An Angry Father’s Guide to Vaccine-Autism Science (understanding “distracting research”)

By J.B. HANDLEY SEP. 30, 2015

At the time, it didn’t seem so crazy…

PORTLAND, Oregon — We autism parents are being browbeaten by a mantra from the mainstream media and health authorities spoken so loudly and repeated so often that it seems it simply must be true, namely:

“It’s been asked and answered, vaccines do not cause autism.”

The science has been done. Deal with it. Case closed.

How do you fight against something repeated by so many seemingly respectable and informed people? Ben Carson just said it yesterday:

Because we live in a society where almost everybody gets vaccines, they make that false correlation. There’ve been multitudinous scientific studies that have demonstrated that there’s no correlation. It’s sort of like if all of a sudden everybody had to eat carrots, and we say that every week you have to eat a dozen carrots, and then somebody would be saying, ‘You know, that’s what’s causing the autism.’ They’re all eating the carrots, and this certain percentage has autism.

(And, yes, he just compared getting vaccinated to eating a carrot.)

He’d probably prefer the carrot.

If a doctor running for President is saying it, it must be true! Right?

Well, no, wrong actually. If any interested party would devote 30 minutes of their life to looking at the actual details of the “multitudinous” science done to date, they’d understand the truth, too.

If I told you that none of the studies used to “prove” vaccines don’t cause autism come remotely close to asking the right questions about cause and effect or even consider the proper control groups to get to an answer, would you believe me?

If I told you that every time someone like Richard Pan of California or Ben Carson or Bob Wright of Autism Speaks references the “science”, they are just promulgating a lie, would you be skeptical enough of their collective motivations to consider that I might have a fair point?

Backstory: manufacturing doubt

Modern history is replete with examples of the true causation of man-made calamities being obscured and contested for decades by experts producing “science” to support their predetermined conclusions. This “manufacturing of doubt” — an explicit and well-understood process — is not only delaying justice for millions of children around the world, but it’s also falsely reassuring parents right now that vaccines are playing no role whatsoever in permanently damaging the neurology of America’s kids.

Tobacco and lung cancer, coal smoke and acid rain, CFCs and the ozone layer, and global warming are all recent examples of the very same phenomenon: relatively obvious scientific truths (today) had to endure decades of contention from “scientists” publishing “science” that was, at the very least, artfully contrived, and, at worse, downright fraudulent. (You could argue that the “WMD” fiasco justifying the invasion of Iraq was an offshoot of this same phenomenon.)

A 1954 article from The Guardian newspaper rings eerily reminiscent of what we are today experiencing with the autism epidemic. In 1953, a pair of scientists reported their findings that coating mice in tobacco tar had produced skin cancer in 44% of the mice. Importantly, the mice study produced the first alarm bells around the world that smoking may in fact be bad for one’s health, which triggered a forty-year campaign by the tobacco companies to obscure the truth with funded “science”. The Guardian article from 1954 also discusses a scientist from the American Cancer Society — Dr. Cuyler Hammond — who expressed deep cynicism about the initial findings of the smoking-cancer link from the mice study and other studies bubbling up implicating tobacco. From the article:

Dr. Cuyler Hammond

“He has deep doubts about all the studies reported so far. He suspects that the interviewers of lung-cancer patients probably induce an emotional bias in their victims who will thereby be led to make suspicious confessionals of heavy smoking. He says that it is extremely difficult to find a control group with the matched characteristics, of age, social standing, occupational habits, and regional location, of any given sick group. He warns against the false premise which might be exposed to prove only that smokers produce earlier symptoms rather than more cancer. He suggests that even if there were no significant association between smoking and cancer in the general population, a telling one might be found in the hospital population. He is even sour about the claims of the filter-tipped cigarettes, remarking in his wry way that the carbon in tobacco smoke probably neutralises some toxic agents, and that if the filter removes those carbon particles ‘filter cigarettes would do more harm than good.’”

Sound familiar?

How many times have we parents heard scientists throw mud on the relatively straightforward lines so many parents are drawing between brain damaging products (vaccines) and their children’s brain damage?

Not only was Dr. Hammond the Chief Medical Statistician [epidemiologist] for the American Cancer Society, but at the time of the publication of The Guardian piece in 1954, he was also a 4-pack a day smoker. (More on him later.)

As late as 1979, tobacco companies worked closely together to develop “an extensive body of scientifically, well-grounded data useful in defending the industry against attacks.” In their remarkable book Merchants of Doubt, authors Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway provide further perspective:

Amazing book!
“The goal was to fight science with science — or at least with the gaps and uncertainties in existing science, and with scientific research that could be used to deflect attention from the main event. Like the magician who waves his right hand to distract attention from what he is doing with his left, the tobacco industry could fund distracting research.”

I pulled part of the title for this article from the above quote, because I think two words perfectly encapsulate what we are dealing with in the vaccine-autism science war:

“Distracting research”.

