team. He has since moved to Florida.

So whatever skills he had, Mr. Wakefield is basically now a fundraiser. He’s good at it, you gotta hand it to him. I can think of a lot of ways that money could be better spent, though.

By Matt Carey

Dr. Bob’s Facebook delusions

21 Jan

Dr. Bob Sears is best known for his 2007 work, The Vaccine Book, ostensibly written “to give parents a balanced look at pros and cons of vaccination so that they can make an educated decision.” In reality, the book has only added to the unnecessary fear, uncertainty and doubt about vaccines that have driven thousands of parents to leave their children vulnerable to preventable diseases. And while America’s medical establishment has caught on to Sears, he still enjoys a following. His book has sold about 50,000 copies, and Sear’s Facebook page lists over 6,000 followers.

Last week Sears told his FB followers that we can only truly know that vaccines are safer than the diseases they protect us from if the CDC studies health outcomes of vaccinated and unvaccinated children. Sears no doubt includes autism in those “health outcomes”, since he has advised parents to avoid vaccinating their autistic children until they are “recovered” from the disorder.  Anti-vaccine activists have been agitating for such a study for years, most recently at the shameful Congressional anti-vaccine hearing last November 29. Jenny McCarthy’s Generation Rescue even attempted such a survey by telephone in 2007. It found that autism was more common among unvaccinated children than vaccinated.

Epidemiologists tell us such a study, done well, would be unethical, since it would mean leaving many thousands of children vulnerable to disease, just to prove what medical science already knows – that vaccines don’t cause autism. Sears says there are enough totally unvaccinated children around to conduct such a study, and on Facebook he cited a paper that supposedly shows that 5-10 percent of American children have never been vaccinated.

 The IOM and the CDC continue to hide behind the claim that to do a comparative study of unvaccinated versus vaccinated children would be unethical. But as long as they neglect to do this research, many parents will continue to decline vaccines over the concern about lack of safety research.

The IOM states that one challenge of an unvaccinated study is that there is an inadequate number of study subjects, as less than 1% of children are completely unvaccinated. I don’t agree with this statistic. It’s more like 5%, and could even be 10%. One brand new international study revealed that 10% of households surveyed had children who were completely unvaccinated. 10%!!! And it was the more educated and wealthier families that were more likely to be unvaccinated. The IOM’s claim that there aren’t enough unvaccinated children to study simply isn’t true. With over 4 million babies being born in the U.S. every year, they would have their pick of about 400,000 unvaccinated children to study each year.

Sears links to a meta-analysis of vaccine surveys published last summer in the journal Tropical Medicine and International Health. Xavier Bosch-Capblanch from the University of Basel, Switzerland, and his team reviewed 241 nationally representative household vaccination surveys in 96 low and medium income countries. The percentage of unvaccinated children (ages 12-59 months) was 9.9% across all surveys, but ranged from zero percent (Albania,Peru, and Uzbekistan) to 28.5% (Ethiopia). Sears’s claim that ten percent of American children are completely unvaccinated puts the country on par with Namibia (9.2% in 2007), Haiti (10.3% in 2006), and Yemen (10.9% in 2006). It also means that scores of developing countries, including Vietnam (1%) Tajikistan (.9%), and Sierra Leone (1.9%), should think twice before issuing visas for American children.

If Sears was truly serious about helping parents make an educated decision, he could have cited Allison Kennedy, a CDC epidemiologist, who  surveyed parents to examine intentions, behaviors and concerns about vaccines. In Confidence about vaccines in the United States: Understanding Patient Perceptions (2011), her team found  about two percent of US children aged six or younger were totally unvaccinated. Those numbers are in line with Smith (2004), which reported a minuscule .3% unvaccinated of children 19-35 months old. The CDC’s 2010 National Immunization Survey found that 1 percent of toddlers were completely unvaccinated.

Despite Sears’s best efforts, the percent of fully vaccinated children has increased over the past decade. That’s discouraging news for Sears and others who have doubled down on a vaxed v. unvaxed study. But overall rates should not mask the real harm of anti-vaccine propaganda  – encouraging community clusters of vaccine rejectionism that have led to unnecessary suffering. One such cluster incubated a measles outbreak in San Diego in 2008. The index patient was a boy who had just returned from a trip to Switzerland. By the time the virus was contained, four others came down with a disease that can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death. His family’s pediatrician? Dr. Bob Sears.

What kind of doctor, you might ask, would encourage parents to withhold an important vaccine? The kind who aligns himself with the worst elements of the antivaccine movement. The kind who misrepresents published science so as to fuel the anti-vaccine movement’s push for an unethical study. The kind to fabricate his own, untested vaccine schedule, then package it in The Vaccine Book.

By Autism News Beat

Immunization uptake in younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder

12 Oct

If one child has autism, the chance that a younger sibling will have autism is about 18.7%. (see the study Recurrence Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study and discussions here and elsewhere). Anecdotally, we hear a lot about families deciding to forgo or delay vaccines after having an autistic child. This raises a question and an opportunity for research: does delaying or stopping vaccines result in a lower risk of autism? Looking at younger siblings, one would have a population that both has a higher autism risk and a possibly higher percentage of use of alternate (including no) vaccine schedule.

