Some big news about the link between Autism and the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine came out this month (August, 2014). A senior scientist at the CDC, William W. Thompson, PhD, has blown the whistle about faulty research reporting he had agreed to publish with his colleagues that refuted any link between the MMR vaccine and Autism. The journal “Pediatrics” published the research in 2004. It turns out there is likely a strong link between the MMR vaccine and Autism derived from this research that was not reported in 2004.
After reviewing the original research for the Pediatrics article Dr. Brian Hooker, representing Focus Autism Foundation, published an article (1) August 8, 2014 in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Translational Neurodegeneration, that shows that African-American boys receiving their first MMR vaccine before 36 months of age were 3.4 times more likely to develop autism vs. after 36 months
According to an article from PRWeb on August 19 submitted by Focus Autism Foundation,
“In his study, Dr. Hooker notes how a statistically significant relationship between the age the MMR vaccine was first given and autism incidence in African-American boys has not yet been made public by CDC researchers. According to Dr. Hooker, Thompson guided him to evidence that a statistically significant relationship between the age the MMR vaccine was first given and autism incidence in African-American boys was hidden by CDC researchers.
Data was gathered on 2,583 children living in Atlanta, Georgia who were born between 1986 and 1993. However, CDC researchers did not include any children that did not have a valid State of Georgia birth certificate – reducing the study’s sample size by 41%. Dr. Hooker explains that by introducing this discretionary criteria into the analysis, the cohort size was sharply reduced, eliminating what would have been a higher statistical finding. This minimized the strong MMR-autism link in African American boys. When asked if there could be any scientific basis for excluding children born outside of Georgia, Dr. Hooker responded, “I know of none, and none has been provided by the authors of the Destefano Study. [the 2004 study citing no link between MMR and autism].”
Perspective: Personal and Global
There are three people in my family circle with neurological issues: one with Autism Spectrum Disorder, one who has epileptic seizures, the other with a yet to be named developmental problem— at two years old, she is lagging quite far behind in learning language and social skills. Parents and grandparents are worried, of course. As the auntie and a person teaching others in online courses about prevention and possibilities for recovering from Autism, I am also deeply concerned and wonder what I can do to help.
Have you seen the current vaccination schedule? A child born today whose parents follow the CDC-advised schedule, will have 36 vaccinations by the time he or she is 4-6 years old. This includes a combination MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) shot at 12 months and again at 4 years old. A 2009 report by Jenny McCarthy, who writes on Autism for the Huffington Post, recognized that “the United States has the highest number of mandated vaccines for children under 5 in the world (36,double the Western world average of 18), the highest autism rate in the world (1 in 150 children [1 in 68 in 2014], 10 times or more the rate of some other Western countries), but only places 34th in the world for its children under 5 mortality rate.
As a grandmother of two kids (6 & 9 years old), I was scared and began reading up on the link between vaccines and autism before my first grandchild, Sam, was born in 2004—I wanted to give some perspective to my son and his wife before they made their way with the vaccination schedule. I had had 7 vaccinations as a child; my son had about 13 following doctors’ recommendations in the 1970s. I think we should all be concerned about the necessity of the rise in number of vaccinations—especially when the health of children in the USA is descending, not improving, vis a vis other countries who recommend far fewer vaccinations.
The graph below shows the rise of the number of vaccines given from the 1950s to 2013 in the USA. In 1988 the MMR vaccine was introduced to the public. An active campaign to promote it began in 1994. The second dose was introduced in 1996. By 2004, 80% of children were taking these two doses. Measles, which had infected 80% of all kids in the USA in 1962 was not showing up anymore but the increases of Autism during that same time period was escalating to epidemic proportions as the second chart shows.
As of August, 2014, the CDC reports one in every 68 kids is Autistic so the steep rise continues. The impact on individuals, families, schools and communities is intense as services cannot match demand. Families are overwhelmed. Emergency rooms are now being relied on to supply help. This choice often leads to young people with autism being given strong pharmaceuticals, often off-label, to subdue their tendencies to express strong emotions, be impulsive and difficult to control.
True Confessions and Potent Observations
Thompson has worked for the CDC since 1998 and must have some loyalty to it. In November, 2013, he began speaking on condition of anonymity to Dr. Brian Hooker about the original documentation in the study published by Pediatrics.
When Hooker analyzed the data again and published his interpretation of the data in early August, 2014, the news was inflammatory and began to spread.
In a press release of August 27, 2014, Thompson went public and confessed,
“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.”
Of course, if data was misrepresented in this study, then it leads one to question what other studies may have also misrepresented data. Could there be vested interests to satisfy? Could the commercial interests of the makers of MMR trump the loyalty to accurate reporting expected of senior scientists at the CDC? After all, supplying vaccines is a multi-billion dollar business in the USA. Note: the journal Pediatrics, where the results of the original CDC study first appeared, receives financial support from vaccine makers through advertising and direct donations, according to a 2008 CBS News report by CBS News investigative correspondent, Sharyl Attkisson. She also reflected:
“The vaccine industry gives millions to the Academy of Pediatrics for conferences, grants, medical education classes and even helped build their headquarters. The totals are kept secret, but public documents reveal bits and pieces.
- A $342,000 payment from Wyeth, maker of the pneumococcal vaccine – which makes $2 billion a year in sales.