Knowing the published science as well as I do — because I have read every study the other side cites as “proof” — it’s painful for me to read the never-ending quotes from people like Doctors Ben Carson and Richard Pan. I take some solace in all the historical examples of science being used as a weapon to protect people and profits because I know this movie will end like all the ones before it: with the truth finally being revealed.

(Five years ago, I got so sick of all the lies, I wrote an entire website devoted to this single topic, 14Studies.)

Most people today look at the tobacco-cancer history and think how silly it is that we ever thought sucking burning tar into our lungs WOULDN’T create health problems. I believe the same truth will emerge here:

“Why couldn’t people see that when you quadruple the load of a product known to cause brain damage in children, you’re going to cause more brain damage in children?”

Three principles lead to understanding

biological plausibility: “refers to the proposal of a causal association — a relationship between a putative cause and an outcome — that is consistent with existing biological and medical knowledge”.

encephalopathy: “means disorder or disease of the brain. In modern usage, encephalopathy does not refer to a single disease, but rather to a syndrome of overall brain dysfunction; this syndrome can have many different organic and inorganic causes”.

wisdom of crowds: the notion that “large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant–better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.”

No one wants to blame the childhood vaccine schedule for the autism epidemic. Vaccines were invented to save the lives of children, not harm them, and I believe most people on both sides of this debate believe they are helping children by either fighting for more vaccines or fighting for the recognition that vaccines are causing autism in a sub-set of children.

There are two points that I find resonate with most independently-minded people who’ve never spent a lot of time thinking about the details of the actual scientific studies that have been done:

1. Blaming vaccines for the autism epidemic is the most biologically plausible hypothesis.

Sorry, vaccines, but it’s just true: you provide benefits to society in preventing certain potentially fatal diseases, but you also have a very nasty underbelly: you cause brain damage in some of the kids who receive you. Don’t take my word for it — our federal government could not be more clear about this truth, the truth that vaccines cause brain damage in SOME children. Time and again, the department of health and human services makes it clear that “encephalopathy” is a vaccine injury, and they go on to define one form of “encephalopathy” in the following way:

Snapshot of the Federal Government’s vaccine injury table. Vaccines do good…and cause harm to some.

Chronic Encephalopathy occurs when a change in mental or neurologic status, first manifested during the applicable time period, persists for a period of at least 6 months from the date of vaccination.”

Like many children with autism, my son is suffering from a chronic encephalopathy that occurred after his vaccine appointments.

I don’t really have to use that many of my IQ points to think that there may be a correlation between a product that causes brain damage (vaccines) and my son’s brain damage!

It would be enough, frankly, that brain damage is known to be a side-effect of vaccines in some children to assert how biologically plausible the vaccine-autism connection is, but the argument is bolstered by two additional points:

i. The number of vaccines given to children has nearly quadrupled since the early 1980s, and the autism rate is up 20,000% during the same time period. (From 1 in 10,000 to today’s vomit-inducing rate of 1 in 50, this is an increase of 200-fold!)

ii. There are tens of thousands (or more) parental reports of regression into autism after vaccination. These reports are worldwide. In every socio-economic level and every race. The stories are remarkably consistent. The “wisdom of crowds” is really taken to an extreme when it comes to the vaccine-autism connection, according to the parents (and many of their doctors) who witnessed the regression of their children firsthand.

Many more vaccines are given today to infants and children

(I could also mention the 83 cases of children with autism being compensated by the US government’s vaccine court, but I’m worried I might lose you in the legal details, this wonderful study spells it out.)

Let’s pause: 1. biological plausibility, 2. encephalopathy, and 3. the wisdom of crowds. Learn it, know it, live it.

2. The science done so far to “prove” vaccines do not cause autism is a sham. The questions are wrong, the methods suspect, and the outcome pre-determined.

As I will explain below in more detail, the vaccine-autism relationship isn’t nearly as complicated as some make it out to be. A simple control group of children who have never received vaccines could tell us so much, but that’s really the point of this article:

The people trying to convince the world that vaccines couldn’t possibly cause autism — despite the obvious biologically plausibility that they could — do so by manufacturing as much doubt as they can, creating “distracting research” to muddy the waters, and following a well-worn playbook of marshaling conscripted deniers to repeat the lies.

Has the science really spoken about the vaccine-autism connection?

In a word: no.

There are scientists and organizations without our children’s best interest at heart, both producing and then misrepresenting published science using a playbook that’s been well understood since the 1950s:

Know that 99.9% of Americans and journalists will never read scientific studies

No one reads the actual scientific studies that are routinely cited in newspapers and websites to “prove” vaccines don’t cause autism. This gives those producing research and managing the message of the research a huge advantage in creating whatever narrative they want, actual details of the studies notwithstanding.