A study has been published this week on this very topic: Immunization uptake in younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder. The answer? Immunization does not increase the risk of autism. But I get ahead of myself.

The authors divided the children into three groups

Immunization status was divided into three predefined categories: (a) Fully immunized: Children with four doses of DPTP (2, 4, 6, and 18 months) and the initial MMR dose at 12 months, (b) Partial/delayed immunizations: Children with any missing dose of DPTP or MMR at any age or a delay of 3 months or more for at least one of the doses of DPTP or MMR, and (c) Not immunized/declined: Children for whom all immunizations had been withheld as of 3 years of age.

In case you are wondering, yes, comparing groups (a) and (c) is a vaccinated/unvaccinated study design. [edit to add–see note below] (b) just gives more dimension to the study.

Yes, siblings of autistic children are vaccinated differently (on average) than younger siblings of non-autistic children:

MMR immunization uptake. The analysis revealed a significant group difference in MMR immunization status (Fisher’s exact test = 80.82, p < .001). Bearing in mind that the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that children receive their initial MMR vaccine at 12 months (in contrast to the United States, where it is recommended at 12–15 months; Public Health Agency of Canada, 2006a; CDC, 2011), only 42 of the 98 (43%) younger sibs received the 12-month MMR vaccine ontime (i.e. by at least 15 months of age; see Figure 2); an additional 38 (39%) received the vaccine after 15 months of age, and 18 (18%) had not been immunized against MMR by the age of 3 years. In contrast, 88 of 98 (90%) probands received the MMR by 15 months, 9 (9.2%) were delayed, and only 1 had not been immunized by the age of 3 years. Similarly, 63 of 65 (97%) controls had completed their MMR immunization on time (i.e. only two were delayed, and none had parents who had fully declined).

Only 42% of younger siblings of autistics received the MMR ontime. 18% were not given the vaccine by age 3. Compare this to the control group, where 90% received the MMR by 15 months and 98% by age 3.

Differences were seen with the DPTP vaccine as well:

DPTP immunization uptake. A significant group difference was also found for DPTP immunization status (Fisher’s exact test = 38.95, p < .001), with just over half (55.1%) of the younger sibs having been immunized on time (31.6% were delayed, and 13.3% were not immunized by the age of 3 years; see Figure 3). The rates of DPTP uptake were higher for probands (86.7% immunized on time, 12.2% delayed, and 1% not immunized) and controls (90.8% immunized on time, 9.2% delayed, and none declined).

What did this do to autism risk for these un- and under-vaccinated younger siblings? Statistically nothing:

Of the 39 younger sibs who had completed their immunizations on time, 6 (15.7%) were diagnosed with ASD and 2 with speech-language delay (SLD). Of the 47 younger sibs for whom immunization as delayed, 15 (31.2%) received an ASD diagnosis and 2 had SLD. Of the 12 younger sibs who had not received any immunizations, 4 (33.3%) were diagnosed with ASD and 1 with SLD. Note that of those children who did not receive a diagnosis, 43.8% were fully immunized. The Fisher’s exact tests revealed no significant difference in the rates of diagnoses between immunized and nonimmunized groups for MMR (Fisher’s exact test = 5.46, p = .22), DPTP (Fisher’s exact test = 3.65, p = .44), or both (Fisher’s exact test = 4.13, p = .37), although small sample size renders these comparisons exploratory only.

And, by “statistically nothing”, I am not saying, “the calculated risk for vaccinated siblings are higher, but we can’t claim they are because the p values aren’t statistically significant”. No, I’m saying, “the calculated values are lower for vaccinated siblings.”

The authors found about 15.7% autism risk for baby siblings. Very close to the Baby Siblings study mentioned above which found 18.7% risk. The risk found for siblings with delayed vaccination was 31.2% and for unvaccinated was 33.3%. Again, these values are not statistically significant from the 15.7%.

So, when one does a vaccinated/unvaccinated study, one finds that autism risk (for familial autism) is not increased.

Since people will undoubtedly be looking for the conflicts of interests for the study authors, the COI statement is “The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.” and their funding is “This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Autism Speaks.”

Limitations include sample size and the fact that the authors relied upon parent recall for much of the data:

Parents of 22.2% (58/261) of the children provided a copy of their child’s immunization record or had it sent by their doctor; for the remaining 77.8%, status report was based on parent recall (note that this information was typically gathered at each visit, at 3- to 6-month intervals, to avoid recall bias). Due to the potential for recall bias (e.g. see Dorell et al., 2011, for bias in recall for the older children), we examined the influence of information source (card copy vs parent recall) on immunization status. No significant relationship was found for MMR (Fisher’s exact test = .38, p = .84), DPTP (Fisher’s exact test =1.71, p = .44), or “both” (Fisher’s exact test = 1.58, p = .48).

Here is the abstract:

Background: Parental concerns persist that immunization increases the risk of autism spectrum disorder, resulting in the potential for reduced uptake by parents of younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder (“younger sibs”).

Objective: To compare immunization uptake by parents for their younger child relative to their
older child with autism spectrum disorder (“proband”) and controls.

Design: Immunization status was obtained for 98 “younger sibs,” 98 “probands,” and 65 controls.