- A $433,000 contribution from Merck, the same year the academy endorsed Merck’s HPV vaccine – which made $1.5 billion a year in sales.
- Another top donor: Sanofi Aventis, maker of 17 vaccines and a new five-in-one combo shot just added to the childhood vaccine schedule last month (2008).
Sharyl Attkisson’s new book, Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington, will be released in November, 2014. She resigned from her influential position as a reporter at CBS earlier in 2014. In her website, SharylAttkisson.com, she gives some insight why: “Resisting undue corporate, political and other special interests.”
Where does the CDC stand in the wreckage? Ms. Attkisson’s reported in a blog on her website August 29: This week the CDC in response to a query stated that it is not currently investigating the relation between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). “Further, CDC does not have any planned research addressing vaccines and autism,” said a CDC spokesman.
“CDC believes that this topic has been thoroughly studied and no causal links have been found. Current CDC ASD related research focuses on determining how many people have ASD and understanding risk factors and causes for ASD.”–CDC spokesman
Putting a Price on the Skeleton of Restitution
How many children and families have been hurt—physically, emotionally and financially– as a consequence of misreporting the impact of the MMR vaccine? Hopefully, these questions will be adequately answered in the near future and judgments created so that adequate restitution can be made. The CDC may not have the moral fortitude or objectivity to initiate such research and make amends.
If restitution is in the future, we must consider the financial hardships of parents having a child who needs special education as a result of autism. From the CDC on Autism:
- “It is estimated to cost at least $17,000 more per year to care for a child with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] compared to a child without ASD. Costs include health care, education, ASD-related therapy, family-coordinated services, and caregiver time. For a child with more severe ASD, costs per year increase to over $21,000. Taken together, it is estimated that total societal costs of caring for children with ASD were over $9 billion in 2011. [Reference: http://www.cdc.gov/Other/disclaimer.html]
- Children and adolescents with ASD had average medical expenditures that exceeded those without ASD by $4,110–$6,200 per year. On average, medical expenditures for children and adolescents with ASD were 4.1–6.2 times greater than for those without ASD. Differences in median expenditures ranged from $2,240 to $3,360 per year with median expenditures 8.4–9.5 times greater. [Reference: http://www.cdc.gov/Other/disclaimer.html]
- In 2005, the average annual medical costs for Medicaid-enrolled children with ASD were $10,709 per child, which was about six times higher than costs for children without ASD ($1,812). [Read summary]
- In addition to medical costs, intensive behavioral interventions for children with ASD cost $40,000 to $60,000 per child per year.(2)”
Michelle Diament of Disability Scoop, that describes itself as the premier source for disability news, reported, on the cost to the government of supporting families with autism March 30, 2012:
“Autism is costing society [in the USA] $137 billion annually, according to new estimates that suggest a three-fold increase in less than a decade…. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the London School of Economics reviewed multiple studies looking at the costs of education, health care and other needs of those with autism to come up with the new estimates…They found that lifetime care for an individual with autism who also has intellectual disability runs $2.3 million in the U.S. on average. For those on the spectrum without intellectual disability, they calculated $1.4 million in lifetime expenses.”
Thanks Be and Action Steps
In his formal statement, Thompson says he will not be answering any more questions at this time but, “I am providing information to Congressman William Posey, and of course will continue to cooperate with Congress.” Let’s hope that will lead to a thorough exploration of what happened and decisions will be made how to rectify the situation so there is full transparency and accountability. An independent party, not the CDC or anyone tied to the pharmaceutical companies, will be the best choice for such explorations, don’t you think?
We have Dr. Brian Hooker, a PhD in biochemical engineering representing the Focus Autism Foundation to thank for this expose. Under the Freedom of Information Act, he asked for the original data on the DeStefano et al MMR and autism study. Through a request from U.S. Representative Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Dr. Hooker was able to review the documents related to the original study Thompson co-authored before writing his article. Hooker also carried on conversations with Thompson that he recorded, unbeknownst to Thompson. In one Thompson alleged “It’s the lowest point in my career that I went along with that paper,” Thompson tells Hooker in a recording played on the online Autism Media Channel. “I went along with this, we didn’t report significant findings.”
Let’s see that Representative Darrell Issa and Congressman Posey take steps to insure that a truly scientific analysis of the original data is made. It needs to be expanded upon to include more children of diverse races from various areas of the country so the public can have the information it needs to make more informed choices in the future about vaccinations that benefit our children. If it is found that faulty research was done which resulted in hardship for many individuals and families, let’s also insure that adequate restitution be made and we dedicate ourselves to transparency in the future. Parents who want the MMR vaccination for their children should also become aware of the possibility that it may be a cause of autism.
(1) Translational Neurodegeneration 2014, 3:16 doi:10.1186/2047-9158-3-16
This article has been removed as of August 28, 2014.
(2) Amendah, D., Grosse, S.D., Peacock, G., & Mandell, D.S. (2011). The economic costs of autism: A review. In D. Amaral, D. Geschwind, & G. Dawson (Eds.), Autism spectrum disorders (pp. 1347-1360). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Emma Bragdon, PhD. is the Founder/Director of Integrative Mental Health for You, IMHU.org. She was licensed as a psychotherapist in 1988, has written seven books and co-produced two films about mental health and now teaches online courses, including one about preventing and healing symptoms of Autism. EmmaBragdon.com