Design studies that only provide answers you want

Same trick, different decade

When one is presented with the facts of what data these studies actually looked at and what questions they actually asked, referring to the studies as “proof” seems absurd. The simplest analogy I can draw is if you compared two-pack a day smokers to four-pack a day smokers, found no difference in cancer rates (because they all smoked a ton) and said “smoking doesn’t cause cancer.” It’s a crude trick, it’s a simple trick, but when you consider point #1, it’s presently working.

(The majority of studies used to “prove” vaccines do not cause autism use this “number of packs smoked” trick.)

Avoid the obvious studies

The actual questions asked by many of the studies done that “prove” vaccines don’t cause autism don’t ask questions that reflect the simple reality of the situation, namely:

“Is our current vaccine schedule causing autism in certain children?”

Two studies could be done that would help answer this question:

  1. Look at fully vaccinated children versus fully unvaccinated children, and see if there is any difference in autism rates. (Ironically, the advocates on California’s Senate Bill 277 seem to think that these unvaccinated children are everywhere, versus the CDC who several years ago claimed unvaccinated children would be nearly impossible to find!) The closest we have come to looking at this question is a study by Gallagher and Goodman that showed special education services were 9-times more likely for boys vaccinated with Hepatitis B: “The odds of receiving EIS [special education services] were approximately nine times as great for vaccinated boys (n¼46) as for unvaccinated boys (n¼7), after adjustment for confounders. This study found statistically significant evidence to suggest that boys in United States who were vaccinated with the triple series Hepatitis B vaccine, during the time period in which vaccines were manufactured with thimerosal, were more susceptible to developmental disability than were unvaccinated boys.”
  2. Take 100 monkeys and administer the entire childhood vaccination schedule for the first two years of life, and then compare those chimps to 100 monkeys otherwise raised the same way but who received no vaccines (Author’s note: a recent study by Hewitson, is being touted as “proof” vaccines do not cause autism, despite the fact that the sample size was small and that the results seem to contradict a preliminary study done by the same team where they reported: “This study demonstrated that the acquisition of three neonatal survival reflexes, root, suck, and snout, was significantly delayed in rhesus macaques receiving a single Th [thimerosal]-containing HB vaccine at birth.” SafeMinds, a study sponsor, responded on 10/6/15.)

Author’s note: please reference the Appendix to this article for examples of published science that has been done that seems to support an environmental trigger for the autism epidemic, including the possibility of vaccines.

Scream, yell, and repeat

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Dr. Paul Offit. Warning: his visage induces nightmares in Autism parents!

I’m guessing Ben Carson genuinely believed what he said when he claimed the science shows there is no link between autism and vaccines. I’d also guess, per point #1, that he’s never actually looked at the details of the science and instead is simply repeating what he has heard from other doctors and scientists. A chosen few, like Dr. Paul Offit and the CDC, began repeating the lie first and pretty soon most mainstream doctors and journalists were saying the same thing. As the historic quote above from Joseph Goebbels goes on to say:

It thus becomes vitally important for the State [or in this case pharma, CDC, and those who administer vaccines] to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Feign exasperation

Here’s the basic quote we’re now hearing: “This damn question has been asked and answered, vaccines don’t cause autism, these parents are causing us to waste our precious time and resources, we need to move on, and for God’s sake stop giving these crazy parents a forum — no more equal time!”

Where are the “bad actors”?

If my assertion is true, that the scientific studies so far produced and cited as “proof” that vaccines don’t cause autism are simply a sham and another historical example of distracting research, where are the bad actors, the dishonest scientists playing the game of producing research intended to muddy the waters?

Glad you asked.

Ph.D. scientist, autism dad, fearless truth teller, and CDC antagonist, Dr. Brian Hooker.

One good scientist, Dr. Brian Hooker, has done more to surface the bad actors in the vaccine-autism science fraud than any other person on the planet. Through his singular effort to file freedom of information acts with the CDC, Dr. Hooker was able to clearly construct a behind the scenes look at how “distracting research” is produced, and he and I collaborated to put all that information and all those emails from CDC employees into a single website, I hope you’ll take a read.

Amongst other things, the website explains the early 2000's world travels of one CDC employee, Diane Simpson, to find data anywhere in the world that might help make the case that thimerosal was not causing autism in children. Her emails read with the desperation of someone looking to find any distracting research she could, and, as many autism parents know, she ended up in Denmark where she found many willing participants embedded inside a Danish vaccine company. I won’t belabor the story here, but what a new reader may want to know is that one of those very willing researchers, Dr. Poul Thorsen, is now a wanted fugitive of the Office of Inspector general, as their website explains:

From, this doesn’t look too good!
“From approximately February 2004 until February 2010, Poul Thorsen executed a scheme to steal grant money awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC had awarded grant money to Denmark for research involving infant disabilities, autism, genetic disorders, and fetal alcohol syndrome. CDC awarded the grant to fund studies of the relationship between autism and the exposure to vaccines, the relationship between cerebral palsy and infection during pregnancy, and the relationship between developmental outcomes and fetal alcohol exposure… Thorsen allegedly diverted over $1 million of the CDC grant money to his own personal bank account. Thorsen submitted fraudulent invoices on CDC letterhead to medical facilities assisting in the research for reimbursement of work allegedly covered by the grants…In April 2011, Thorsen was indicted on 22 counts of Wire Fraud and Money Laundering…According to bank account records, Thorsen purchased a home in Atlanta, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, an Audi automobile, and a Honda SUV with funds that he received from the CDC grants.”
Yes, he is a most wanted fugitive. Really.

I’d understand if you don’t believe me, but it’s hard to say this anymore clearly: one of the chief authors of many of the studies used in the list of distracting research that purports to “prove” vaccines do not cause autism is wanted by the US Government for embezzling money from the CDC. (His studies are still routinely cited by the other side as “proof.”) Here’s the website link.

Of course, it gets worse. Because of Dr. Brian Hooker, we also now have a CDC whistleblower, William Thompson, a current CDC employee, who asserts that many of the CDC-produced studies exploring the vaccine-autism link were also fraudulent. Again, I’d understand if you don’t believe me because it’s starting to feel somewhat comical, but Thompson issued an unambiguous statement from his whistleblower attorney, where he said:

We regret it, too. William Thompson, CDC scientist
“I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.”
Parent and lawyer Kevin Barry just released this book detailing the transcripts of conversations between William Thompson and Brian Hooker. It’s a nausea-inducing read.

We have since learned via Congressional testimony from Congressman Bill Posey that Dr. Thompson also claims that CDC scientists all met in a private room and resolved to destroy all the primary data and notes from this study, the one published in Pediatrics and still quoted by many as a strong study refuting the vaccine-autism link, given the disturbing results, as Thompson states:

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 hardcopy documents that we had thought we should discard, and put them into a huge garbage can. However, because I assumed it was illegal and would violate both FOIA and DOJ requests, I kept hardcopies of all documents in my office, and I retain all associated computer files. I believe we intentionally withheld controversial findings from the final draft of the Pediatrics paper

We are all desperately hoping that a courageous Congressperson or Senator will ask Dr. Thompson to testify very soon.

There are two places the majority of studies refuting the vaccine-autism link came from: the CDC and Denmark. One whistleblower, one fugitive. Do we have bad actors producing distracting research? You tell me.

What the studies actually say

For the sake of not losing every reader, I will only highlight five of the three-dozen or so studies cited as “proof” that vaccines do not cause autism. The truth is, I could go through every study and make the same conclusion: the questions asked and answered doesn’t come close to what is needed to find truth on the role of vaccinations in autism’s skyrocketing rate. But, of course, that’s not the point of all these studies. The point is to create distracting research and manufacture doubt, and they are very much doing their job!

The truth about the actual science that has been performed to “prove” vaccines do not cause autism is so ugly, I want to spell it out for you here so you can understand it for yourself:

- None of the studies compare anything but vaccinated children to other vaccinated children

- Of the 36 vaccines US children receive by the age of 5, only 2 of those 36 vaccines (the MMR given twice) have EVER been compared for their relationship to autism, and then only with otherwise vaccinated children.

This is such a huge point, I’m going to expand upon it. Here’s the first 19 vaccines a typical American infant receives, in chronological order:

2 month visit: Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, DTP, Hib, Pneumococcal, Polio

4 month visit: Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, DTP, Hib, Pneumococcal, Polio

6 month visit: Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, DTP, Hib, Pneumococcal, Polio, Flu

Fair question

So, by 6 months of age most American children receive 19 vaccines through 3 visits to the doctor. (It’s worth noting that many kids also receive a birth dose of Hepatitis B, boosting this number to 20 vaccines.)

So, of the first 19–20 shots given to kids in their first 12 months of life, how many have been studied for their relationship to autism? ZERO. That’s right, because only one vaccine, the MMR, has ever been studied for its relationship to autism. (The MMR is first administered to American children at 13–18 months of age.)

But what about the 2, 4, and 6 month well-baby visits where children receive so many vaccines? They have never been studied or considered, so no one has any idea. This would be like trying to identify the source of a plane crash, suspecting mechanical failure, solely analyzing one of the wings, and then declaring the entire airplane free of culpability.

Having spent the time to critically read every study produced to “prove” vaccines don’t cause autism, I have been dumbfounded by their inadequacy. Consider, from the studies, some of the actual questions that were asked:

Q: Do children receiving more thimerosal in their vaccines have different neurological outcomes from children receiving less thimerosal in their vaccines?
Q: Are autism rates different for children who received 62.5 mcg or 137.5 mcg of mercury?
Q: Did children who all received DTP vaccine with thimerosal have higher or lower rates of developmental disorders based on when they got the shots?
Q: Do Thimerosal containing vaccines administered to children raise mercury blood levels above safe standards?
Q: Does the use of RhoGam shots during pregnancy have a correlation with autism?