Results: A significant group difference emerged for overall immunization status (Fisher’s exact test = 62.70, p < .001). One or more immunizations in 59/98 younger sibs were delayed (47/98; 48%) or declined (12/98; 12.2%); immunizations were delayed in 16/98 probands (16.3%) and declined in only one. All controls were fully immunized, with only 6 (9.2%) delayed. Within the “younger sibs” group, 25/98 received an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis; 7 of whom (28%) were fully immunized. The rates of autism spectrum disorder diagnosis did not differ between immunized and nonimmunized younger sib groups, although small sample size limits interpretability of this result.

Conclusion: Parents who already have one child with autism spectrum disorder may delay or
decline immunization for their younger children, potentially placing them at increased risk of
preventable infectious diseases.

Edit to add: The authors have clarified that unvaccinated means not vaccinated with MMR or DPTP, not necessarily completely unvaccinated.

The combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines and the total number of vaccines are not associated with development of autism spectrum disorder: The first case-control study in Asia.

24 Apr

A paper from researchers in Japan studies the questions of whether vaccines cause autism. In this study, The combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines and the total number of vaccines are not associated with development of autism spectrum disorder: The first case-control study in Asia, the authors use a case-control method. The study is moderate in size, 189 autistics and 224 controls.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and general vaccinations, including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, in Japanese subjects, a population with high genetic homogeneity.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: A case-control study was performed. Cases (n=189) were diagnosed with ASD, while controls (n=224) were volunteers from general schools, matched by sex and birth year to cases. Vaccination history and prenatal, perinatal, and neonatal factors from the Maternal and Child Health handbook, which was part of each subject’s file, were examined. To determine the relationship between potential risk factors and ASD, crude odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated, and the differences in mean values of the quantitative variables between cases and controls were analyzed using an unpaired t-test. Moreover, MMR vaccination and the effect of the number of vaccine injections were investigated using a conditional multiple regression model.

RESULTS: For MMR vaccination, the OR was 1.04 (95% CI, 0.65-1.68), and no significant differences were found for the other vaccines. For all of the prenatal, perinatal and neonatal factors, there were no significant differences between cases and controls. Furthermore, regarding the presence of ASD, MMR vaccination and the number of vaccine injections had ORs of 1.10 (95% CI, 0.64-1.90) and 1.10 (95% CI, 0.95-1.26), respectively, in the conditional multiple regression model; no significant differences were found.

CONCLUSIONS: In this study, there were not any convincing evidences that MMR vaccination and increasing the number of vaccine injections were associated with an increased risk of ASD in a genetically homogeneous population. Therefore, these findings indicate that there is no basis for avoiding vaccination out of concern for ASD.

The authors confirm multiple previous studies that the MMR vaccine does not increase the reisk of autism. They also present results that the number of vaccine injections also does not increase the risk of autism.

The authors also find that the number of injections is does not increase the risk of autism.

The MMR vaccine was used in Japan from 1984 to 1993, and the study includes children born from April 1984 to April 1992. Controls were selected according to these criteria:

One to two controls were selected for each case, matched by sex and year of birth and recruited as volunteers from general schools in the Kanto area, the same area where YPDC patients reside. Consent for participation in the present study was obtained from the parents (or legal guardians) of the students. Students who had previously been recognized as having developmental problems and were already receiving care were excluded, as were those whose records in the MCH handbook were missing or illegible and those with a history of vaccination in another country.

The team had a pool of 354 autistics to work from in this geographic region and time period. They were unable to obtain controls for all of these 354, so 189 autistics were randomly selected as cases.

Among the patients who initially consulted the clinic between April 1997 and March 2011, 1875 cases of ASD were identified. Of these, 89 cases were excluded because the MCH handbook was missing or the vaccination record in the handbook could not be read, and 3 were excluded because they had received MMR vaccination overseas. Of the remaining 1783 cases, 1429 were born before March 1984 or after May 1992, leaving 354 cases (males: n = 286, 80.8%) born between April 1984 and April 1992, the possible time period for MMR vaccination. The ASD group consisted of 280 subjects with Autistic disorder (79.1%), 27 subjects with Asperger disorder (7.6%), and 47 subjects with Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (13.3%).

MMR was not universally given in Japan during this time, and here are the vaccination rates for the cases and controls:

The vaccination rates in cases and controls were as follows: MMR, 24.9% of cases and 24.1% of controls; Measles, 66.7% and 62.9%; Mumps, 58.2% and 49.1%; Rubella, 57.1% and 53.6%; DPT, 97.9% and 97.8%; Polio, 97.4% and 98.7%; B-encephalitis, 88.4% and 92.0%, and BCG 96.3% and 97.3% (Table 1). The mean times of each vaccine injection in cases and controls were as follows: DPT, 3.8 times of cases and 3.7 times of controls; Polio, 1.9 times and 2.0 times; B-encephalitis, 1.7 times and 1.8 times (Table 2).

The authors note that this is the fourth case-control study on autism and the MMR, but that those studies relied upon more genetically heterogeneous populations:

The three previous case–control studies focused on the relationship between ASD and MMR. Specifically, the investigation of DeStefano et al. was based on the Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program [31]; Smeeth et al. used data from the UK General Practice Research Database [32]; and DeWilde et al. examined the association using the UK Doctors’ Independent Network Database [33].

