By Dr. Bob Sears, Pediatrician and TACA Physician Advisory Member
A senior researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “blew the whistle” on one of the studies that he and a team of colleagues published in 2004 in the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal (1). At the time, their study reported no significant link between the Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. According to a CNN report published on August 28, 2014 (2), CDC senior researcher Dr. William Thompson contacted Dr. Brian Hooker last November and informed him of foul play. Dr. Thompson told Brian Hooker that the data initially collected by CDC researchers actually showed that African-Americans who were given the MMR vaccine prior to 36 months of age were significantly more likely to develop autism. This team of CDC researchers then decided to remove the data collected on some of the children which supported this association (claiming they did so because they could not verify their birth certificates), resulting in the data no longer showing a significant connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. Then they published their research, claiming that their data did not show a link between the MMR vaccine and the risk of autism. What is important about this paper is that it had an apparent large influence on the Omnibus Autism Proceedings. For those of you who are not familiar with these Proceedings, parents who felt their children developed autism after vaccination (including with the MMR vaccine) had their cases dismissed in federal court because studies (including this one in question) showed no significant association between vaccinations and autism. If further investigation of this study (and others) reveals that there truly is an association between autism and MMR (and possibly other vaccines), but this association was hidden by the CDC, this means that thousands of parents and their children were denied justice in their day in court.
Brian Hooker reviewed the study data and published his own analysis this week in the journal Translational Neurodegeneration. The study was viewable online until very recently, when it was removed from the journal’s website. The reason cited for removal: “This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further investigation.” (3) This re-analysis indicated a 340% increased risk of autism in African-American children who received the MMR vaccine before the age of three compared to those after the age of three (4.)
When I first heard rumors of this story days ago, I didn’t believe it. But now, Dr. Thompson has released a public statement through legal counsel (5.) He has verified these facts. The research did initially show an increased risk of autism in African-American boys. Dr. Thompson has shared this statement: “I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information.”
So, what do we do with this information? First, this information does not confirm that there is a link between MMR vaccine and autism IN THE POPULATION AS A WHOLE. It SHOWS that the vaccine may increase the risk for African-American boys AND FURTHER RESEARCH SHOULD BE DONE ON THIS RIGHT AWAY. Secondly, since this finding was in a subgroup of the larger population studied, it is not clear if this is a statistical anomaly or A FINDING THAT SHOULD RAISE CONCERN. Thirdly, it is not clear what other confounding factors were associated with this subset of the study population that could also have resulted in this association. A more detailed study could have addressed these questions, but this was not done.
This does leave us with is a whole lot of distrust and uncertainty in an institution which is supposed to be the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This isn’t the first instance of malfeasance in autism/vaccine research. Several years ago, Dr. Poul Thorsen was indicted for stealing $1 million of CDC research money during his autism/vaccine research work with the CDC. This called into question the validity of two of the largest studies he was involved in (which showed no vaccine/autism link): Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism: negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data, Madsen K, Thorsen P, et al, Pediatrics 2003; and A population-based study of MMR vaccination and autism, Madsen K, Thorsen P, et al, New England Journal of Medicine 2002 (6.)
The issue of conflict of interest in CDC vaccine research is not new. In June 2000, the U.S. House of Representatives released results on an investigation revealing that the rules employed by the FDA and CDC were weak, enforcement was lax, and committee members with substantial ties to vaccine manufacturers had been allowed to participate in committee meetings. The report also found that:
- The CDC routinely granted waivers from the conflict-of-interest rules to every member of the ACIP (the board that approves vaccines)
- Members who were not allowed to vote on a vaccine due to financial conflicts were still allowed to deliberate and advocate for that vaccine during meetings from which they should have been banned
- The chairman of the ACIP at that time owned 600 shares of stock in Merck (a maker of vaccines, including the MMR vaccine)
- The ACIP members did not always provide accurate financial disclosure statements.
The full report is available here: http://www.nvic.org/nvic-archives/conflicts-of-interest.aspx
The icing on the cake is that Dr. Julie Gerberding was the head of the CDC from 2002 to 2009. She now works for Merck and leads their vaccine division (7.) She’s one of the most respected experts in her field. But, the fact remains that she was in charge of vaccine/autism research during that eight year period at the CDC, and now she works for the maker of the very vaccine most of the research was about.
The bottom line on this issue is the same bottom line that I’ve been writing about for years. We need unbiased research done by people without any conflict of interest to study large groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated children in order to resolve the vaccine/autism debate. Because very little such research has been done and issues referenced in this blog, is it any wonder more and more people are beginning to doubt vaccine safety?
If anyone was expecting an apology from the CDC, you will be disappointed. They have already stepped up with a statement that basically rejects any and all wrongdoing in this matter. They criticize Dr. Thompson for speaking out against research that he himself was involved in. They go on to point out all the great research they have done that they say clearly demonstrates no relationship between MMR vaccine and autism. You can view their response (8.)
Some may be reading this article and think – what should happen next? We should request a complete investigation of this new information and a congressional hearing immediately. When small pox was recently found in an FDA laboratory, a congressional hearing occurred within 3 weeks (9). Isn’t the safety of our children and a possible link between autism and vaccination worthy of an immediate congressional investigation?
Here are some suggestions as to who to contact:
1) Share the Thompson statement (5) with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Congressman Bill Posey. Request a complete investigation and congressional hearing.
Contact information for Congressman Issa:
2347 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-3906 Fax: 202-225-3303
Contact information for Congressman Posey:
120 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-3671 Fax: (202) 225-3516
2) Share the statement (5) with James M. Perrin, MD, FAAP, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Request a complete investigation and support for a congressional hearing.
Contact information for Dr. Perrin:
American Academy of Pediatrics, 141 Northwest Point Blvd Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
And whatever those answers are as a result from these important efforts, families need to hear them.
Dr. Bob Sears
Pediatrician and TACA Medical Advisory Board Member
Pediatrician and author of The Autism Book: What Every Parent Need to Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention and The Vaccine Book.
- http://www.infowars.com/just-another-day-at-the-office-scientific-fraud-scandal-at-the-cdc-is-simply-routine/ & https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/fugitives/profiles.asp
Editors note: It is not typical for TACA to change a blog once published. Typically questions are handled in comments. It came to my attention to clarify a paragraph in the original submission. I have worked with the author and those clarification points are in ALL CAPITALS. ~ Lisa Ackerman