These 5 examples above come from 5 of the most commonly listed studies cited as “proof” that “vaccines do not cause autism.” Yet, not one of them comes close to addressing this issue or answering the question we all really care about that goes something like this:

Our children receive 36 vaccines by the time they are five, including 20 by their first birthday. Is the administration of so many vaccines causing autism in certain children?

That question, so important to the health of our children and our nation, has never been asked, so it cannot yet be answered. Anyone who asserts otherwise is either misinformed or lying.

MMR vs. thimerosal vs. total number of vaccines

One of the many ways people get confused about what is going on with our vaccine schedule is the debate about what, exactly, within the shots or shot schedule is causing autism. One theory, promoted by great activists like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., is that the mercury in shots (called thimerosal) used to preserve certain vaccines is the likely trigger. Another theory, popularized by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, is that the MMR vaccine (a thimerosal-free vaccine) is the primary trigger of autism.

The challenge with pinpointing causation is that a child could walk into a pediatricians office and, in a single visit, get the following vaccines simultaneously:

MMR, Hep B (thimerosal free), Hib, DTaP (thimerosal free), Flu (with thimerosal)

If you get all those shots at the same time, and then your child descends into autism, how do you know which shot or which shot ingredient caused it? Of course, you have no idea, which reinforces the point that, much like non-smokers being the only reasonable control group for tobacco science, unvaccinated children are the only reasonable control group for vaccine-autism science. But that’s never happened in any of the research done!

Do not confuse me with the facts!

By the way, if you confront a doctor with all of these facts, you may get the same angry, defensive, emotional reaction I got when I confronted Dr. Travis Stork on an episode of The Doctors, see for yourself.

The Autism Science Foundation’s studies

Allison Singer, ASF founder

I love picking on the Autism Science Foundation because I believe history will show them to be one of the primary enablers of the autism epidemic with their unqualified support for all this distracting research. Founded by a former Autism Speaks employee and with Dr. Paul Offit on their board, the ASF been ardent supporters of the “Scream, Yell, and Repeat” strategy detailed above, and Dr. Paul Offit appears to be the architect of the manufactured doubt that has served to ice legitimate vaccine-autism research from being done.

On the ASF website, the organization cites 36 studies as the overwhelming body of evidence that proves vaccines do not cause autism. As the ASF asserts:

“The results of studies are very clear; the data show no relationship between vaccines and autism.”

As always, the devil is in the details. I’d go through all 36 studies, but I know I’d lose most of my readers, so I’m just going to pick on five of the studies for now, five studies the ASF cites as proof that vaccines do not cause autism, five studies that I would argue are nothing more than manufactured doubt and “distracting research” done to muddy the waters and waste time:

Study #1:

Neuropsychological Performance 10 Years After Immunization in Infancy With Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines Pediatrics, Tozzi AE, Bisiacchi P, Tarantino V, De Mei B, D’Elia L, Chariotti F, Salmaso S. (January 2009)

Headline: Every child in this study was vaccinated, and the only comparison is more and less mercury in their shots, and the sample size is so tiny they had an autism rate in their study of 1 in 1,700.

First detail: “Therefore, in the first 12 months of life, the cumulative intake of ethylmercury, the mercury metabolite of thimerosal, was 137.5 mcg for the children who were assigned randomly to receive the DTaP vaccine that contained thimerosal (“higher intake group”) and 62.5 mcg for those who received the thimerosal-free DTaP vaccine (“lower intake group”).”

What does this mean? This study is only comparing kids who got 62.5mcgs of Thimerosal to kids who got 137.5mcgs of Thimerosal. They have all been vaccinated, and they’ve all been vaccinated with mercury-containing vaccines. And, here’s the sample size:

“We detected, through the telephone interviews with parents and reviews of medical charts, 1 case of autism among the 856 children in the lower thimerosal intake group and no cases among the 848 children in the higher thimerosal intake group.”

So, in their sample, the rate of autism of the children analyzed was 1 in 1,704, 15–20 times lower than the US average. This study truly shows us nothing, it’s pathetic and embarrassing, and here’s a doctor who agrees, Dr. Vincenzo Miranda of Italy (where the study is from):

“This study is not methodologically correct. The study by Tozzi and others has many limitations. No comparison is done with children not exposed to thimerosal and neuropsychological disturbances are studied in recruiting voluntary all children even healthy ones, without assessing the sensitivity individual mercury. With this background this study can not lead to any conclusion. It is possible to evaluate the role of vaccines and thimerosal in neurodevelopmental disorders with the study of immune response. In my case I found a hyperimmune response to measles, polio with autoimmune reaction against myelin and glia. Moreover, the presence of antifibrillarin antibodies indicates an autoimmune response induced by mercury (HgIA). All this can not be a coincidence.”