As a side result, the authors tested whether maternal hypertension was associated with autism. They found an odds ratio of 2.4, but that this result was not statistically significant. This is in contrast to a recent study from the U.C. Davis MIND Institute.

Here is table 1 from the study, giving the odds ratios for MMR and other vaccines (click to enlarge):

Criticisms will include: the moderate size of the group, the selection criteria, the fact that the controls were volunteers and might therefore have some selection bias, the fact that not enough controls were recruited to include all the autistics, and the fact that most children who did not get the MMR received the measles, mumps and/or rubella vaccines as individual vaccines, the fact that vaccine uptake is high in Japan, the lack of a “vaccinated vs. unvaccinated” structure to the study and more.

Taken alone, yes, this would not be convincing evidence that the MMR vaccine doesn’t increase the risk of autism. This doesn’t mean this isn’t a good study. Further, it is well worth noting that this study does *not*stand alone. Multiple studies have shown that the MMR does not increase the risk of autism.

Also worth noting is that by looking at the total number of injections, this study in essence considers the question of whether “too many too soon” is a cause of autism. Based on these results, within the limitations of the study, the answer is no.

Assessment of Studies of Health Outcomes Related to the Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule

31 Jan

The U.S. Institutes of Medicine (IOM) will hold a meeting to discuss the feasibility of studying health outcomes in vaccinated and unvaccinated children. Health Outcomes Related to the Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule will be held on February 9.

Activity Description

The IOM will conduct an independent assessment surrounding the feasibility of studying health outcomes in children who were vaccinated according to the CDC recommended schedule and those who were not (e.g. children who were unvaccinated or vaccinated with an alternate schedule). The IOM will review scientific findings and stakeholder concerns related to the safety of the recommended childhood immunization schedule. Further, the IOM will identify potential research approaches, methodologies, and study designs that could inform this question, including an assessment of the potential strengths and limitations of each approach, methodology and design, as well as the financial and ethical feasibility of doing them. A report will be issued in mid-2012 summarizing the IOM’s findings and conclusions.

Here is the draft agenda:

Draft Agenda
11:00-12:00 OPEN SESSION

11:00-11:15 Welcome and Overview
Ada Sue Hinshaw, Ph.D., R.N.
Committee Chair

11:15-11:35 Presentation of the Charge from the National Vaccine Program Office
Bruce Gellin, M.D., M.P.H.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health
Director, National Vaccine Program Office, US Department of
Health and Human Services

11:35-12:00 Review of IOM’s Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines
Ellen Wright Clayton, J.D., M.D.
Chair of the IOM Committee to Review Adverse Effects of
Craig-Weaver Professor of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University


1:00-5:00 OPEN SESSION

1:00-1:20 National Vaccine Information Center Perspectives
Barbara Loe Fisher
Co-Founder & President, National Vaccine Information Center

1:20-1:40 Provider Perspectives
Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor, Department of Health Management and Policy,
University of Michigan School of Public Health
Director, Division of General Pediatrics
The Percy and Mary Murphy Professor of Pediatrics and Child
Health Delivery

1:40-2:00 The Use of Clinical Trials for Childhood Vaccines
Susan Ellenberg, Ph.D.
Professor of Biostatistics and Associate Dean for Clinical
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

2:00-2:20 Ethical Issues in Clinical Trials
Robert (Skip) Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.
Senior Pediatric Ethicist/Lead Medical Officer, Food and Drug

2:20-2:40 BREAK

2:40-3:05 National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Melinda Wharton M.D., M.P.H.
Deputy Director, NCIRD, CDC
Captain, US Public Health Services

3:05-3:25 Immunization Safety Office (ISO) CDC
Frank DeStefano, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, ISO, CDC

3:25-3:45 Data and Approaches in National and International Immunization Studies
Saad Omer, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.B.S
Assistant Professor, Hubert Department of Global Health
Epidemiology, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health
Assistant Professor, Emory Vaccine Center

3:45-4:05 Immune Profiling Research
Chuck Hackett, Ph.D.
Deputy Director, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease

4:05-5:00 OPEN SESSION* — Opportunity for Attendee Comments


Generation Rescue’s tax form 990 for 2010

31 Jan

Generation Rescue’s tax forms (form 990) for 2010 have been made publicly available.

2010 was the second highest year financially for Generation Rescue. Here are their yearly totals:

2006: $318,695
2007: $425,317
2008: $1,185,255
2009: $623,597
2010: $1,078,471


The largest expense was for “research”: $307,439. The description is not very detailed:


More on this later.

Other expenses? Marketing and Awareness, for one: $135,128


Rescue Family Grant Program: $96, 431


Other program services: $328,660.

You may recall that this year Generation Rescue teamed up with AutismOne to produce the AutismOne conference. They made the conference “free” to attendees (with a $25 fee). Generation Rescue put out $76,467 to support the conference. Someone is obviously paying (exhibitors? Speakers?), Generation Rescue made $38,883 on the conference. Compare this with their comedy event where they spent $98,422 to make $15,327. Autism One is a much better deal for them.

Remember those research expenses mentioned above? I assume that this charge is included there: “Strategic Autism Initiative” got $100,000 “for researching the causes of autism:”. What’s the Strategic Autism Initiative? Simply put: Andrew Wakefield. That’s the organization he created after leaving Thoughtful House. Been wondering how Andrew Wakefield is paying the bills since losing that job? Well this gives you a big clue.