This study was so frustrating, I wrote an article about it for the Age of Autism blog HERE. When this study came out, the headline in every newspaper implied more “proof” had been published that “vaccines don’t cause autism.” Oh, and it was funded by the CDC, of course.

Study #2:

Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years New England Journal of Medicine, Thompson WW [this is the CDC Whistleblower!!], Price C, Goodson B, et al. (September, 2007)

Headline: Every child in this study was vaccinated. They didn’t even consider AUTISM as an outcome, so why is it on here? And, the CDC Whistleblower is a co-author!

Wins award for most conflicts with seven different vaccine companies mentioned. But, this study doesn’t even look at autism as an outcome, so it doesn’t apply to the vaccine-autism debate at all. Had a panel member dissent from study conclusions, a bad sign. May be interesting to some, but not anyone studying autism.

Just for fun, here’s the conflicts section:

“Dr. Thompson reports being a former employee of Merck; Dr. Marcy, receiving consulting fees from Merck, Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline, and MedImmune; Dr. Jackson, receiving grant support from Wyeth, Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline, and Novartis, lecture fees from Sanofi Pasteur, and consulting fees from Wyeth and Abbott and serving as a consultant to the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee; Dr. Lieu, serving as a consultant to the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices; Dr. Black, receiving consulting fees from MedImmune, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Merck and grant support from MedImmune, GlaxoSmithKline, Aventis, Merck, and Novartis; and Dr. Davis receiving consulting fees from Merck and grant support from Merck and GlaxoSmith- Kline. No other potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.”

Here’s a commentary on the study from Autism Speaks: “While the study does not specifically examine the link between thimerosal and autism spectrum disorders, it does explore neuropsychological functioning, such as language development, attention, and fine motor coordination, that are affected in some individuals with autism.”

To put this on a website as an example of studies showing no link between autism and vaccines is just a giant lie.

Study #3:

Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a prospective cohort study in the United kingdom does not support a causal association Pediatrics, John Heron and Nick Andrews, PhD and Jean Golding, DSc (September 2004)

Headline: This may be the worst study ever done. Every kid in the study got the same vaccines, so the study only considered timing differences (when someone got their DTP shot, was it 2 months, 3 months, or 4 months old?). Wins award for most dishonest title, too.

Choice Excerpt from the Study: “The age at which doses of thimerosal-containing vaccines were administered was recorded, and measures of mercury exposure by 3, 4, and 6 months of age were calculated and compared with a number of measures of childhood cognitive and behavioral development covering the period from 6 to 91 months of age.”

Meaning: Every kid in our study got the same vaccines, and we only considered the difference of WHEN they got them. Huh?

Study #4:

Safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines: a two-phased study of computerized health maintenance organization databases Pediatrics, Thomas Verstraeten, MD (November 2003)

Headline: Only looked at vaccinated kids. Only looked at more or less thimerosal exposure (more or less smoking). Worst of all, the study produced a NEUTRAL outcome, meaning it couldn’t prove or disprove anything. The conclusion of the study was a tie, like a soccer game with no winner!!

This is the most widely quoted study, and the only study ever done with American data on American children (the CDC has buried this data ever since), and it reached a neutral conclusion, asked the wrong question, and the author left to join a vaccine company before its publication. And, the world’s most incriminating and public “secret meeting” calls the entire study into question (see: Simpsonwood). The former CDC Director called this study “unhelpful and potentially misleading.”

Choice Excerpt from the Study:

“The biological plausibility of the small doses of ethylmercury present in vaccines leading to increased risks of neurodevelopmental disorders is uncertain.”

Incredibly, the study author — Dr. Thomas Verstraeten — went on to assert in an unprecedented letter to Pediatrics that his conclusions were being misrepresented:

“Surprisingly, however, the study is being interpreted now as negative [where ‘negative’ implies no association was shown between Thimerosal and autism] by many…The article does not state that we found evidence against an association, as a negative study would. It does state, on the contrary, that additional study is recommended, which is the conclusion to which a neutral study must come…A neutral study carries a very distinct message: the investigators could neither confirm nor exclude an association, and therefore more study is required.”

An article said:

“CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding has delivered a potentially explosive report to the powerful House Appropriations Committee, in which she admits to a startling string of errors in the design and methods used in the CDC’s landmark 2003 study that found no link between mercury in vaccines and autism, ADHD, speech delay or tics.”

- CDC: Vaccine Study Design “Uninformative and Potentially Misleading” By David Kirby, The Huffington Post.

It’s hard to make this point strongly enough: the Verstraeten study is the most widely cited study “proving” vaccines do NOT cause Autism, and no free-thinking individual could possibly believe that’s what it did after reading the above. Just to pour kerosene on the fire, here’s quote from one of Dr. Verstraeten’s internal emails:

“Unfortunately, I have witnessed how many experts, looking at this thimerosal issue, do not seem bothered to compare apples to pears at the best and insist that if nothing is happening in these studies [referring to some old science on other types of mercury exposure] then nothing should be feared of thimerosal. I do not wish to be the advocate of the anti-vaccine lobby and sound like being convinced that thimerosal is or was harmful, but at least I feel we should use sound scientific argumentation and not let our standards be dictated by our desire to disprove an unpleasant theory.”

Study #5:

Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism: negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data. Pediatrics, Kreesten M. Madsen, MD, Poul Thorsen [wanted by the US Government] (September 2003)

Headline: The first “Danish” study, reached a conclusion based largely on one statistical trick. Every child in this study was vaccinated. Oh, and one of the lead authors is wanted by the Feds for embezzling several million dollars from the CDC, but why should that be news (see above)?

Written by a Danish vaccine company, the study made a mockery of the data, a problem the authors themselves warned of. And, the CDC engineered the entire study. This one goes beyond useless, it was fraudulent to run the numbers this way, and they knew it.

The study only considered 956 children with autism. Worse, a material change in how autism data is obtained happened right around the time the numbers of autism cases seemed to grow, rendering the data meaningless. From PutChildrenFirst:

“The study looked at data between 1970–2000. In 1995, the Danish registry added ‘Outpatient Clinics’ to their count of autism cases. It turns out that Outpatient Clinics are where 93% of Danish children are diagnosed with autism, so the number of autism cases before 1995 did not include the clinics. More surprising, the authors even note this in the study: ‘since 1995 outpatient activities were registered as well…the proportion of outpatient to inpatient activities was about 4 to 6 times as many outpatients as inpatients…this may exaggerate the incidence rates.’ Exaggerate the incidence rates? It is the equivalent of doing a study on ‘Divorce Rates in North America’ and counting Mexico and Canada only for the first few years, then adding in the United States, and noting that divorce rates went up.”

SafeMinds noted, “Therefore, their purported increase after 1994 can be explained entirely by the registration of an existing autism population that did not require hospitalization. To compound the problem, Denmark also changed the diagnostic code they used, to the more universal ICD10 code, beginning in 1993, which would have further raised the rates.”

Choice Excerpt from the Study:

“Also, outpatient activities were included in the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register in 1995 and because many patients with autism in former years have been treated as outpatients this may exaggerate the incidence rates, simply because a number of patients attending the child psychiatric treatment system before 1995 were recorded for the first time, and thereby counted as new cases in the incidence rates.”

Meaning: we didn’t count 93% of the kids diagnosed with autism in Denmark during the time mercury was in vaccines, then we did once it was removed. Really, that’s what they did.

Author’s note: if you really want to read more, I analyzed all the studies on the ASF’s website back in 2011 for the Age of Autism blog, you can read that article right here.

When the Autism Science Foundation says, “it’s been asked and answered, vaccine don’t cause autism,” they are misrepresenting the studies they cite, which is just a nice way to say they are lying. If you didn’t believe me yet, consider this. In the section of their website ASF uses to “prove” vaccines do not cause autism, they list two studies that are often cited by our side as proof that they do! Namely:

Study #1:

Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal Environmental Health Perspectives, Thomas M. Burbacher, PhD (April 2005)

Headline: This is one of the most damning studies ever done on the toxicity of thimerosal in a list of studies that are supposed to refute the link between autism and vaccines!

This study demonstrates clearly and unequivocally that ethyl mercury, the kind of mercury found in vaccines, not only ends up in the brain, but leaves double the amount of inorganic mercury as methyl mercury, the kind of mercury found in fish. This work is groundbreaking because little is known about ethyl mercury, and many health authorities have asserted that the mercury found in vaccines is the “safe kind.” This study also delivers a strong rebuke of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation in 2004 to no longer pursue the mercury-autism connection.

Excerpt from the study author:

“A recently published IOM review (IOM 2004) appears to have abandoned the earlier recommendation [of studying mercury and autism] as well as back away from the American Academy of Pediatrics goal [of removing mercury from vaccines]. This approach is difficult to understand, given our current limited knowledge of the toxicokinetics and developmental neurotoxicity of thimerosal, a compound that has been (and will continue to be) injected in millions of newborns and infants.”

Study #2

Neurotoxic Effects of Postnatal Thimerosal are Mouse Strain Dependent. Molecular Psychiatry, M Hornig, MD (June 2004)

Headline: An animal model clearly showing the neurotoxicity of thimerosal.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Using thimerosal dosages and timing that approximated the childhood immunization schedule, our model of postnatal thimerosal neurotoxicity demonstrated that the genes in mice that predict mercury-related immunotoxicity also predicted nuerodevelopmental damage. Features reminiscent of those observed in autism occurred in the mice of the genetically sensitive strain.”