(For comparison, their “Family Grant” program received less money: $93,122 for 111 recipients.)

Under compensated board members, officers, etc., they list:

Jenny McCarthy, President, Director (10 hours/week, no pay)
Jonathan B Handley, Director (10 hours/week, no pay)
Lisa Handley, Director (10 hours/week, no pay)
Candace MacDonald, Executive Director (40 hours/week, $128,613)

Total in salaries and other compensation $260,569. (in 2009, this was $364,686)

Generation Rescue’s mission statement for 2010?


This has been evolving.





(Generation started out as a major proponent of the idea that autism was a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning)

One might notice that the “research” budget is significantly higher than that allocated to Mr. Wakefield’s organization. They allocate $307,439 for research. Compare this to 2009, when their support of research appears to be a single entry of $30,000 given to the HEAL Foundation.

$100,000 is going to Mr. Wakefield. Where is the other $208,439 going? Generation Rescue at one point felt they could do a vaccinated/unvaccinated study for $809,721. At that time it was proposed as a 2 year study. Is it in the works?

AAP asks Delta Air Lines to reconsider NVIC ads

5 Nov

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is an organization which has been highly critical of vaccines. They have helped to keep the “vaccine induced autism epidemic” alive. They have not only supported, but awarded Andrew Wakefield, the doctor whose misconduct in his research lost him his license to practise medicine. With no sense of irony, NVIC presented Mr. Wakefield with the “Humanitarian Award” for “his compassion, brave spirit and uncompromising commitment to improving the health of children and the biological integrity of future generations.” One board member for NVIC wrote John Stossel with her opinion: “Vaccines are a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems.”

Recently, NVIC has placed advertisements in the in-flight entertainment for Delta Air Lines for the holiday season. By NVIC standards, their ad is rather mild. The vaccine fear angle is not prominent, with the focus more on downplaying the need for the flu vaccine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has sent a letter to the CEO of Delta asking them to reconsider the decision to accept the NVIC advertisement:

November 4, 2011

Richard Anderson
Chief Executive Officer
Delta Air Lines

Dear Mr. Anderson,

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) objects to the paid advertisement/public service message from the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) being shown throughout the month of November on Delta’s in-flight programming. The ad urges viewers to become informed about influenza and how to stay well during the flu season without resorting to the influenza vaccine.

While hand washing and covering sneezes are parts of a larger strategy to prevent the spread of influenza, influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease. It is especially important in enclosed settings where disease droplets can easily spread to passengers sitting in close quarters, especially infants and children and those with special health care needs.

The AAP and many other child health organizations have worked hard to protect children and their families from unfounded and unscientific misinformation regarding vaccine safety. The influenza vaccine is safe and effective.

By providing advertising space to an organization like the NVIC, which opposes the nation’s recommended childhood immunization schedule and promotes the unscientific practice of delaying or skipping vaccines altogether, you are putting the lives of children at risk, leaving them unprotected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Diseases like influenza can have serious consequences. From September 2010 to August 2011, 115 children died from influenza disease, most of whom were unvaccinated.

The AAP’s 60,000 member pediatricians urge you to remove these harmful messages, which fail to inform the public about the safety and efficacy of influenza vaccine. Please do your part to help reassure parents that vaccinating their children is the best way to protect them from influenza disease, particularly during this busy travel season.

Underimmunization in Ohio’s Amish: Parental Fears Are a Greater Obstacle Than Access to Care

29 Jun

With apologies for opening the subject of the Amish and autism once again, a recent paper in the journal Pediatrics explores vaccination and the Amish: Underimmunization in Ohio’s Amish: Parental Fears Are a Greater Obstacle Than Access to Care. Seth Mnookin has already discussed this at The Panic Virus at PLoS blogs in Anecdotal Amish-don’t-vaccinate claims disproved by fact-based study.

What is worrisome here is the fact that the nderimmunization amongst the Amish is resulting from parental fears. In a very different study from 2001, Haemophilus influenzae Type b Disease Among Amish Children in Pennsylvania: Reasons for Persistent Disease, most Amish parents who chose to not vaccinate were citing availability and convenience rather than fear as the reason.

To repeat–in 10 years the reasons for non-vaccinating amongst the Amish have changed from convenience to fear. We can’t say exactly why, but it seems quite plausible that the focus on autism, vaccines and the Amish could have played a role.

Given that the “Amish Anomaly” notion seems destined to linger on, I have written up another summary of the history and the facts of the story.

Dan Olmsted, now the owner of the Age of Autism, was once an editor for UPI. It was during his UPI time that he took on the autism/vaccine question that has since dominated his professional life. Back in 2005 he ran a series of stories which investigated the proposed link between autism and vaccines and, in specific, mercury. It was right around the time that the David Kirby/Lyn Redwood book “Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy.” was published. This was likely the high water mark for the public’s acceptance of the vaccines-causation idea.

One of the ideas that Mr. Olmsted explored was that of the Amish. He started with the belief that they don’t vaccinate and set out to investigate whether this correlated with a lower autism prevalence. The idea of the Amish being a largely unvaccinated population was set out years earlier. David Kirby describes in Evidence of Harm how Lyn Redwood of SafeMinds discussed this in a presentation she made to congress in the year 2000.