Why would ASF list 2 studies that indirectly support the theory that vaccines may be causing autism on a website as proof that vaccines don’t? My guess is that they want their list of studies to be as long as possible to overwhelm people with distracting research, and they are relying on the fact that no one reads the actual studies. I take note of a quote from the book I previously mentioned, Merchants of Doubt, discussing Ben Santer, one of the preeminent scientists who proved global warming is man made. As you can imagine, Santer was brutally attacked by industry-funded antagonists for his views, as the book discusses:

“Why didn’t Santer’s accusers bother to find out the facts? Why did they continue to repeat charges long after they had been shown to be unfounded? The answer, of course, is that they were not interested in finding facts. They were interested in fighting them.”

I think I can re-constitute that quote to explain the ASF’s list of studies:

Why would ASF boldly assert something that none of the studies they list actually show? Why would they continue to list studies by a wanted felon and a study a whistleblower claims is a fraud? Why would they highlight a study that had a neutral conclusion and two that actually are supportive of the vaccine-autism link? The answer, of course, is that they are not interested in finding the truth about the cause of autism, they are interested in obscuring it.

Now what?

Remember that guy, Dr. Cuyler Hammond, from the American Cancer Society back in 1954, the guy throwing skepticism all over the tobacco-lung cancer hypothesis? Turns out Dr. Hammond ended up being an honest man and an honest scientists, and when presented with overwhelming data supporting the tobacco-cancer link, he changed his tune and quit smoking, and his obituary makes him out to be a hero:

“Dr. E. Cuyler Hammond, the biologist and epidemiologist who did early research showing that cigarette smokers had a high risk of death from lung cancer, heart disease and other causes, died yesterday at his Manhattan apartment…Dr. Hammond’s findings were often controversial, drawing criticism from the Tobacco Industry Research Committee and from other quarters. Dr. Hammond said in 1970 that he doubted the tobacco industry ‘would ever develop a cigarette that doesn’t do some damage to a smoker’s health.’”

I beg each of you to correct every misstatement you hear. Read the studies for yourself. (Most can be found at Ask skeptical friends of yours to read this article and respond. Be loud and proud when you say that the other side’s mantra is simply a lie, because it is.

Is there an honest person left on the mainstream side of this debate who will correct the lies and make sure the research actually gets done? I suppose I was mildly heartened when Autism Speaks removed this statement from Rob Ring, their Chief Science Officer:

“Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.” (If you have read my article, you know Rob Ring is blatantly lying.)

And replaced it with this statement instead from Bob Wright, founder of the organization:

“Over the last two decades extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccines and autism. Scientific research has not directly connected autism to vaccines. Vaccines are very important. Parents must make the decision whether to vaccinate their children. Efforts must be continually made to educate parents about vaccine safety. If parents decide not to vaccinate they must be aware of the consequences in their community and their local schools.” (This is more like a sneaky half-truth.)

I guess that’s progress?

It’s rumored that a well-researched study of homeschool populations comparing children who have received vaccines to those who have not received vaccines is being submitted for publication, we can only hope that a scientific journal has enough integrity to publish the potentially explosive results.

What if he’s telling the truth?

Additionally, a pediatrician here in Portland is making a very bold claim: with a patient population of more than 2,000 children, Dr. Paul Thomas is claiming that by eliminating the Hep B vaccine and delaying the MMR vaccines until the child is 3 years old, he has seen no cases of autism in any of those children (there should be 40). What if Dr. Thomas is right? What if we could remove a single vaccine (Hep B) from the vaccine schedule and delay MMR and trigger a different outcome? CDC whistleblower Dr. William Thompson found a “signal” connecting MMR and autism due to the timing of the shot: African-American children who received the MMR earlier had higher autism rates. What if MMR delay really meant less autism?

(Author’s note: I’d champion Dr. Thomas’ approach to vaccinating children if I thought it would lead to less autism, and yet many will simply dismiss this article as ‘anti-vaccine’ for suggesting anything but the status quo.)

Well, not every politician is lying!

Do we have a Dr. Hammond? Can we break through the distracting research? Can we end the lies and the bluster about the science “proving” no causation? It’s fair to say that the lives of tens of millions of children and their families depend on it.

About the author: J.B. Handley is the father of a child with Autism. He and his wife co-founded Generation Rescue, Jenny McCarthy’s autism charity. He spent his career in the private equity industry and received his undergraduate degree with honors from Stanford University. He is also the author of “The Only Vaccine Guide a New Parent Will Ever Need” and An Angry Father’s Guide to Vaccine-Autism Science

Mr. Handley has started a podcast called “How to End the Autism Epidemic” — you might enjoy his first five interviews:

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