Mr. Olmsted described his investigation starting in a piece, The Age of Autism: Mercury and the Amish . There was plenty of data even then which Mr. Olmsted could have considered which went against his hypothesis. Since then even more data has mounted against the idea.

And, yet, it persists. Often the “Amish don’t vaccinate and they don’t have autism” story pops up in internet discussions following news stories. Books have incorporated the idea. Of course it ends up in alternative medicine books on autism such as Kenneth Bock’s “Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies”. The idea can be found in other boos as well, including “Timeless Secrets of Health and Rejuvenation” (2007) and “Cry for Health: Health: the Casualty of Modern Times” (2010). Again, this is a reason to revisit the debunking of this myth. The myth lives on, even in the face of facts.

In his 2005 UPI article, Mr. Olmsted started out with the assumption that the Amish don’t vaccinate. He set out to see if he could find autistics amongst the Amish, but didn’t look into the vaccination question with any depth:

So I turned to the 22,000 Amish in Lancaster County, Pa. I didn’t expect to find many, if any, vaccinated Amish: they have a religious exemption from the otherwise mandatory U.S. vaccination schedule.

As is well known now, the Amish do not have a religious exemption from the vaccine schedule. They do not have a religious prohibition against vaccination.

This was something Mr. Olmsted could easily have confirmed at the time. He might have checked the 1993 book Amish Society by John Andrew Hostetler (1993), in which he would have found the following statements about medicine:

“Some are more reluctant than others to accept immunization, but it is rare that an Amish person will cite a biblical text to object to a demonstrated medical need…” ….””If the Amish are slow to accept preventive measures, it doesn’t mean they religiously opposed to them…”

He might have made more than a cursory effort to contact people at the Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The Clinic, aside from serving special needs children (including autistics) runs vaccine clinics and has for some many years. In a piece explaining Mr. Olmsted’s failures, Mark Blaxill (also of the Age of Autism) explained that the Clinic did not return Mr. Olmsted’s phone call. No mention is given why Mr. Olmsted didn’t go to the clinic in his visits to Lancaster County

Had Mr. Olmsted done so, he would have known that this statement, again from his 2005 piece, was incorrect when he relied on a source who claimed a very low immunization rate:

That mother said a minority of younger Amish have begun getting their children vaccinated, though a local doctor who has treated thousands of Amish said the rate is still less than 1 percent.

He also made a misleading statement:

When German measles broke out among Amish in Pennsylvania in 1991, the CDC reported that just one of 51 pregnant women they studied had ever been vaccinated against it.

What is left vague in this statement was the fact that the 51 pregnant women were those who contracted German measles. Not surprising that those infected were largely unvaccinated. This doesn’t tell us what fraction of the whole population were vaccinated though, and is quite misleading.

One might wonder why Mr. Olmsted was not aware that the Amish participated in the eradication of Polio. Conversely, he might have questioned how polio was eradicated if the Amish did not vaccinate. Here is a March of Dimes photo from a 1959 vaccine clinic:

(from March of Dimes By David W. Rose, 2003)

An article available to Mr. Olmsted at the time of his 2005 article, Haemophilus influenzae Type b Disease Among Amish Children in Pennsylvania: Reasons for Persistent Disease, discussed the reasons why Amish parents did not vaccinate their children. While some did cite “religious or philosophical objections”, the majority said they would vaccinate if “vaccination were offered locally”:

Among Amish parents who did not vaccinate their children, only 25% (13 of 51) identified either religious or philosophical objections as a factor; 51% (26 of 51) reported that vaccinating was not a priority compared with other activities of daily life. Seventy-three percent (36 of 49) would vaccinate their children if vaccination were offered locally.

Since Mr. Olmsted’s original series, more data has come in refuting the “Amish Anomaly”. In 2006, a paper was published: Vaccination usage among an old-order Amish community in Illinois. Here is the abstract:

The Old-Order Amish have low rates of vaccination and are at increased risk for vaccine-preventable diseases. A written survey was mailed to all Amish households in the largest Amish community in Illinois inquiring about their vaccination status and that of their children. In this survey, the Amish do not universally reject vaccines, adequate vaccination coverage in Amish communities can be achieved, and Amish objections to vaccines might not be for religious reasons.

It is clear that the Amish do vaccinate and that it would have been simple for Mr. Olmsted to find accurate information about this at the time. It was certainly more difficult for Mr. Olmsted to ascertain what the prevalence of autism might be amongst the Amish. He made the assertion: ““there are only a few of them [autistic Amish] in the United States”.

Of the “few” Amish autistics Mr. Olmsted could find, six were being treated by Lawrence Leichtman. The children were unvaccinated but the doctor who reported them to Mr. Olmsted attributed their autism to high mercury levels. This is not surprising as Dr. Leichtman was one of the early alt-med practitioners working in autism, being part of the secretin fad of the 1990’s. One wonders if the “elevated mercury” levels in these children would stand up to tests performed by qualified medical toxicologists.

Another six autistic Amish, nearly under Mr. Olmsted’s nose at the time of his article, were being treated by the Clinic for Special Children in Lancaster, PA. Six children who had PDD or Autism were at that time being treated and written up for a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. They were missed by Mr. Olmsted. He has since argued that these children are syndromic and, thus, somehow not as relevant to his story. Those arguments aside, this was a clear miss for Mr. Olmsted.

In 2010, a study was presented at IMFAR: Prevalence Rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders Among the Old Order Amish

Preliminary data have identified the presence of ASD in the Amish community at a rate of approximately 1 in 271 children using standard ASD screening and diagnostic tools although some modifications may be in order. Further studies are underway to address the cultural norms and customs that may be playing a role in the reporting style of caregivers, as observed by the ADI. Accurate determination of the ASD phenotype in the Amish is a first step in the design of genetic studies of ASD in this population.

A preliminary number of 1 in 271 is a far cry from “little” or no autism amongst the Amish. Given the limitations of working within a community like the Amish, it is surprisingly close to the 1 in 100 often cited as the autism prevalence estimate for the general U.S. population. The study was being prepared for submission when I checked with the lead author last fall. It will be interesting to see what the final number is obtained for the prevalence.

The IMFAR abstract was available, I believe, before Dan Olmsted’s book, The Age of Autism, went to press. Instead of including this information, he chose to paint autism as rare amongst the Amish using quotes he obtained in 2005 and unsupported statements like, “the most aggressive possible count of autistic Amish comes to fewer than 20 cases, which would give us a rate of no more than 1 in 10,000.” It seems unlikely, given the low sales figures, that The Age of Autism will be reprinted. If that should happen, I wonder if Mr. Olmsted will correct this misinformation. The facts are clearly against him. Certainly, his review of internet sources and cursory tour of Lancaster County hardly counts as “aggressive”.

The “Amish don’t vaccinate and don’t have autism” idea was never very well supported. Now, with more data in, it is just plain wrong. It would be a good and honorable thing for Mr. Olmsted himself to make this clear. Good. Honorable. And not going to happen.

A Positive Association found between Autism Prevalence and Childhood Vaccination uptake across the U.S. Population

8 Jun

A Positive Association found between Autism Prevalence and Childhood Vaccination uptake across the U.S. Population is the latest in a long series of studies purporting to show a link between vaccines and the rise in autism prevalence. Like many of these studies, this one has major flaws. There was a time when I would take the effort to go through such studies in detail. There is enough bad in this one to take so long that I just can’t see taking the effort.

They claim that for every 1% increase in vaccination (defined in a very strange way, as you will see) their study shows that the autism rate (defined in an even stranger way) rises 1.7%.

Look at the title again: A Positive Association found between Autism Prevalence and Childhood Vaccination uptake across the U.S. Population

But, strangely enough, the author doesn’t study autism prevalence. Seriously. The author studies “To determine autism prevalence by U.S. state, the number of 8-year old students classified with either (1) autism or (2) speech or language impairments (speech disorders) was divided by the total number of 8-year-olds in the state.”. Yep, the author lumps autism with SLI. Consider, say, California in 2002 (one of the study years). There were 1,664 8-year-old students receiving services under the disability category “autism”. On the other hand, there were 22,702 8-year-old students in the SLI category. The autism data are basically swamped by the SLI data. Begs the question: what did the analysis show for autism alone? Could it have shown a protective effect of vaccination. Don’t get me wrong, the study isn’t strong enough to show a real association one way or another, but you really got to ask yourself why the author chose to bury autism this way.

In case you are wondering, the autism+SLI “prevalence” for California was about 5% for 8 year olds/3rd graders in 2001 (using 488.633 3rd graders)

Here is the abstract:

The reason for the rapid rise of autism in the United States that began in the 1990s is a mystery. Although individuals probably have a genetic predisposition to develop autism, researchers suspect that one or more environmental triggers are also needed. One of those triggers might be the battery of vaccinations that young children receive. Using regression analysis and controlling for family income and ethnicity, the relationship between the proportion of children who received the recommended vaccines by age 2 years and the prevalence of autism (AUT) or speech or language impairment (SLI) in each U.S. state from 2001 and 2007 was determined. A positive and statistically significant relationship was found: The higher the proportion of children receiving recommended vaccinations, the higher was the prevalence of AUT or SLI. A 1% increase in vaccination was associated with an additional 680 children having AUT or SLI. Neither parental behavior nor access to care affected the results, since vaccination proportions were not significantly related (statistically) to any other disability or to the number of pediatricians in a U.S. state. The results suggest that although mercury has been removed from many vaccines, other culprits may link vaccines to autism. Further study into the relationship between vaccines and autism is warranted.

Here are a few more important points from the paper:

1) They use the “prevalence” of autism or SLI from special education numbers. These data are just not reliable for this sort of work. This has been gone over and over. The best discussion of this is from Jim Laidler in 2005. US Department of Education Data on “Autism” Are Not Reliable for Tracking Autism Prevalence

2) Note that they use cohorts from the mid 1990’s, soon after autism was first added as a special education category. They are pretty much guaranteed that the “prevalence” they calculate will go up.

All they need is to link this to changes in the vaccine uptake. Easily done. The vaccine uptake rate is changing dramatically during the first couple years of the study. For example, Alabama goes from 46 to 76% in two years. Why is that? That brings us to point (3):

3) Here’s a trick bit: the author uses the vaccine schedule from 1995. A brand new vaccine schedule was rolled out and states and pediatricians picked it up over the next couple of years. Of course the vaccine uptake, by this measure, was low at the start.

Yes, they chose a very artificial measure of “vaccine rate” to insure that they had big changes in the “rate” during the study period.

How often do we hear SafeMinds (the author is a member by the way) ask “where’s the study of the vaccinated vs. unvaccinated?” Even when they have the data, they don’t do the comparison. They compare children who got the full 1995 schedule of vaccines vs. children who didn’t (missing one or more vaccines). My guess is there isn’t enough non-vaccinated data to make the study. But, that doesn’t explain why they went ahead with this really bad study.

How about a “too many too soon” study, comparing the total number of vaccines vs. autism rate? Again, not done in this study.

Of course the author is aware of the vaccinated/unvaccinated question. A few quotes from the paper:

A child who missed only one shot was different from a child who was completely unvaccinated, yet in this study both children were classified as not fully vaccinated.


A child who received all but 1 vaccination on time might be different from a child who received no vaccinations, yet both were in the group of children who did not receive timely vaccinations. Had the researchers examined fully vaccinated versus completely unvaccinated children, the results might have been different.


A follow-up study could investigate the prevalence of autism among unvaccinated children. Other children who typically are not vaccinated could be surveyed. These groups include the Amish and children served by Homefirst, a health clinic near Chicago (Eisenstein, 2009), as well as some homeschooled children or younger siblings of children with autism whose parents decided not to vaccinate.

“Eisenstien, 2009” is a link to the HomeFirst website, which includes unsupported claims. What is the point of a citation to an unsupported claim? For example, in the cited link, Dr. Eisenstein makes the unsupported claim:

“Since 1973, The Homefirst physicians have been offering vaccine choice and awareness Unlike most doctors, the Physicians of Homefirst are honored to serve your family if you give all some or none of the vaccines.

They have virtually no asthma, allergies, ADHD, ADD or Autism in their more then 35,000 un-vaccinated children. “

Where’s the data on how many of their patients have ADD, autism, or the other conditions? Also, I’ve seen the quoted number of “unvaccinated” at Homefirst vary through a very large range.

But back to the actual paper. What does the study claim as a result?

The results suggest that if a given U.S. state has a 1% higher vaccination rate than another U.S. state, then the state with the higher vaccination rate might have, on average, a 1.7% higher prevalence of autism or speech disorders.

Remember, this is using the strange definition of “vaccination rate” is how many children got the full series vs. how many missed any one or more vaccines.

Here you can see their data. Yes, “vaccination rates” and “autism or SLI rates” both go up with time. But it is how they go up that show us how bad this study is:

Take a close look at the vaccination rates for the first two years. That’s when there are the big increases. This is expected because, again, they measuring vaccination rates as the percentage of kids who got the full 1995 schedule, and they start in 1995 when the schedule was just introduced.

The autism/SLI rate, on the other hand, shows a slower, more steady increase (ignoring the noise).

Take a look at table 1. again. Take a look at the first couple of years in, for example, Alabama. The vaccination rate they quote increased from 46% (1995) to 65% (1996), rising again the next year to 76.5% (1997). What did the autism+SLI rate do? It went down.

Recall the result:

Further, if a given U.S. state decreases its vaccination coverage by 1% from one year to the next, prevalence of autism or speech disorders may, on average, fall by 1.7%. If 100% children received this series of vaccinations, the prevalence of autism or speech disorders would be 1.7%

Since the “vaccination rate” went up 20 points (from 46% to 65%), we would expect autism/SLI to go up a lot too: 0.34%, from 4.6% to 4.92%. You can see the same sort of trends in the first two years state by state–big increases in the vaccination rates, small or negative changes in the autism/SLI rates.

It’s only after many years go by that there are notable changes in the autism/SLI rates. Even then it isn’t consistent. Again, look at Alabama. Over the entire study period, the autism/SLI rate went down. Same for the next state on the list, Alaska.

The next state on the list (yes, it’s alphabetical) is one of the “winners” in the study. Autism/SLI rates went up notably over the study period, from 3.8 to 6.2%. But, strangely enough (if you believe the author that is) this didn’t happen for the cohorts which saw the big increases in vaccine rates. A big jump in autism/SLI rate is seen for the last year (a 0.8% jump), but this is for years when the change in vaccination rates was relatively modest.

To put it simply, the result of the study just doesn’t make sense given the data that we (and the referees who cleared this paper) can plainly see. This is a prime example of exactly the sort of paper that really has shown over the years the sort of intellectual dishonesty which has promoted the vaccine-epidemic notion.

Four Somali children die of measles

5 May

Dr. Abdirahman D. Mohamed, the chief of staff at Axis Medical Center in Minneapolis, said last month he knew of four unvaccinated Somali children who had died from measles.


This appalling news comes hot on the heels of anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorist Andrew Wakefield’s visit to the Somali community in the US to promote his fraudulent anti-MMR ‘studies’. Generation Rescue has also attended to the Somali community in Minneapolis.

Antivaccine groups have noticed. In November, J. B. Handley…wrote an open letter to “Courageous Somali Parents.”

He warned them not to trust the state health department and suggested they slow down their children’s shots and get exemptions to school vaccination requirements. He also offered to pay for some to attend an antivaccine conference.

All these people and groups should now reap the harvest of what they have sown. Death. Preventable death.